Review: ‘Family Camp,’ starring Tommy Woodard, Eddie James, Leigh-Allyn Baker and Gigi Orsillo

May 28, 2022

by Carla Hay

Gigi Orsillo, Eddie James, Tommy Woodard and Leigh-Allyn Baker in “Family Camp” (Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions)

“Family Camp”

Directed by Brian Cates

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed part of Oklahoma, the comedy film “Family Camp” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two families, who have to share a yurt during a Christian vacation camp, become fierce rivals in the camp’s physical competitions, and then the family patriarchs both get lost in the woods together.

Culture Audience: “Family Camp” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in faith-based comedies that have no creative imagination and a lot of predictability.

Tommy Woodard and Eddie James in “Family Camp” (Photo courtesy of Roadside Attractions)

“Family Camp” is a dreadfully unfunny ripoff of other comedies about families at a vacation campground. The kid characters are nice, but their annoying parents unfortunately get most of the screen time. “Family Camp” is a faith-based movie, but people looking for entertaining comedic talent in this repetitive and predictable tripe will have their faith and their patience thoroughly tested and then completely obliterated, if there’s any hope that the movie will get better as it goes along. “Family Camp” is formulaic junk that goes from bad to worse.

Directed by Brian Cates (who co-wrote the abysmal “Family Camp” screenplay with Rene Gutteridge), “Family Camp” is essentially a thinly veiled vanity project for the Skit Guys, the comedy duo consisting of longtime friends Tommy Woodard and Eddie James. If “Family Camp” is the first time that people will be introduced to the Skit Guys, then it will put a lot of viewers off from seeing anything else that the Skit Guys have to offer. The movie is supposed to be about two families, but the last third of the movie is pretty much about the feuding characters played by Woodard and James getting lost in the woods together.

“Family Camp” (which is set in Oklahoma) is so simple-minded, at least it’s very easy to follow the plot. Too bad the plot is so stupid, your brain will feel numb from the experience of watching all the corny, awful and boring scenarios that the “Family Camp” filmmakers are trying to pass off as comedy. Most of the movie’s adult characters are whiny, fake or aggressively obnoxious.

The beginning of “Family Camp” shows married couple Tommy Ackerman (played by Woodard) and Grace Ackerman (played by Leigh-Allyn Baker) in church with their two children: Hannah Ackerman (played by Cece Kelly) and Henry Ackerman (played by Jacob M. Wade). Hannah is 16 years old, while Henry is about 11 or 12 years old. Grace is annoyed with Tommy because he showed up late for this church service.

But that’s not the only thing she’s irritated about when it comes to Tommy. Grace thinks that Tommy, who works as a senior investment strategist, is too much of a workaholic who’s been neglecting his family. When the church’s Pastor Dave (played by Mark Christopher Lawrence) announces to the congregation some details about an annual Christian family retreat at a place called Camp Katokwah, Grace tells Tommy that if he wants to make up for all the time that he missed with his family, their family needs to go on this week-long camping trip. (Camp Katokwah is a fictional name. “Family Camp” was actually filmed at Central Oklahoma Camp in Guthrie, Oklahoma.)

Tommy is very resistant to taking this trip, because it’s coming at a time when he’s being considered for a job promotion. Tommy is in a bitter rivalry for the promotion with a cutthroat co-worker named Bramburger (played by Brandon Potter), who doesn’t hesitate to lie, cheat and steal to get what he wants. Tommy and Bramburger have been trying to get the same client, named Mr. Kapoor (played by Mathew Chacko), who is a wealthy businessman.

Tommy thinks that going on this camping trip will put him at a distinct disadvantage to get the promotion. The movie has some time-wasting scenes where Tommy uses his phone to keep track of Bramburger and his sneaky ways of trying to win over Mr. Kapoor. One of Bramburger’s backstabbing tactics includes impersonating Tommy in an in-person interview with Mr. Kapoor. It makes no sense for Bramburger to pretend to be Tommy in this interview, since Bramburger wants to be the one to get the credit for signing Mr. Kapoor as a client. It’s an example of how poorly written the “Family Camp” screenplay is.

