Ghostbusters: Afterlife–Nostalgic trip arrives on home streaming platforms

Review by C.J. Bunce

After pandemic delays and 32 years since the story left off, Ghostbusters: Afterlife finally arrived on home streaming platforms this past week.  Not only is it a worthy follow-on to the first two 1980s films, it’s thoughtful and nostalgic in the same way as a vintage Steven Spielberg supernatural adventure (think E.T. or Close Encounters or Super 8).  It provides something for all its potential audiences: fans of the original films, fans of the animated series, and anyone young or old looking for a mild, enjoyable family film.  It balances many things well: first and foremost the real-life death of original Ghostbuster player writer/creator and comedy master Harold Ramis, the need to bring back past characters in a way that is believable and even heartwarming, something for 21st century kids to find some fun with, and a horror comedy someone with no background in the franchise could just step into.  That last part is helped by the addition of the always amiable and relatable Paul Rudd as a scientist and teacher in the story’s improbable setting of rural Oklahoma, and the successful casting of kid actors who can hold their own against everything else going on.

Taking a cue from Halloween, Predator, and Terminator, the franchise did some skipping of reboots and made Ghostbusters: Afterlife a direct sequel to Ghostbusters II.  The lead role and driver of the story is  Mckenna Grace, as Dr. Egon Spengler’s granddaughter Phoebe.  Grace has appeared in lots of genre films and shows (Ready Player One, Independence Day: Resurgence, Captain Marvel, and horror franchises: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Annabelle, Amityville, and Hill House).  Here she is challenged to create a character almost devoid of personality, and she does it in a way that is more awkward 12-year-old than a kid with a serious issue.  She, along with her mom (Carrie Coon) and brother (Stranger Thing’s Finn Wolfhard in his second show wearing the Ghostbusters suit), end up broke living at their grandfather Spengler’s farm after Egon passes away.  Annie Potts gets a brief return as the Ghostbusters’ assistant, now also living out in the sticks.  The rural setting, which is boring for the kids, also is boring for the viewers, as the story spends its first hour developing characters and plot.  But it gets better.

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Phoebe, the smart kid with glasses whose over-boozy mom doesn’t understand her, befriends a boy on her first day at summer school, a fun addition to the show called Podcast, played by Logan Kim.  Her brother Trevor takes a job at a local diner and meets older girl Lucky, played by Freaky’s Celeste O’Connor.  It’s these four kids stumbling upon buried secrets in and around the town–holding their own in this story–that makes this something more than another phoned-in sequel.  Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) plays Phoebe and Podcast’s very Paul Ruddian summer school teacher (he spends class-time screening Stephen King movies for the kids), a guy who really took the job to research the area’s odd seismic activity.  How does this all tie back into New York City, the 1980s, the end of days, Gozer’s return, and the original Ghostbusters?  It’s well worth watching to find out.  It’s much, much better than Ghostbusters 2, and at times every bit as good as the original.  The cameos are perfectly placed, including one in a second mid-credits coda.  Also, keep watch for an almost unrecognizable J.K. Simmons (Counterpart, The Closer) and a very recognizable Olivia Wilde (Cowboys and Aliens, Tron Legacy, House, MD), plus Bokeem Woodbine (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Riddick, The X-Files) plays a sheriff in a role even smaller than the cameos.

As for special effects, the CGI animations are cutting edge.  The traditional franchise ghosts are actually few and far between, but the movie’s new ghost pushes forward the bounds of motion capture and de-aging technology (think Rogue One, Ant-Man, and The Mandalorian) so far beyond deep fakery of only a few years ago.

Is there a better “good-feeling” movie in the past year?  I can’t think of one.  It’s not a perfect film, but it’s good, thoroughly enjoyable, and falls at the top end of three decades of reboots, remakes, and sequels that try to conjure some cinema magic from our youth.  Ghostbusters: Afterlife actually succeeds in that department, dipping toward the sentimental and even tear-jerky at times.  Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman did a fine job.  Even the goofy marshmallow bits are cute.  Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson picked the right script for their characters’ swan song.  Audiences haven’t seen Aykroyd or Murray like this in a long time.  You can imagine Harold Ramis would have loved it, too.  It’s a solid bookend and conclusion to the film series.

