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."