If it seems like the only movie Big Hollywood knows how to make is the one they made last year — and the year before that — there’s a reason. The industry’s franchise craze is real, albeit highly timing dependent. My colleague Kyle Buchanan has determined that while successful sequels tend to be released every few years, sequels that wait six years are often bound to fail. That could be welcome news for the latest installment “Ghostbusters,” a cautious, easy-to-watch, painless, child-centered adventure that opens exactly five years, four months, and four days after the previous part was released.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife is directed by Jason Reitman, whose father, Ivan Reitman, directed the first two films in the 1980s and is preparing a third. Over the years and after many studio notes, a new director, Paul Feig, was brought in, and the third film became a female-driven reboot. Before it opened, the reboot had been the target of sexist and racist rants and rage, one victim of being the culture war. But like the troubling appearances that haunt this series, lucrative (and even barely profitable) franchises rarely really die in Hollywood. And “Ghostbusters” is simply too goofy, too smart for silly jokes, and too potentially lucrative to be buried for long.
And so it was: “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” the cuddly and toothless movie you’d expect from a newly rebooted production facility, in which the main characters are children and Paul Rudd plays the part. a lover. They are all predictably lovable and have large, legible eyes, the better to widen in fake surprise or feign fear when various other ghosts call. The cartoon appearances, for their part, range from the lovable to the adorable PG-13 and include a roly-poly metal muncher, a pair of lurking monster hounds, and several creatures Puffy, extended arms and devilishly cheerful smile have been designed for the toy shelf and maximum nostalgia.
There’s a story, for sure, though you don’t care and neither do I. What matters is the jokes, the energy, the boos, and the characters, who are engaging primarily because so are the performers who play them. The main kids are an older brother, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard of “Stranger Things”), and his younger intellectual sister, Phoebe (the very good Mckenna Grace). Together with their mother (reliable Carrie Coon), they move to a deserted farmhouse in the middle of Oklahoma (played by Alberta, Canada), near one of the small, unpretentious towns of classic Hollywood. There the kids pick up two charming second bananas (Logan Kim, Celeste O’Connor), slapstick fun, fight demons, solve mysteries.
Jason Reitman creates easy-to-watch, mainstream comedies and dramas for adults (“Up in the Air,” “The Front Runner”) that deliver their soft laughs and sanctity. Like his father, he is sentimental, but his father’s comedies are braver, more marketable, and high-concept: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito are “Twins,” and more. Reitmans split the duties on “The Afterlife,” with Ivan serving as producer and Jason sharing script credit with Gil Kenan. Whatever the father’s influence on his son, one of the better things about this venture is that, while the adults in the story tell the kids what to do, the focus remains on the action, not the action. must be a life lesson.
The sequel to the franchise is based on trustworthiness and gives audiences exactly what they expect. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” certainly lived up to its contract promise: There were ghosts, and they were destroyed. By design, there aren’t any real surprises in the film. Instead, the series focuses heavily on previous installments in an attempt to create the kind of self-generated franchise mythology that can support sequels (and so on). It flips through familiar gadgets, ghosts and goo as well as beloved faces and an indestructible theme song by Ray Parker Jr. Like young Reitman, Phoebe and the ghosts of her Scooby crew fight on all fronts..
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