Even though Tommy doesn’t want to spend time away from his job, there would be no “Family Camp” movie if Tommy didn’t agree to go on this trip. He does so reluctantly, and he immediately regrets it when the Ackerman family gets to Camp Katokwah and finds out that the camp never got the Ackermans’ last installment of the required payment. All of the cabins on the campground are sold out, so the Ackermans have to share a yurt with another family. It’s a yurt with no WiFi service and no air conditioning.

The other family sharing the yurt also consists of a married couple with two underage children. Eddie Sanders (played by James) and his wife Victoria Sanders (played by Gigi Orsillo) have fraternal twins: son Ed Sanders Jr. (played by Elias Kemuel) and daughter Barb (played by Keslee Grace Blalock), who are both about 11 or 12 years old. Eddie is a loudmouth chiropractor, who always wants people to think he’s the biggest “alpha male,” but he’s really an insecure buffoon with terrible social skills. Victoria is a stereotypical younger “trophy wife” who’s obsessed with the family’s image on social media.

One of the first things that Eddie tells Tommy is that Eddie and his family are the reigning champs of Camp Katokwah’s physical challenge tournament, where the winning family gets a trophy. The tournament consists of families competing in challenges such as obstacle courses, archery, pie-eating contests with hands tied behind their backs, and body-slamming competitions where people are encased in giant plastic bubbles. As soon as Eddie brags about his champion status, you know that a lot of this movie is going to be about the Ackerman family versus the Sanders family in these challenges.

And sure enough, the movie has several scenes where these two families face off against each other in these challenges. Grace and Victoria become competitive with each other. But their rivalry is nothing compared to how Eddie and Tommy take the competition to a super-personal level, as if they have to prove their manhood, and as if their reputations as husbands and fathers depend on winning this superficial trophy. To make matters worse, since the Sanders family and Ackerman family have to share living quarters at this camp, they can’t really get away from each other, so any hard feelings about winning or losing start to fester and boil over.

The movie has some not-very-funny jokes about the Sanders family being strict vegans, and the Ackerman parents ridiculing the Sanders family’s eating habits. And there’s a silly scene in the camp cafeteria where Tommy chokes on his food, but he’s saved when Eddie does the Heimlich maneuver on Tommy. Eddie gets a standing ovation from the cafeteria crowd because of it. The praise just fuels Eddie’s already overblown ego.

Eddie is by far the most repulsive of these four parents. He often grabs people to give them uncomfortable chiropractic crunches without their consent. When Eddie notices that Henry is not very athletic and has a tendency to become afraid, Eddie taunts Tommy over it and says that Henry will probably grow up to be a socially inept hoarder. It’s a cruel thing to say about a harmless kid. Eddie also plays the harmonica when no one really wants to hear him play. And that means he’s a blowhard in more ways than one.

Meanwhile, Victoria and Grace, who seem to be homemakers since they don’t talk about having their own careers, end up confessing to each other some of the problems they’re experiencing in their respective marriages. In other words, it all comes back to the narrative really being about Eddie and Tommy. “Family Camp” makes a half-hearted attempt hinting that Victoria might want some independence from her husband, but the movie never details what she wants to do with her life that would make her more independent.

The kids are sidelined so that the story can mainly be about the egotistical adults in the Ackerman and Sanders families. Hannah has a brief and inconsequential storyline of meeting a teenage guy named Corbin (played by Clayton Royal Johnson) at the camp and getting a mild crush on him. Corbin charms Hannah by playing acoustic guitar and telling her that she’s the prettiest girl at Camp Katokwa.

Later, when Corbin tries to kiss her, Hannah has to show him she’s “not that kind of girl.” And when he immediately loses interest in her, Hannah gets revenge by pushing Corbin over a bridge walkway and into a lake. It’s not spoiler information, because this push is in the movie’s trailer.

The movie’s Camp Katokwa employees are very forgettable. The leader of Camp Katokwah is named Joel (played by Robert Amaya), who isn’t shown doing much except emcee the camp’s competitions and entertainment. The camp’s chief cook is named—get ready to groan—Cookie (played by Heather Land), who doesn’t do much but stand around in the kitchen and share emcee duties with Joel.

The last third of “Family Camp” reaches putrid levels of stupidity when Eddie and Tommy get lost in the woods together, which means more bickering from these two bozos. There’s no mention of why they didn’t have their cell phones with them when they went into the woods. Henry gets lost in the woods too, but an underage child who goes missing is not as important in this movie as giving a lot of screen time to two men acting like insufferable brats. It gets tiresome very quickly.

