Review: 'Ghostbusters: From Beyond' tries too hard to be a crowd-pleaser

It's so focused on paying homage to the past, the film ends up feeling more like fan fiction

A scene from 'Ghostbusters: From Beyond', which is released on December 2 in the UAE. Photo: Sony Pictures

In a way, it makes sense that Ghostbusters: From Beyond, also referred to as Ghostbusters: Afterlife, is almost solely focused on pleasing fans of the beloved original.

Back in 2016, Paul Feig was tasked with writing and directing a Ghostbusters reboot. He cast Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon as the leading quartet. But, despite amassing impressive reviews, including a score of 74 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, audiences failed to flock to see the blockbuster sci-fi comedy.

'Ghostbusters: From Beyond'

Director: Jason Reitman

Starring: Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace

Rating: 2/5

As one of the studio’s most popular intellectual properties, Sony was always going to return to the Ghostbusters franchise. They were always going to play it as safe as possible when they did so, too. That’s why Jason Reitman, the son of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II director Ivan Reitman, was hired to co-write and oversee a sequel instead.

From Beyond revolves around Callie Spengler (Carrie Coon), the daughter of Dr Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), who moves to Summerville, Oklahoma, with her two children Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace), after the death of her father.

But, soon after their arrival, the family starts to notice that supernatural shenanigans are blighting the small town. It becomes obvious these incidents have a connection to the original Ghostbusters, as well as the secret legacy that their grandfather left behind.

There’s no denying that Ghostbusters: From Beyond’s constant flirtation with its illustrious past produces some spine-tingling moments of warmth and nostalgia. Of course, it’s great to see the Ecto-1 vehicle roaring around street corners and the proton packs catching ghouls once again.

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Carrie Coon brings an ease and charm to the sci-fi comedy that repeatedly saves 'From Beyond' from becoming unwatchable

But it soon becomes mercilessly bogged down by its loyalty to the original films. After initially leaving hints and Easter eggs to the franchise’s past in a rather understated and discreet fashion during its rather promising opening half, it becomes so obsessed with its illustrious predecessor that it starts to feel like fan fiction.

This disappointing descent feels all the more egregious because there’s actually several elements of the film that work really well. The aforementioned positive beginning establishes the family dynamics in a funny manner, while it subtly sets up the necessary obstacles and set-pieces that blockbusters of this size require.

'Ghostbusters: From Beyond' features Finn Wolfhard, left, from 'Stranger Things'. Photo: Sony Pictures

It’s also great to see the always captivating Coon (Gone Girl) being given the chance to lead a studio film of this size. She does so spectacularly, too, bringing an ease and charm to the sci-fi comedy that repeatedly saves From Beyond from becoming unwatchable.

No more so is this evident than through her chemistry with Paul Rudd’s Gary Grooberson, who plays her daughter’s middle-school science teacher. Other than his scenes with Coon, though, Rudd actually provides a rather lame and forgettable performance that feels oddly restrained.

Wolfhard and Grace are much more dynamic, with their magnetic screen-presences intensifying once the action increases, while Logan Kim as Podcast and Celeste O’Connor as Lucky Domingo also put in star-making turns.

This is despite the fact that, around halfway through proceedings, From Beyond gives up any pretense of actually being its own movie. Instead, it focuses on delivering exactly what Ghostbusters fans have been waiting to see. But by being so enamoured with its past, it loses any semblance of originality of its own. It also stops being funny in anyway whatsoever.

Being such an obvious homage will almost certainly lead it to impressive box office figures. But, considering how fresh and hilarious Ghostbusters still feels to this day, more than 37 years after its release, it’s a travesty that From Beyond is prepared to be so formulaic, predictable and, ultimately, unfunny.

It’s also a sad and worrying indictment of what the current Hollywood landscape considers entertainment.

Updated: November 30th 2021, 7:23 AM
'Ghostbusters: From Beyond'

Director: Jason Reitman

Starring: Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace

Rating: 2/5