BAXTER — “If there’s something strange ... in your neighborhood ... who you gonna call?”
Fans of the 1980s movie franchise starring Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson and the late Harold Ramis know the answer. And audiences came calling to theaters when “Ghostbusters” was released in 1984.
Hollywood is again banking on nostalgia for the ghost-busting dweebs, but this time casting the grandchildren of Ramis’ character to get the job done in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” the new sequel playing at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and the Sunset Cinema in Jenkins.
Single mom of two played by Carrie Coon is evicted from her rental and travels to Summerville, Oklahoma, with her children in tow in the hopes her estranged father, played by Ramis, left her something worthwhile to pay off her debts.
The “creepy ol’ farmhouse in the middle of nowhere,” as her son describes it, belonged to one of the original Ghostbusters, the recently deceased Egon Spengler from the 1980s movies.
The woman’s precocious daughter Phoebe, played by a bespectacled Mckenna Grace — because in the movies, wearing eyeglasses is a clear-cut sign of brilliance, of course — discovers a ghost-trapping device hidden in her grandfather’s dilapidated farmhouse.
Phoebe brings the device to her summer school teacher played by People magazine’s recently anointed “Sexiest Man Alive” — really — who happens also to be a seismologist (a fancy term for someone who studies earthquakes) and a Ghostbusters fan.
"New York in the '80s? It's like 'The Walking Dead.'" — Gary Grooberson explains to Phoebe while playing YouTube clips of the original Ghostbusters played by Aykroyd, Murray, Hudson and a posthumous Ramis, who died in 2014.
The fearless Phoebe rummages through the former possessions of her late grandfather and discovers Spenglers’s role in saving New York from ghosts and other supernatural threats.
Meanwhile, unexplainable earthquakes continue to plague the little town of Summerville, a former mining town, and Phoebe’s brother, Trevor, played by Finn Wolfhard — kind of a cool name for an actor maybe — discovers the Ecto-1, the iconic hearse-like Ghostbusters vehicle.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is the first film in the “Ghostbusters” movie franchise not to take place in New York City, and the brother and sister, and her newfound friend, take the hearse-like vehicle for a spin before encountering a ravenous ghost and chase it in the converted old ambulance.
“New York in the '80s? It's like 'The Walking Dead.'”
— Gary Grooberson, science teacher and seismologist
The PG-13 sequel sports family-friendly apparitions like the first two movies in the franchise, without gory depictions one might expect in a two-hour film about the undead. For example, a brief but memorable scene played for laughs involves marshmallows that come to life.
The offbeat sense of humor, the ghost-lassoing proton packs, the name-labeled matching jumpsuits and other nostalgic flourishes from the four-film franchise are all there in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” for those of a certain age to enjoy.
Director Jason Reitman, son of original “Ghostbusters” director Ivan Reitman, co-wrote the screenplay, which is set 32 years after the first sequel, “Ghostbusters II.”
Jason Reitman made his mark and was hailed for directing films such as "Thank You for Smoking" starring Aaron Eckhart; "Juno" in Ellen Page’s breakout role; "Up in the Air" featuring George Clooney; and "Young Adult" starring Charlize Theron.
A female-driven reboot of “Ghostbusters” was released in 2016 and directed by Paul Feig, who directed the blockbuster comedy “Bridesmaids.” The reboot starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth, however, bombed at the box office.
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” currently holds a 62% approval rating among critics and a 96% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.
The RottenTomatoes.com critics consensus reads: “‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ crosses the streams between franchise revival and exercise in nostalgia — and this time around, the bustin' mostly feels good.”