November 24, 2021 – In this, the fourth Ghostbusters movie, there is a serious turn away from comedy and towards nostalgia. Directed by Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the original 1984 Ghostbusters film, this movie is a love letter to that first film, and to the actors who starred in it.
The first film was one of the most successful comedies ever made, while the second film Ghostbusters II (1985) was far inferior. Ghostbusters (2016) was a very funny comedy, but it was attacked by a misogynistic horde before it was ever released, sabotaging its chance to be popular or profitable. It was simply not canon. It wasn't serious enough, and it was more original than the other sequels, since it was more of a reboot.
This fourth Ghostbusters film is definitely canon and it is very serious. It practically deifies the first film, and the actors who starred in the first two films, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson. These four men (no women allowed) played the original Ghostbusters, Peter Venkman, Dr. Raymond Stantz, Dr. Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddemore, respectively. While the three surviving actors from this group, Murray, Aykroyd and Hudson, all appeared in the 2016 film, those were cameo roles only. They play much more important roles in this film, along with the late Harold Ramis.
This film drips with nostalgia, but it isn't as funny as the 1984 and 2016 films. Instead, it tells a serious story about a family with serious problems. The family is headed up by Callie Spengler (played by Carrie Coon of “Avengers: Infinity War”) estranged daughter of Dr. Egon Spengler (who was played by the late Harold Ramis in the first two Ghostbuster movies). Callie is broke and near homeless.
The only thing she owns is a car and property in rural Oklahoma left to her by Egon. She packs up her meager belongings and her two children, boyish-looking daughter, and science whiz, Phoebe (played by Mckenna Grace of “Captain Marvel”) and her son, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard of “It”) and drives hundreds of miles to Oklahoma. Neither of her two children want to move there. It turns out that Egon left Callie with debts that may equal or exceed the value of the property she inherits. She is angry with her late father for abandoning his family and for leaving her in this predicament.
Phoebe and Trevor manage to make friends in the town closest to the desolate farm where they live, while Callie tries to see if there is enough value left in her father's property to make ends meet. Callie has an unusual, casual approach to parenting. The land may not have much value, but Egon left behind a mysterious, rich scientific legacy, and a lot of sophisticated, specialized, ghostbusting equipment.
Phoebe finds a ghost trap hidden under a floor in the house, and manages to open it with the aid of a school science teacher, Gary Grooberson (Paul Rudd of “Ant-Man”). When the trap is opened, a monstrous evil entity escapes and causes a lot of damage in the school parking lot. There are a number of ghost sightings in town, all linked to the activities of the late Ivo Shandor, who operated a selenium mine near the town. The mine houses a secret portal to the supernatural world. Shandor, you may recall, built the “spook central” building in New York City with selenium-steel beams that caused all that trouble in the original Ghostbusters movie.
Trevor finds, and restores the old Eco-1 Ghostbusters vehicle, and Phoebe finds, and restores one of the nuclear proton packs used by the Ghostbusters to defeat the Sumerian god Gozer in the first film. Thus armed, Phoebe and Trevor, along with their friends, Lucky (Celeste O'Connor) and Podcast (Logan Kim) go to battle against Gozer and the not-quite-departed spirit of Ivo Shandor. They wage desperate battles to save the earth from a disaster of Biblical proportions should Gozer and his minions get loose.
As you can probably tell, this story is quite similar to that of the original Ghostbusters movie, and the 2016 film, too. In all three films there are four heroes trying to save the world from supernatural disasters with no help from the rest of the world. It turns out these four kids finally do get some help just in the nick of time.
The basic story works well enough, especially for those of us who have seen the other three films. There are some big plot holes, however. The plot holes are mostly papered over with feel-good nostalgia and emotional bonding that give the movie a satisfying feel. This movie may be short on brains, but it is long on heart. The whole purpose of this movie seems to be a long, heartfelt goodbye and thank you to the late Harold Ramis. It is a tribute to him and all those who made the 1984 film such a beloved movie.
The performances are uniformly strong, but young Mckenna Grace really steals the show as brainy, brave Phoebe Spengler, a born leader, scientist and the only one of these kids who is a real Ghostbuster. Carrie Coon is also good playing the very unconventional mother. Coon manages to make this oddball character almost believable. Paul Rudd seems to be having fun with his rather irresponsible science teacher character.
While none of the later Ghostbuster films can equal the original, I would rank this one up there with the 2016 film. It isn't as funny, nor is it as original, but it is just as effective in its own way. Stick around to the end for a mid-credits scene featuring Sigourney Weaver, followed by a post credits scene, featuring Ernie Hudson. The cameo roles by Annie Potts and Sigourney Weaver continue their tradition, along with Murray, Aykroyd and Hudson, of having appeared in all four Ghostbusters movies. Rick Moranis quit these gigs after appearing as the character Louis Tully in the first two films. This movie rates a B.
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