And there are two more adult dolts in the woods: loathsome and cretinous reality TV stars who are named Slim (played by Myke Holmes) and Beef (played by Weston Vrooman), whose main claim to fame is being on a TV series showing Beef and Slim looking for the legendary creature Big Foot. Viewers can easily predict what will happen when Slim and Beef encounter Eddie and Tommy, especially when Eddie always seems to find a way to mouth off and get people angry.

In addition to the poorly written screenplay, “Family Camp” (which is Cates’ feature-film directorial debut) has terrible editing and substandard visual effects. One of the worst parts of the movie is a very fake-looking beaver in the woods. This beaver has human-like characteristics and mannerisms, which are supposed to make the beaver look cute and cuddly, but it just looks creepy and phony.

There’s also a scene where idiotic Eddie rips a slab of honeycomb from a tree and gets stung all over his face by a swarm of bees that were on the honeycomb. Tommy gives Eddie an emergency injection of epinephrine that Eddie just happens to have with him. Just a few minutes after this injection, Eddie’s bee stings have magically and unrealistically disappeared, and the bee stings are never mentioned again in the movie.

No one is expecting a movie like “Family Camp” to be Oscar-caliber, but a movie like this doesn’t have to constantly insult viewers’ intelligence. And even if a comedy has a mindless plot and mediocre acting, it should at least have some central characters that people will care about in a way to maintain viewer interest. “Family Camp” made the colossal mistake of having repugnant boor Eddie as the focus of the terrible jokes. He’s worse than the bees that stung him because viewers are stuck with him for the entire movie, which is polluted by the stink of lazy and low-quality filmmaking.

Roadside Attractions, K-LOVE Films and Provident Films released “Family Camp” in U.S. cinemas on May 13, 2022. Lionsgate Home Entertainment will release “Family Camp” on digital and VOD on June 28, 2022.

Review: ‘Old Henry’ (2021), starring Tim Blake Nelson, Scott Haze, Gavin Lewis, Trace Adkins and Stephen Dorff

January 3, 2022

by Carla Hay

Tim Blake Nelson in “Old Henry” (Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios)

“Old Henry” (2021)

Directed by Potsy Ponciroli

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1906 in the Oklahoma territory of the United States, the Western drama film “Old Henry” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one Latino) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A widower farmer and his teenage son find themselves in a violent standoff in their home, after they take in a mysterious, wounded stranger, who is accused of being a bank robber on the run. 

Culture Audience: “Old Henry” will appeal primarily to fans of Westerns that have good acting and suspenseful twists to the story.

Stephen Dorff in “Old Henry” (Photo courtesy of Shout! Studios)

At first glance, “Old Henry” seems to be another Western about a bank robbers and gun shootouts. However, the movie has different layers and a few twists that are eventually revealed in this suspenseful and intriguing story. Led by a memorable performance by Tim Blake Nelson, “Old Henry” is also a family drama that tackles issues of father-son relationships and how a family can shape someone’s identity.

“Old Henry” (written and directed by Potsy Ponciroli) takes place over a few days in 1906, in the territory of Oklahoma. (The movie was actually filmed in Waterton, Tennessee.) Henry McCarty (played by Nelson) is a widower who lives on a farm with his son Wyatt McCarty (played by Gavin Lewis), who is about 16 or 17 and is reluctant to follow in his father’s footsteps of being a farmer. Henry’s wife/Wyatt’s mother, Marie Hobbs McCarty, died of tuberculosis in 1896, at the age of 35. Marie’s brother Al Hobbs (played by Trace Adkins) regularly visits the farm to help out when he’s needed.

Henry is a stern and strict taskmaster who’s not very talkative, and he doesn’t express deep emotions very easily. However, there are things in his past that haunt him. These memories are shown in flashback scenes that are like pieces in a puzzle that eventually reveal the answer to a mystery. Henry and Wyatt are also grieving over the death of Marie, but they have the type of household where these feelings are not openly discussed.

What Henry does talk about to Wyatt is how he made something of himself after a life of hard knocks. Henry tells his son that he was born in New York. By the time he was 3 years old, Henry and his family had moved to Kansas, then Arizona, and then New Mexico.

