A lot or a little?
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ghostbusters: Afterlife reboots the beloved Ghostbusters franchise as a frighteningly good comedy adventure about kids ridding a town of ghosts. This installment takes place decades after the events of the original and was written to appeal to kids (including a self-possessed tween girl scientist leading the charge), who don't need to have seen the original to enjoy this one. But longtime fans will be rewarded with a basketful of Easter eggs and cameos from all of the original living Ghostbusters: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver, and Annie Potts (Egon/Harold Ramis died in 2014). Count on seeing ghosts both funny and fearsome; keep in mind that special effects have improved since 1984, and what didn't scare you as a kid might be more frightening through the lens of modern technology. There are references to virginity (without an explanation of what that term means) and a couple of other sexual insinuations that will likely go over most kids' heads. You can also expect a few swear words ("a--hole," "s--t"). Still, this is definitely a more family-friendly film than the original, with themes of friendship, forgiveness, and redemption. Watch through the end of the credits for an extra treat.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE, siblings Trevor (Stranger Things' Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace) move to a small Oklahoma town with their mom, Callie (Carrie Coon), to take over their late grandfather's crumbling farm. When unusual activity starts happening around town, Phoebe's science teacher, Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), tells her how current events seem to relate to the paranormal events of New York City in the 1980s. When a supernatural presence tries to communicate with Phoebe, she starts to understand her family's mysterious past.
Is it any good?
The Ghostbusters franchise crosses streams to find new life as a family film that's frighteningly good fun. For anyone who remembers how the original '80s horror comedy shook pop culture like a ginormous Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man stomping through New York, it may have seemed like too much to hope for that a new version could match that magic (especially after the underwhelming 2016 reboot). And yet, Ghostbusters: Afterlife pulls it off. Writer-director Jason Reitman -- son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the 1984 classic -- grew up with this franchise. With Ivan now in the producing role and (according to Jason) sitting right next to his son on set, the duo prove to be the Keymaster and the Gatekeeper, truly re-creating the special feeling of an '80s comedy while adding a modern-day spin that fits with today's sensibilities.
While pulling back from the original's eyebrow-raising banter and behavior, this kidventure still respects its elders. The 1984 film was about four scientific misfits who don't quite fit into society but believe in themselves when no one else does and, through their courage and ingenuity, save the world. Here, the same premise is reignited: Four diverse kids come together to follow a similar path. The lead character in the ensemble is Phoebe, whose logical brain is a social hindrance (as she starts her first day of summer school, her mother jokingly calls out "Don't be yourself!"). But she's undeterred in her approach to life: She's comfortable in her own skin, and she ain't afraid of no ghosts ("overstimulation calms me" she coolly states while blasting a particularly hungry apparition named Muncher). The score, the lighting, the camera angles, the humor, the throwback references, the cameos, the script -- everything comes together perfectly to create the tingly feeling that we're watching Ghostbusters meets The Goonies, with a touch of Gremlins (without the parts that often worry parents). When it comes to the impossible challenge of rebooting a beloved, iconic comedy, the Reitmans can say "We came, we saw, we kicked its ass."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why Ghostbusters is an iconic film and why it has endured. How do the Ghostbusters: Afterlife filmmakers reward fans of the original while introducing a new story for a new generation? Kids: How would you reimagine your favorite movie for a different audience?
How is the "fish out of water" idea used in Ghostbusters: Afterlife? Why do you think that theme is used so frequently in screenwriting?
This movie is like Ghostbusters meets The Goonies, but the language is significantly toned down from those '80s classics. Why do you think the writers eliminated most of the profanity? Why do you think they included any at all? Do you notice when characters curse, especially if they're kids? Do you notice if they don't? Does it impact your feelings about the film?
- In theaters: November 19, 2021
- Cast: Finn Wolfhard, McKenna Grace, Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd
- Director: Jason Reitman
- Studio: Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Character strengths: Courage, Curiosity, Perseverance, Self-control, Teamwork
- Run time: 124 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: supernatural action and some suggestive references
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: November 24, 2021
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