“For Harold…” closing credit caption
I honestly can’t think of a time when I’ve waited longer for a sequel than this. The Star Wars trilogies weren’t as far apart, the gap between the Star Trek TV series and its transition to the cinema was modest by comparison.
I remember the Christmas of 1984 fondly anticipating seeing the two big releases which were Gremlins and Ghostbusters. (Okay, I’d have to wait until spring ’85 until they reached the remote outpost of this particular Twilight Zone, but it was worth it on both accounts) I had already bought into both films way before seeing them, and they both very quickly became cult classics – no question about it.
Ghostbusters II was released in 1989, and I saw that on opening night (I had a car by then) and though it was nice to catch up with them again, the sequel didn’t resonate with me as much as the original. Then, there was silence. Oh, there was a successful TV animated show which I didn’t see, and there was a by all accounts truly lamentable reboot with Melissa McCarthy in 2016 which I avoided like the plague because I didn’t want to see a reboot, particularly with McCarthy who with a couple of exceptions when she’s kept in check, does nothing but mug and gurn at the camera, oblivious to her lack of comedic talent. I wanted proper Ghostbusters, damn it.
Then we had the pre covid teaser that showed the seemingly abandoned ECTO-1 in a barn, and the news that this was the PROPER sequel to the first two with the return of the cast, with the exception of course of Harold Ramis, who had played Egon Spengler and also co-written the original films, who had sadly passed away.
Immediate questions burned. How would it work without Ramis/Spengler? Was the McCarthy abomination now canon? Did I need to see it? Was the legacy of the Ghostbusters going to be crapped on to make a quick buck? Was it just too late? Questions that lingered in my mind until I took my seat in the multiplex on opening night.
From the opening, showing the Columbia logo with an all too familiar piano tinkle, while the theremin plays a spooky refrain, I knew I was on safe ground – this Ghostbusters film was in good hands, directed as it is by Jason Reitman, son of the original films’ director Ivan Reitman.
Within the first few minutes, I was fully bought in, eager to see more, happy that the style of the original films was being observed, and there were plenty of easter eggs to keep the loyal fan base (and we’d been loyal for over thirty years) happy. The film kicks off in a remote rural location, well away from New York and a ghostly pursuit with the attempted entrapment of a ghostly entity by a shadowy figure who, obviously, is the now much older Egon Spengler. This doesn’t go well, and sets up the film.
After the titles, we join a single mother, her teenage son and pre-teen daughter, who receive notice that there’s been a death in the family. She’s lost her father – but she was estranged from him and had been for years. The kids never knew their grandfather. It’s obvious from the general appearance of the daughter Phoebe (superbly played by McKenna Grace) that the family member who passed is indeed Egon. As they’re now completely broke and being evicted, mother Callie (Carrie Coon) has no choice but to travel to Oklahoma and move into the run down, dilapidated farm her father left her. Hoping for a decent inheritance, she finds her father could barely keep the lights on, there’s on the house – and its secrets.
Egon had abandoned his family and moved to live like an exile on the farm. He had a hidden underground base, filled with his Ghostbuster equipment and the ECTO-1 was left to rust under a blanket in the barn, until discovered by his grandson, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard). Meanwhile, of course – in a mine run by the Shandor company, evil is brewing and an old foe has found its way back to our plane – and Egon was waiting, until he died.
This is where I’d normally point out anything that I saw as wrong in the film, particularly one that had as much riding on it for me personally, having waited so long to continue the Ghostbusters franchise and seen (or at least heard) it tainted by McCarthy and her loudmouthed ilk. But I have nothing. Not a thing.
The music was right there, the Ray Parker Jnr song, the plot - it was at once instantly familiar without being repetitive and perhaps most importantly, it rang true with the established continuity of the previous films. It echoes the first film without slavishly repeating it. It stars a popular contemporary actor, who can handle comedy very well in Paul (Ant-Man) Rudd, without sacrificing the original stars at the altar of being aimed at contemporary audiences.
In its execution, it's like Ghostbusters meets The Goonies - it feels like an eighties film. It has that vibe, that dynamic. It’s the most eighties film I’ve seen since Super 8. They’ve got it right. Everything about this film is everything that I wanted from it, and I left the screening happy.
But you want to know about the returning cast – right?
True to form, the Ghostbusters disbanded and seem resentful that Egon split with the equipment. This falls in line with their disbandment at the beginning of Ghostbusters II and eventual reforming. Wisely, this movie isn’t about coaxing the original members back. That isn’t this story. This is a family story about coping with the loss of a member, picking up the pieces of a broken relationship and redemption (while a supernatural evil is nearby, obviously). When they show up, it’s worth the wait – and a truly awesome cinematic moment to see Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Ernie Hudson back in their Ghostbuster overalls, proton accelerators at the ready – aided by a ghostly Harold Ramis. That moment was worth waiting over three decades for, and a touching tribute and swan song for the incredibly talented Harold Ramis.
As the song goes, “Bustin’ made me feel good”.
Rob Rating – 9/10
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