Family, legacy, and threads of reconciliation.
It’s the spirit that most lovingly haunts Ghostbusters Afterlife. ESPECIALLY Family.
The film was directed by Jason Reitman, son of the man who helmed the 1984 original, Ivan Reitman. Yeah, I know. No pressure, right?
“The first person I wanted to make happy was my dad. Then the [Harold] Ramis family was on my mind at all times. Then beyond that it was the Ghostbusters fans… I just carried the baton. So I wasn’t thinking about, ‘How do I make this my movie?’ Because it never was mine,” Jason said in an interview with the L.A. Times.
Well, Jason, we’re ready to believe you!
Something Stranger (Things)
These themes of family and legacy is further baked into the DNA of the story, focusing on the lineage of Egon Spangler (who was played by the aforementioned Ramis), one of the founding members of the original Ghostbusters, who defused the ghoulish invasion of New York City decades prior. His daughter, Callie (Carrie Coon, with lots of spunk) harbors resentment towards her father, and with good reason! He disappeared from her life when she was but a child. His grandchildren, the precocious 12-year-old Phoebe (McKenna Grace) and 15-year-old Trevor (Finn Wolfgard), on the other hand, never knew him at all.
After Egon passes away, his old farmhouse in a lonely Oklahoma town falls to Callie. As a single mom facing eviction, she who uproots the family and takes on the house with all its needed repairs… and secrets. It doesn’t take the kids long to uncover their grandfather’s past. An old ghost trap (“that’s not a replica!’), a ghost detecting EKG Meter, and, yes, the FREAKIN’ ECTO-1 in all its four wheels of glory, will do that.
Things go awry when McKenna and her new friend, Podcast (Logan Kim), enlist the help of seismologist- turned-schoolteacher, Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd, at his Ruddiest. Not a complaint) and accidentally unleash a ghost that wreaks havok. Stakes rise even further when the small town turns out to be ground zero to world ending apocalyptic stuff. Time to activate the proton packs and fire up the family business!
In the meantime, questions abound: Why did the Ghostbusters disband? What made Egon go reclusive and abandon his family? Is it still possible to find reconciliation even after someone has passed?
The adults take backseat to the kids in this one. Think Stranger Things meets Ghostbusters.
Is Reitman the Keymaster?
Fans of the 1984 original should be well pleased. Reitman seems to embue every frame with a special care and fills Afterlife with a number of Easter eggs and homages without going over the top, hitting all the right beats. It has a fun and creepy vibe!
Those going in hoping for extended exposure to the surviving trio of the original cast may be disappointed, but the young cast – headlined by a star-making turn by Grace – more than holds its own. Grace has both the look and the presence, leaving little need to suspend disbelief that her Phoebe is Egon’s granddaughter. Bonus: Phoebe loves science and anything that encourages young girls to get into the sciences is win (“Science makes sense of the madness in the world,” Grooberson raved at one point).
The final act suffers from the same missteps as Episode VII of Star Wars. It was a bit too familiar, relying on so many plots and visuals from the original to the point where little surprises were to be held. The major exception being the emotional climax, which ultimately proved to be an affecting tribute to the late Harold Ramis and the power of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Stick around. There is a mid credits scene and an end credits scene. Both are somewhat lengthy!
Seek Reconciliation, Not Resolution
When facing a loss, we all have to find ways to work through the complicated emotions, whether it be a close relationship or a complicated one like with Egon’s kin. We may be tempted to seek resolution, but that implies an ending point. It’s not always that simple because mourning is a process, a journey. Instead, seek reconciliation!
What is reconciliation in the context of a death? It is acknowledging that life will be different after someone dies, and building off from that, changing the relationship with that person. For sure, it is hard work redirecting that relationship from one of earthly presence to one of memory and energy to the future.
The Center for Loss and Life Transition reminds that we descend, not transcend. “You don’t get to go around or above your grief. You must go through it. And while you are going through it, you must express it you are to reconcile yourself to it,” says Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.
Some suggestions to express grief: talking it out, crying it out, writing it out, playing it out, painting it out.
In short, getting it out!
You Can’t Take It With You, But…
They say you can’t take it with you, but that doesn’t mean the things we leave behind for our loved ones don’t hold value. And I’m not talking in the monetary context.
In Ghostbusters Afterlife, Egon’s grandchildren never knew him. But it was the objects they found in the house that told his story, what was important to him, and his purposes (that and YouTube). Letters, photographs, books. It might not be world-saving stuff, but perhaps in some way it can help reconcile us to them and forges connections. It becomes embued with their spirit.
My grandmother’s faith was quite important to her. I regretted not taking the time to sit down with her for a conversation about God and other spiritual matters, taking in some of the things that she had learned over her decades. What a lost opportunity! When she died last year, I came into possession of her Bible. But it was far more, there were notes and personal musings on seemingly every page in the margins.
Such a treasure! My grandmother was finding ways to speak to me even as she passed on from this earthly realm.
Where to Watch
Ghostbusters Afterlife is currently showing in theaters.
What do you think? Do you have any helpful suggestions for reconciling with a loss? Were you as equally moved by the new Ghostbusters movie? Please share in the comments below!
Ghostbusters Afterlife (2021
Director: Jason Reitman
Screenwriters: Jason Reitman, Gil Kenan
Cast: Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim
Rated: PG-13 for supernatural action and some suggestive references
Running time: 124 minutes
Scott is a movie lover who brings over 20 years experience in mental health, journalism and vocational ministry. He has a Masters of Divinity degree, which is not nearly as amazing sounding as Masters of the Universe, but it is what it is. It is here at Movies That Move Us where his powers combine! It is not uncommon to find him pretending to open automatic doors using The Force.