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This one's good to the last ghost

This is not the Ghostbusters you were expecting, but it is one that fills a lot of holes. It can conquer your heart, too. Hug your kids, folks.
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The Spengler grandchildren Trevor and Phoebe (played by Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace) are joined by geeky sidekick Podcast (Logan Kim) to help save the world and fix the family in the marvelous Ghostbusters: Afterlife. SONY PICTURES/Supplied

REVIEW

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Stars: 5.0

Starring Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Paul Rudd, Bokeem Woodbine, Annie Potts, Sigourney Weaver, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson

Written by Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman

Directed by: Jason Reitman

Rated: PG for coarse language, violence, and frightening scenes

Runtime: 124 minutes

Now playing at Landmark Cinemas 8, Cineplex Odeon North Edmonton, and Scotiabank Theatre

Leave it to the pre-eminent scion of film comedy, mastermind Ivan Reitman, to take one of his most iconic and hilarious blockbusters and turn it into a touching family drama where the ensemble of acto-stars are minor players. To have Jason Reitman take the reins of Ghostbusters from dear ol’ dad to bring the franchise back from the … errr, well, y’know … was in itself a stroke of genius. To give the extended storyline a pulse was an act of divine redemption, especially as it’s one that completes the circle and feels wholly satisfying.

I didn’t say you were going to laugh at it much, though. This is Jason Reitman’s territory now, and he has a wonderful knack for making quirky movies that are tough to pigeonhole in one genre or another. His comedies are often bittersweet and funny (in that "funny strange" but also vaguely "funny haha" way). They can get pretty real, too, and his entire filmography is perhaps an acquired taste, but one well worth the time to develop a sense for, as far as this critic is concerned. I don’t think there’s another North American filmmaker quite like him.

A few years ago, when I heard a new Ghostbusters movie was coming, I felt that pang of long-forgotten glee from 1984. I was turning 12 that year, and moderately inappropriate comedy where the heroes who save the day are the opposite of the ultra-capable James Bond … man, that was right up my alley. Naturally, Bill Murray stepped in.

Jason Reitman, wherever you are, thanks for this. This is what justice looks like.

Picking up decades after the 1989 sequel left off, we now find ourselves immersed in the sad void of the Spengler family.

In this movie, we start with the death of Egon Spengler. Yes, sadly, the real world lost the thespian Harold Ramis in 2014 — a loss like that can’t go unaccounted for, especially in the first few minutes. We soon learn his character’s long-estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) is about to lose her apartment. Being a single mom of two nerdy teens (Trevor and Phoebe, played by Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace) is tough enough but how do you reconcile that with not even really knowing your own father?

I guess it helps if dad was out to save the world.

Callie moves to dad’s last digs: some decrepit mansion on a dirt farm in basically Nowhere, Oklahoma. There, Spengler furthered his reputation as a strange one: buying strange parts from the hardware store, not having any friends, and the spray-painted scrawl of Revelation 6:12 at the gates probably didn’t help his socializing much.

Callie is pretty much at the end of her rope, but things can always get worse. Egon moved to the place because it connects to the events that happened in New York in 1984. If you thought that was a supernatural gong show then wait till you see what happens in Oklahoma (substituted marvelously by our very own Alberta here).

Ghostbusters: Afterlife plays a bit like a backstory, but really it's a job of connecting the dots and making a complete circle. It does so with an incredible cast where the kids — especially Mckenna Grace — take centre stage and adds in some special guest appearances — or should I say "spectral geist" appearances ... har har har.

It's magical and nostalgic without being overly glossy, creepy, or blockbustery. Think of it as Stand By Me meets Super Eight, and you're just about there. Bring a handkerchief for this gem.


Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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