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Review: 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife' pays tribute to the original, but maybe a little too much

Paul Rudd is shown in a scene from "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," in theaters Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.

Paul Rudd is shown in a scene from "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," in theaters Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. (Courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

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THE ECTO 1 — It's been a long time coming, but "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" is finally in theaters and fans around the world now get a chance to see the continuation of the 1980s phenomenon.

The new film picks up 32 years after "Ghostbusters II" left off, and it completely ignores the 2016 reboot.

It's going to be next to impossible for this new installment to live up to the love and admiration for the original, but the movie has its moments and some bright spots. It also struggles more than it should. Here is both the good and the bad of "Ghostbusters: Afterlife."

The good

Paul Rudd is always a welcome addition

Paul Rudd may be 2021's Sexiest Man Alive, but just because he's a stone-cold fox doesn't mean he's not hilarious. The man's comedic timing is impeccable and it's on full display in 'Ghostbusters: Afterlife." He was perfectly cast as the nerdy, yet cool, school teacher.

"Ghostbusters" is really known as a classic comedy with some hilarious actors and you'd think the third installment should be more of the same. Rudd brings the funny and I couldn't wait to get more of him. He is not the main character, so he comes and goes, but when he's there he's the best part of the movie.

For more than one reason, Rudd's performance reminds me of Rick Moranis's in "Ghostbusters." Rudd's character isn't really anything like Louis Tully, but every time Tully was in a scene he stole it, and Rudd does the same in "Afterlife."

It has some solid scares

I remember watching "Ghostbusters" with my siblings as a kid. No matter how many times I saw it, the ghost at the beginning in the library scared me to death. But other than that the movie didn't spook me too much.

"Afterlife" is not overly scary, but it has more moments like the ghost in the library. The opening sequence is a strong one with some intense feelings of dread. These moments aren't constant and there are some lighthearted ghosts just like the original, but there are more scares and some of them are pretty effective, which makes for some additional fun.

It pays respects to the original

"Ghostbusters: Afterlife" is undoubtedly a sequel to the first two "Ghostbusters" films. In fact, it's almost more of a direct sequel to the first film. I think the second film is a part of the canon of this movie, but it's really the original that "Afterlife" is playing off of and it does so effectively.

In some ways, "Ghostbusters" was almost an accidental hit, but it is now a part of the American zeitgeist. People have been quoting lines and rewatching the movie for nearly 40 years and they will for years to come.

"Afterlife" recognizes where it came from and pays homage to it and I appreciated that in many ways. There is something familiar and comfortable about the nostalgia and it was fun to get back into the theater and enter this universe once the house lights went down.

The scary

It missed an opportunity to be its own

Spoiler alert: There are some potential minor spoilers in this section of this review. Skip to the next section if you'd like to avoid them.

While I appreciated "Afterlife" paying respects to its progenitors, it missed a big opportunity to be its own.

"Ghostbusters: Afterlife" took the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" approach to continuing the story. Most of the characters have changed, as has the location, but the plot is virtually the same as the first film. There are obviously lots of changes and surprises here and there, but when you walk out of the theater you'll start realizing some things and saying, "Wait, that was just that. And those were just those things. And he was just her and she was just him."

I understand the thought process behind this approach and its desire to pay homage, but "Afterlife" lacks the ability to stand on its own and be something new while staying true to the classic.

It misses the goofy nature of "Ghostbusters"

As I mentioned earlier, "Ghostbusters" was first and foremost a comedy. I loved Paul Rudd in "Afterlife," but the laughs kind of end with him. The movie often takes itself a little too seriously and has a lot of characters dealing with all sorts of drama or trying to act like a really cool teenager instead of giving us some laughs. This is part of the reason I kept waiting for Rudd to come back on screen.

The new character Podcast, played by Logan Kim, adds some laughs, but it's not enough. The original was packed with one-liners and great jokes from the likes of Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Akyroyd, Annie Potts, Ernie Hudson and the aforementioned Moranis. But outside of Rudd and Kim there isn't much comedy to speak of in "Afterlife," and that was a downer for me.

"Ghostbusters" is a comedy with a fun story, absurd setups and a few scares. "Afterlife" is a drama parading as a comedy with a half-fun, half-heavy story with some occasionally good scares.

What parents should know

There is some profanity in "Afterlife," but less than the original. The violence is in line with the 1984 film and there is some talk and references to sex with a couple of crude terms.

However, I think "Afterlife" is more geared toward a younger crowd than the original. "Ghostbusters" was more of a grown-up comedy that did well with younger audiences, but I think teens and preteens, along with those of us who grew up with the Ghostbusters, are the primary audience for "Afterlife." The leads are teenagers and most of the story is built around them.

Is it worth watching?

I had fun with "Ghostbusters: Afterlife," but it was missing the magic of the original.

Cinema fans have been building up the original for more than 30 years and have celebrated its now-iconic cast. But at the end of the day, it's a goofy movie that was never supposed to be such a monumental hit. We have put the original movie on a pedestal, and no matter how good "Afterlife" is or could have been, it's very unlikely it would ever have been elevated to the level of the original.

But if you love "Ghostbusters," then it's worth it to see this continuation and give your own two cents on it.

"Ghostbusters: Afterlife" is rated PG-13 for supernatural action and suggestive references. It opens in theaters today.

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About the Author: John Clyde

John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome, and it just so happens, that these are the three things he writes about. To read more of his articles, visit John's author page.

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John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome, and it just so happens, that these are the three things he writes about.


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