Big fans of the franchise won’t want to pass up the full feature set that we found only in the Ghostbusters Ultimate Collection Boxed Set.  Don’t believe the reviews stating there are features in the streaming/digital additions as we found none with features, especially anything like the 20 hours of features on the two discs in the boxed set.

Here are the published contents of the Ultimate Collection:

    • Feature presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision
    • Dolby Atmos + 5.1 + Theatrical Stereo
    • Feature presented in high definition, from the 4K master
    • 5.1 + Theatrical Stereo
    • Special Features:
      • Commentary Featuring Director Ivan Reitman, Star/Co-Writer Harold Ramis and Associate Producer Joe Medjuck
      • Fan Commentary Moderated by Ghost Corps’ Eric Reich
      • Slimer Mode Picture-in-Picture Track
    • Feature presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision
    • Dolby Atmos + 5.1 + Theatrical Stereo
    • Feature presented in high definition, from the 4K master
    • 5.1 + Theatrical Stereo
    • Special Feature:
      • Commentary Featuring Director Ivan Reitman, Star/Co-Writer Dan Aykroyd and Executive Producer Joe Medjuck
    • Feature presented in 4K resolution with Dolby Vision
    • Dolby Atmos
    • Feature presented in high definition
    • Includes all special features from the standalone Blu-ray
    • Rare 114-minute Preview Cut of the Film (in Standard Definition) – an unearthed early cut of the film with alternate takes, additional scenes, early effects and more. A unique must-see experience for any Ghostbusters fan!
      • With optional commentary by Associate Producer Joe Medjuck and Editor Sheldon Kahn
    • “Reitman Squared” Scene Commentary – a look at two scenes from the film with Ivan & Jason Reitman
    • NEW: Dana’s Lost Auditions – eight auditions for the role of Dana Barrett, featuring Denise Crosby, Kelly LeBrock and more!
    • Ghostbusters: Behind Closed Doors: Documentary – a 90-minute documentary about the making of Ghostbusters and the history of the franchise!
    • Ghostbusters Dailies – over an hour of raw dailies, encompassing 7 scenes from the film
    • Full TV Broadcast Version of the Film (in Standard Definition) – featuring alternate TV-safe takes
    • 16 Deleted Scenes
    • TV Commercial from the Film + Commercial Outtakes
    • 1984 ShoWest Exhibitor Reel
    • “A Moment With the Stars” Original EPK Featurette
    • 1984 Featurette
    • SFX Team Featurette
    • Cast and Crew Featurette
    • Who You Gonna Call: A Ghostbusters Retrospective
    • Ecto-1: Resurrecting the Classic Car
    • Ruth Oliver’s Library Ghost Scream Test
    • Multi-Angle Explorations
    • Storyboard Comparisons
    • Photo Galleries
    • “Ghostbusters” Music Video by Ray Parker, Jr.
    • Theatrical Trailers & Promo
    • “Reitman Squared” Scene Commentary – a look at two scenes from the film with Ivan & Jason Reitman
    • 19 Deleted Scenes – a collection of never-before-seen deleted scenes!
    • Ghostbusters II Soundtrack Promo – a scene from the film with commentary from composer Randy Edelman
    • Full TV Broadcast Version of the Film (in Standard Definition) – featuring alternate TV-safe takes
    • 7 Additional Deleted Scenes
    • “The Oprah Winfrey Show: Cast of Ghostbusters II” – June 1989
    • Time Is But A Window: Ghostbusters II and Beyond
    • Ghostbusters II Original EPK
    • “On Our Own” Music Video by Bobby Brown
    • Theatrical Trailers
    • Jason’s Sneak Peek from Set
    • Theatrical Trailers

The long-awaited continuation and fitting conclusion to the original 1980s blockbuster films, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is now streaming on Vudu, here at Amazon, and other platforms.

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