Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021)

Quick Synopsis: Hah, like you’re watching this for the plot

I went in with low expectations. Everything I had heard about this was negative. If I saw an article online about it it was how it was a disgrace and never should have been made. These articles were backed up by the lack of advertising I seemed to see, I don’t recall seeing a trailer at the cinema for it at all, the only pre-release marketing I saw was the car doing a display at a local shopping centre. I actually went in on my own because I didn’t want to drag anybody else to a disappointing film.

That was a mistake, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I’ll be honest, it has a different energy from the 80s films. Those were madcap quick ones, they had the SNL energy which a lot of comedies had back then (the influence that show had on 80s American comedy movies cannot be understated). This does have an 80s energy, but a different one, it almost seems Spielberg-ian. The warmness, the sense of adventure, the incredibly likeable characters, it’s all wonderful and very lovely.

I wish Paul Rudd was in it more, considering how he was heavily mentioned in the pre-release things I did see, it’s disappointing how small a part he plays in it, especially since his character has such obvious chemistry with some of the other cast members. His chemistry with Callie (played by Carrie Coon) is the main focus when it comes to his character, but he has a really interesting dynamic with Phoebe too. Of all the characters in this, his definitely seems the most underdeveloped and wasted.

I kind of expected that if there was going to be comedy, it was going to come from him. Nope, most of it comes from two other characters. Podcast, played by newcomer Logan Kim is an unexpected highlight. Really this film belongs to one person and one person only. A character who I watched and thought “wow, this is a REALLY good performance, that character could be an insufferable know-it-all but whoever is playing them is doing a really good job of making them likeable”. Then I saw the closing credits and figured out why, it’s Mckenna Grace. I genuinely believe she’s the most talented young performer in the world at the moment. She’s normally relegated to “Young version of the main character” in films like I Tonya, Captain Marvel, and Scoob. But when she is given the chance to lead a film she is incredible. The best example of this is Gifted, where she manages to outshine Chris Evans. Important note: she filmed that when she was NINE YEARS OLD. If she picks the right projects I genuinely believe she could end up being the most acclaimed performer of this generation. She completely nails every part of her performance here and delivers some of the biggest laughs, and some of the weirdest jokes I’ve seen. They’re deliberately bad but also still kind of funny, but definitely weird. There’s one in particular which stood out because I’m still not entirely sure if I dreamt it or not:

“How is a hamster like a cigarette? They’re both harmless until you put them in your mouth and set them on fire.”

There’s also a delightful moment where she makes a geometry pun (which did just remind me of this and this tbh) and then when asked if it was intentional says “yes, that’s why I winked”. It’s delightfully awkward and cute and I loved it.

Now onto what I didn’t love. Theoretically, you could go into this having not watched the originals. It does a really good job of catching you up on the universe and the events of the first two films (the 2016 version goes curiously ignored). The story itself does a good enough job of that. But there are some directorial choices that won’t work for newcomers and are just kind of embarrassing to long-time fans. There are too many REALLY unsubtle references. One that stood out was when the camera focuses on a twinkie for a good five seconds or so. It being in the car was enough of a reference, the camera focusing on it for that long is just embarrassing and is basically the director saying “Hey, I’ve seen the original!”. Like, we hope so considering your dad made it.

The directing is the weakest part, it has the right amount of heart needed, but it’s lacking a sense of playfulness and fun that I feel would help it. It’s in an awkward stage where it’s not directed in a playful enough manner for the comedy, but also isn’t dark enough for the horror elements. He nails the emotion though, especially at the end. I didn’t expect to hear tears in the cinema during a Ghostbusters movie, but there we are. Also, stay around for the two credits scenes. Very fun.

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