“Finally,” Henry says, “I settled on the life of a farmer, which is what I am.” Wyatt says skeptically, “I still can’t believe that’s what you wanted.” Henry replies, “There are worse arrangements.” If Henry wanted to do something else with his life besides being a farmer, he’s not about to tell Wyatt in this conversation.

One day, a mare wanders onto an open field on Henry’s farm. The mare has a bloody saddle and no rider. Henry goes to investigate and finds an armed man nearby with a bullet hole in his chest and a knapsack full of cash. The man is barely alive. Henry doesn’t seem to want to take the cash at first, but he soon changes his mind and takes the knapsack and the man’s gun.

Meanwhile, Henry brings the mystery man back to Henry’s house to give him medical attention. Because Henry doesn’t know anything about this stranger, as a safety precaution, Henry ties the man’s hands and feet to a bed while Henry and Wyatt look after him. Eventually, the man regains consciousness and tells Henry that his name is Curry (played by Scott Haze), and that he’s a lawman who was shot by bank robbers.

Henry is immediately skeptical of the story, but he has no proof that Curry is lying or telling the truth. Not long after Curry is found, three men on horseback arrive at the farm. Their leader introduces himself as a sheriff named Sam Ketchum (played by Stephen Dorff), and the two men with him are named Dugan (played by Richard Speight Jr.) and Stilwell (played by Max Arciniega). The movie’s opening scene shows how far Ketchum and his men are willing to go to get what they want.

Ketchum tells Henry that he and his cronies are looking for a bank robber who got away with a lot of cash. Ketchum’s description of the man fits the description of Curry. However, Henry doesn’t quite trust these three strangers either, so Henry lies and says that he hasn’t see anyone fitting that description. Meanwhile, Curry tells Henry that Ketchum is lying and that the sheriff’s uniform and badge that Ketchum is wearing were actually stolen in the shootout that wounded Curry.

When Ketchum asks to look around the property, Henry gets hostile and says no, so this reaction arouses Ketchum’s suspicions that Henry might be hiding something. What follows is a tension-filled battle where viewers have to guess who’s telling the truth and who’s lying. And because “Old Henry” is a Western, there are inevitable gun shootouts that take up a great deal of the action. Henry and Wyatt also have their trust in each other tested in this life-or-death situation.

“Old Henry” is a great example of a movie that does a lot with a low budget, a relatively small number of people in the cast and only a few locations. Because the movie doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, Henry’s personality is shown through his actions and facial expressions, thanks to the admirable acting talent of Nelson. “Old Henry” is a taut mystery thriller wrapped in the genre of a Western that effectively shows the lure of America’s Old West as a place for new beginnings and wild endings.

Shout! Studios released “Old Henry” in select U.S. cinemas on October 1, 2021, and on digital and VOD on October 8, 2021.

Review: ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife,’ starring Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim and Celeste O’Connor

October 9, 2021

by Carla Hay

Celeste O’Connor, Finn Wolfhard, Logan Kim and McKenna Grace in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (Photo by Kimberley French/Columbia Pictures)

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife”

Directed by Jason Reitman

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional U.S. city of Summerville, Oklahoma, and briefly in Chicago and New York City, the comedic horror film “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans, Asians and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: The daughter and grandchildren of the late Dr. Egon Spengler (an original Ghostbuster) move to the isolated home in Summerville that they inherited from him, and they immediately have supernatural encounters with deadly entitities. 

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of “Ghostbusters” fans, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” will appeal primarily to fans of people who like well-paced adventurous films that combine horror with comedy that’s suitable for most children over the age of 6.

Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” (Photo by Kimberley French/Columbia Pictures)

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is a “Ghostbusters” fan’s dream come true. The movie delivers almost everything that diehard fans of the franchise might want to see in a sequel. It also respects all the things that fans loved about the original “Ghostbusters” movie while introducing an exciting new storyline and appealing new characters. It’s the type of movie that is sure to win over legions of new fans to the franchise, which experienced some controversy and mixed-to-negative reviews from fans for the divisive, female-starring 2016 “Ghosbusters” reboot that was directed and co-written by Paul Feig.

