Ruddtrospective #5: Who Ya Gonna Call?

As few spoilers for the movie Ghostbusters: Afterlife as possible. Even though it’s very difficult to spoil this movie. Because spoiler alert, it’s pretty much the same movie as the first two and probably the one with women that the internet hates. Anyway, let’s get into it.

I haven’t seen the first Ghostbusters that many times over the years, and the first time I saw it is only memorable because of the day it happened. I think I mentioned in a previous post or something that when I was in Kindergarten I decided to clean out my ears, but I only had Kleenex nearby. And then I completely forgot about the Kleenex and proceeded to get constant ear infections over the next three years. So I had to go to the hospital to get tubes put in my ears, after which I promptly threw up. So my parents brought me to get gelato and then we went home and watched the two Ghostbusters movies that existed at the time. I don’t really remember the movies, I just remember my dad falling asleep in our rocking chair. I also watched the Star Wars movies around that time and didn’t really remember those either. But those are different because everybody is always talking about Star Wars all the time. People talk about Ghostbusters too, but not as much.

So I went in to watch this movie without any real intense nostalgia for the characters or the franchise. Which is essential to the enjoyment of this movie. If you didn’t see this in the theater or with your parents as a kid and have some big revelatory reaction to it, this movie is going to seem very incomplete. To be clear before I damn this movie with faint praise, I don’t hate Ghostbusters. I thoroughly enjoy the work of Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, and Harold Ramis(RIP). I’m not a huge Dan Aykroyd fan, but it didn’t ruin the movie for me. And I enjoy the work of Jason Reitman, who directed Juno, and is also the son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the original. I tried to rewatch the first movie on the bus ride home, but I got maybe six minutes in before my connection went all wonky. I think if I had been able to watch it all the way through it would have drastically improved upon my enjoyment of this movie. But let’s get into it!

Ghostbusters: Afterlife stars Paul Rudd at his bearded peak, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard(Ugh), McKenna Grace, Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Annie Potts, and Bokeem Woodbine. There are three somewhat surprising cameos I won’t spoil, and if you have yet to see it, there are two post-credit scenes. So don’t leave before the credits. The basic plot is that Egon Spengler, one of the original Ghostbusters, passes under mysterious circumstances at the beginning of this movie, which takes place thirty years after the sequel. Which is really convenient because that’s how long it’s been in real time, and Egon was also played by Harold Ramis, who is dead in real life. This movie is full of coincidences. It turns out that Egon, had a daughter that he abandoned soon after her birth, and she has now inherited his spooky farm in some small town called Summerville. So she moves there with her children, Phoebe and Trevor, because she conveniently has no money left. Trevor(Finn Wolfhard, who plays the worst Stranger Things character, prove me wrong), is upset that they have moved to the middle of nowhere. And most of his early scenes include him searching for reception on his phone. It doesn’t really seem like he’s a bored teenager that wants to be on his phone though, it feels like he’s looking for reception and saying rebellious things because somebody thought that’s what a teenager would do and wrote him that way. Which seems harsh, but he just kind of bends with the plot later and just drops his whole grumpy persona. But not out of nowhere, everyone. He meets a cute girl and now he likes the town and really wants to live there and also work for the cool old-fashioned diner she works at. Oooooh. How original.

McKenna Grace plays Phoebe, a socially awkward science lover. Her mom wants her to act normal and make friends and tell jokes and stuff. How do I know this? Because almost every line she has is about how she’s socially awkward and she loves science. And at least five times in the movie she tells a very weird joke for a twelve year old to tell. I like McKenna Grace a lot, she was good in the movie Gifted with Chris Evans. And she’s good with what she’s given to do in this. But God, this movie gets a lot worse the more I think about it. Carrie Coon is frustrated with her situation, being stuck in the house of a father she hates because she never knew him. You can tell because every five minutes she rants about how she hates her dad and the house she’s now stuck in. You soon learn that some big ghost reckoning is about to occur, and there might have been a reason that Egon left to go live in this random town in the middle of nowhere. Maybe the villain from the original movie is back? It is. Sounds like a fun premise, right? It isn’t, really.

Well thankfully there exists one man in the world who could save me from this movie that I didn’t enjoy that much. Paul Rudd makes his grand entrance in this movie as the goofy science-loving Ghostbusters fanboy Gary Grooberson. His name is ridiculous but he looks sexier than ever. The guy can do no wrong. Gary is introduced as Phoebe’s summer school teacher, but he doesn’t really teach anybody? He just makes all these kids watch Cujo and Child’s Play and sits in his office looking at seismic maps of Summerville. Oh yeah, the “strange ghost thing” is causing earthquakes all over time, and Gary just happens to be a seismologist. We are also introduced to Phoebe’s new best friend, whose name I audibly sighed at when I heard it. We are never told what his real name is, but he tells Phoebe his name is Podcast. Because he’s recording a podcast. About ghosts. And this character, played by Logan Kim, who is probably a good actor, is essentially just a significantly more annoying live-action version of Russel from Up. He’s a bad character.

From there the movie just plays out the same as the first two with some differences. The thing Egon was trying to stop happens and ghosts run amok around this small town which really just feels like a set with a few background people added to make it more realistic. Even the ghosts running amok scene is tame. I won’t spoil where Paul Rudd’s character arc ends up, but he ends up being in the movie way less than I was hoping and the original Ghostbusters do reunite(It’s in the trailer) but they’re really only there to recite their famous lines and blast crap. A lot of people, including my Dad, like this movie. I dislike it the more I think about it.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Celeste O’Connor plays a character who is really only in this to get awkwardly hit on by Finn Wolfhard
  • When Bill Murray showed up I realized I’d rather be watching Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties
  • I decided not to go too into detail about the movie because I’m really tired and I don’t want to spoil everyone’s chance of enjoying this by shitting on simple scenes
  • At the end of the movie it just felt like I was watching a bunch of stock characters in a cheap cash-grab that was both saccharine and filled with artificial emotion at the same time
  • Every character seems like they’re just doing what they’re doing because it was written that they should and it felt like something was missing; it was all Easter eggs and references and no substance
  • Which may be how some feel about Avengers: Endgame, and that’s a perfectly valid opinion, I’m just stating what it felt like to me, someone with no real emotional connection to this universe
  • There are some good jokes in it though, and they’re almost all from Paul Rudd

Overall Rating: 6/10(I feel bad about crapping on this movie so much, but it just wasn’t for me. I should watch it again and see if I like it more the second time. But the movie just felt weird and sad and anti-climactic.)

Rudd Rating: 9.5/10(They somehow did a lot with Paul Rudd and so little at the same time. There’s a bit in the movie where you think his character is going to take a turn and become more interesting than the funny affable teacher and then it just amounts to nothing at all. But he made me like the movie a bit more whenever he showed up.)

I realized while writing this review that it’s almost time for my annual rewatch of the fantastic Netflix show, Living With Yourself, and I think that’s what I’ll review next week. Get ready for a true classic. And I don’t say that ironically. This show is great. Thanks for reading, and I’m sorry if you really liked Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

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