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(2021) (McKenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard) (PG-13)

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Comedy/Horror: Two kids discover that their grandfather was a former ghostbuster and must use his equipment to battle a new outbreak of ghouls.

Times have been better for Callie (CARRIE COON), a long-divorced mom who ends up evicted and thus moves with her 15-year-old son, Trevor (FINN WOLFHARD), and 12-year-old daughter, Phoebe (McKENNA GRACE), to Summerville, Oklahoma where her long-estranged father lived until his recent death and the local mining operation has been closed for years. Hoping to eke some sort of financial gain from his house or belongings, Callie instead finds a decrepit old farmhouse worth nothing and farmland that was never tended to.

Trevor, however, finds himself attracted to teenager Lucky (CELESTE O'CONNOR) who works at the local diner where he ends up getting a job. Meanwhile, Phoebe finds a kindred spirit in Podcast (LOGAN KIM), another student who's attending summer school taught by Mr. Grooberson (PAUL RUDD) who shows the kids old horror movies in class.

Things change when Phoebe discovers that her grandfather -- who the locals viewed as crazy and called him "dirt farmer" -- was none other than a ghostbuster decades ago. That comes in handy when she and Podcast encounter a ghost. As the supernatural activity in town then starts increasing, it's up to them and her brother to use their grandfather's old gear to battle this new outbreak of ghouls and something that could be far worse.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

It's usually a good thing when goosebumps rise while watching a film about ghosts and other supernatural beings as that means the offering has done its job. At a recent press screening, however, that temporary skin response wasn't from things that go bump in the night. Instead, it was the theater's heating system that wasn't holding up its end of the bargain, resulting in chilly temperatures that might not have made it down to the level of visible breath in "The Exorcist," but did require coat wearing.

Granted, the latest offering in the "Ghostbusters" universe -- "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" -- was never intended to scare beyond the fact that it reminds us it's been thirty-seven years since the original film spooked up lots of supernatural laughs and big bucks at the box office.

Essentially ignoring the female-centric reboot from 2016, this film -- directed by Jason Reitman from a screenplay he co-wrote with Gil Kenan -- essentially is a long-delayed follow-up to the first and not exactly enthusiastically received sequel.

Now, all these years later, the original GBs have disappeared into cultural lore and barely watched YouTube videos of their original TV ads. But with the opening sequence showing something supernaturally afoot in the old mining town of Summerville, Oklahoma, we know it won't be long before we're hoping that bustins gonna make us feel good again.

But before the proton packs are whipped out, the story heads elsewhere to focus on exasperated single mom Callie (Carrie Coon) who's just learned that she's being evicted and that her no-good, did-us-wrong father has died. So, she packs up the kids -- 15-year-old Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and his nerdy 12-year-old sister Phoebe (McKenna Grace) -- and heads to Summerville in hopes that she can make some sort of financial gain from her old man's farm.

Unfortunately for her, "Dirt Farmer" -- as the locals were known to refer to the man -- left his house in shambles and worth next to nothing and the farmland as valuable as, well, dirt. While Trevor finds himself attracted to teenage diner waitress Lucky (Celeste O'Connor), Phoebe finds kindred science spirits in Podcast (Logan Kim) and their summer school teacher, Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd playing, well, Paul Rudd), who shows his students classic horror films so that he can focus on unusual earthquakes that shake the area daily.

It's not long before Phoebe discovers that her late grandfather was a ghostbuster and armed with his old tech gear, it's up to her, Podcast, and Trevor to save the day, complemented by jokes, action sequences, and -- natch -- ghosts.

But rather than scare up something original, Reitman and Kenan seem intent and satisfied to serve up elements from long ago and thus appease fans of the first film. Those range from a similarly hungry poltergeist (who gobbles down metal rather than hotel food) to Stay Puft characters and a return of Gozer, the demon dogs, and yes, more Keymaster and Gatekeeper material.

That will likely split viewers and critics regarding how they feel about the homage, but it all goes down fairly easily and even features some nice, heartwarming, and emotionally touching moments at the end, followed by the usual end credits scenes.

All of that -- as well as a reprise of the original title song -- however, may remind viewers how superior the original film was to any of the follow-ups, including this one, which is often a risky thing as it could make viewers long for more of that rather than the latest offering and its characters.

While I experienced that and enjoyed the trip down nostalgia lane, I wouldn't mind seeing another installment of this newest and moderately entertaining chapter. "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed November 15, 2021 / Posted November 19, 2021

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