Ivan Reitman, who directed 1984’s “Ghostbusters” and 1989’s “Ghostbusters II,” has been a producer of all “Ghostbusters” movies so far. For “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” he handed over the directorial duties to his son Jason Reitman, who co-wrote the “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” screenplay with Gil Kenan, a filmmaker who’s a self-professed “Ghostbusters” superfan. The result is what happens when you put true fans in charge of making a sequel to a beloved classic about ghost hunters who call themselves Ghostbusters: You give the fans what they really want. And that’s probably why “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” had its first public screening at the 2021 edition of New York Comic Con at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. After a “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” discussion panel that featured Jason Reitman, Ivan Reitman, Kenan and members of the movie’s cast, people who were in attendance got a surprise treat when the entire film was shown after the panel ended.

In “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” the daughter and two grandchildren of Dr. Egon Spengler (an original Ghostbuster) are at the center of the story when they find themselves involved in the same work that Egon did as a Ghostbuster in New York City. Egon was portrayed by Harold Ramis (who died of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis in 2014, at the age of 69), whose presence is definitely felt in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.” Ramis was also a co-writer on the 1984 “Ghostbusters” and “Ghostbusters II.” When watching “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” fans will notice all the homages paid to these first two “Ghostbusters” movies.

Egon’s divorced daughter Callie (played by Carrie Coon), who was estranged from Egon for most of her life due to his workaholic ways, is having financial problems. It’s reached a point where Callie and her two kids, who all live in a Chicago apartment, have gotten an eviction notice from their landlord. Callie’s ex-husband, who is not seen in the movie, is not involved in raising the children. Later in the movie, Callie describes her ex-husband as a “dirtbag,” in order to leave no doubt that she doesn’t want him in her life anymore.

Instead of waiting to be evicted, Callie decides to take herself and her two kids—brainy 12-year-old Phoebe (played by Mckenna Grace) and socially awkward 15-year-old Trevor (played by Finn Wolfhard)—to the fictional small town of Summerville, Oklahoma, where Egon lived as a recluse until he died about a week before this story takes place. Even though Callie had not seen or spoken to her father in years, she inherited his run-down home. She decides to go there in person with her kids to see what to make of the place and to try to escape from her financial woes.

Egon’s home is a cluttered and dirty farmhouse located in an isolated area filled with corn fields and tall grass. Trevor quips when he looks at the dumpy condition of the house: “This is so much worse than I thought it would be.” Callie tells her children that they only plan to stay for a week while she gets some of Egon’s estate affairs in order. But there would be no “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” movie if that turned out to be true.

Before Callie, Phoebe and Trevor even arrived in Summerville, the movie shows that strange and spirits and creatures were inhabiting the area. And these sinister beings don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. There’s also an abandoned mine that was owned by the Shemdor Mining Company that plays a large role in explaining the mystery behind this story.

The mine used to be a big source of the town’s economy, but the mine was shut down years ago by the U.S. Air Force, because miners began leaping to their death in the mine shafts. Why did the U.S. Air Force get involved? It’s all explained in the movie, but viewers can figure it out as soon they hear that the U.S. Air Force and other military and federal law enforcement have had an interest in Summerville.

After Callie, Trevor and Phoebe arrive in Summerville, they find out that Egon wasn’t very well-liked by the locals, who gave him the unflattering nickname Dirt Farmer. Egon kept mostly to himself, and when he did interact with people, he was often gruff or aloof. Trevor and Phoebe never knew their grandfather Egon, but Phoebe seems more fascinated by Egon than Trevor is. During the course of the movie, viewers will see that Phoebe also inherited a lot of Egon’s analytical and personality traits. While Phoebe is very scientific-minded, Trevor is the more artistic sibling, because he is interested in filmmaking.

Callie already knows that Egon’s house is worthless. But to her dismay, she finds out that her estranged father left behind a lot of debts that she’s now responsible for paying, since she is his only heir. She tries to hide these problems from the children, but they are intuitive and are smart enough to figure out that things aren’t going so well for their family and they will be in Summerville for a while, since they have nowhere else to live rent-free.

Summerville is a quaint small town that has some characteristics of a bygone era. For example, Summerville has a drive-in diner called Spinners Roller Hop that has roller-skating servers. One of these servers is a teenager named Lucky (played by Celeste O’Connor), who immediately catches Trevor’s eye when he and his family eat at the diner one day. It’s attraction at first sight for Trevor.

Trevor is so infatuated with Lucky that he gets a job as a dishwasher at Spinners Roller Hop, in order to get to know her better. Trevor lies about his age (he says he’s 17) so that he can get the job. Callie takes a while to warm up to Trevor, and their possible romance is hinted at and teased throughout the movie. Later in the movie, Trevor does a lot of driving of a certain vehicle that “Ghostbusters” fans know and love, even though he’s not old enough to have a driver’s license.

Trevor and Callie also meet a precocious kid who’s about 12 or 13 years old. He calls himself Podcast (played by Logan Kim), because he has his own podcast where he likes to think of himself as an investigative journalist and historian for Summerville. Podcast is naturally inquisitive, and he quickly befriends Trevor and Callie. Podcast constantly carries around audio equipment with him, so he can be ready to record anything newsworthy. He’s also an aspiring paranormal investigator. How convenient.

Summerville is the type of town that doesn’t have many cops, but there are enough police officers who eventually notice some of the shenanigans that Trevor, Phoebe and Podcast get up to around town. Summerville’s Sheriff Domingo (played by Bokeem Woodbine) just happens to be Lucky’s father. Lucky ends up joining Trevor, Phoebe and Podcast in their ghostbusting activities when things get really dangerous.

Trevor isn’t the only family member to meet a potential love interest in Summerville. Carrie begins dating a seismologist named Gary Grooberson (played by Paul Rudd), who teaches at the local high school. Gary, who is a middle-aged bachelor with no children, is a little bit of a goofball nerd who would rather be a full-time scientist than be a teacher to help pay his bills. He’s so bored with teaching that one of the movie’s first scenes of Gary has him using a VCR and TV monitor in his classroom, to show old horror movies such as “Cujo (on VHS tape) to his students, as a way of babysitting them while he does other things that interest him.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is a feast of references to the first “Ghostbusters” without copying any previous “Ghostbusters” plot. Is there anyone from the previous “Ghostbusters” movies who is in “Ghostbusters: Afterlife”? That information won’t be revealed in this review, although that information has already been leaked on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and other places where people can find out the details if they really want to know. Any “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” cameos from original “Ghostbusters” cast members also have updates on what their “Ghostbusters” characters have been up to since the 1990s.

It’s not just people from the first “Ghostbusters” movie that might or might not make a re-appearance. Don’t be surprised to see any ghosts, demons and monsters that look familiar. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” also has done something hilarious and clever with the Stay Puft marshmallow presence in the movie. The visual effects for “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” are well-done and bring chills and laughs in all the right ways.

The filmmakers of “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” understand that all the visual effects and scary creatures in the world wouldn’t make this movie succeed. People have to root for the main characters. And the movie delivers on featuring characters that are relatable yet find themselves in extraordinary situations. It’s a well-cast movie where all of these talented actors inhabit their character roles with a great deal of believability, even when extraordinary things are happening to their characters on screen.

In “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” Phoebe is portrayed as the smartest and most fearless hero of the movie, which is undoubtedly a star-making turn for Grace. Phoebe is serious about science, but she also likes to tell jokes that she knows are corny. For example, one of the jokes is: “What do a cigarette and a hamster have in common? They’re both completely harmless until you stick one in your mouth and light it on fire.”

Wolfhard also does a very credible job as Trevor, who can be adventurous or nervous, depending on the situation. Kim’s portrayal of Podcast is of someone who is endlessly curious, but he’s not a brat, which is what this character could have been but thankfully is not. Coon’s portrayal of Callie is of a concerned mother who’s trying to hold her family life together, even when things are starting to fall apart. Gary is smitten with Callie, so this infatuation is used for some lighthearted jokes in the movie.

Because “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” focuses most of the story on the adolescent characters, some people might say that the movie is trying to be like the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” which also co-stars Wolfhard. But make no mistake: This is a “Ghostbusters” movie in every way. It has comedy, scary thrills and plenty of adventure and mystery that all harken back to the original “Ghostbusters,” but told from young people’s perspectives. That doesn’t mean the adult characters are sidelined in the movie, but they really are supporting characters who don’t get involved in the action until it’s absolutely necessary.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is escapist entertainment, but the movie also has some tearjerking, poignant moments, especially in the final scenes. Stick around for the mid-credits and end-credits scenes too, which will further delight fans of the original “Ghostbusters” movie. Even if people don’t see these credits scenes, it should come as no surprise that “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” already telegraphs that this film is not the end of the “Ghostbusters” movie series.

Columbia Pictures will release “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” in U.S. cinemas on November 19, 2021.

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