By Lynn Venhaus

Just in time to ride an ‘80s nostalgia wave, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is a sentimental link to the 1984 blockbuster hit, an opportunity to pay tribute to the late Harold Ramis, and a reason to get the band back together.

In a nod to the film’s enduring connectiveness, director Jason Reitman is the son of Ivan Reitman, who helmed the original. He juggles the comedy, horror, and action with a special fondness for the source material. The wit is there – however, the supernatural plot is a tad sketchy at times, and the go-bigger visual effects are extended too long.

Summerville, Okla., is where Dr. Egon Spengler spent his final days, and after his death, his estranged daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two children, ages 12 and 15, Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), arrive to check out the old house that is now theirs. They discover their connection to the “Ghostbusters” parapsychologists who removed ghosts in New York City and learn about the secret legacy Egon left behind.

To make it both sweet and fun, the younger Reitman – who also co-wrote the script, along with Gil Kenan (Oscar nominee for animated feature “Monster House” in 2006) – realizes this is an opportunity for a full-circle moment. He even maintains a retro look when possible.

After all, his father started the franchise off, which includes a 1989 sequel, two animated series (“The Real Ghostbusters” and “Extreme Ghostbusters”), comic books, video games “Extreme Ghostbusters: The Ultimate Invasion” and “Ghostbusters: Sanctum of Slime,” music, and a female reboot in 2016, not to mention logo and merchandise tie-ins.

The elder Reitman formed Ghost Corps with Dan Ackroyd to explore expanding the “Ghostbusters” universe, and both are producers on this second sequel.

The affection for these characters is obvious. It’s a glorious moment to see quippy marketer Dr. Peter Venkman, earnest technician Dr. Ray Stantz and steady ex-Marine Winston Zeddemore strap on the proton packs and help save the day.

As much older versions of their leaner, faster selves, Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd and Ernie Hudson strike the right tone re-emerging as the characters who helped them become pop cultural legends. Missing their brainy partner Egon is certain to leave some misty-eyed. Although he wasn’t as prominent initially as the trio of doctors, Winston’s growth is noteworthy this time.

Appearances by Annie Potts as former assistant Janine Melnitz and Sigourney Weaver briefly as elegant Dana Barrett add to the heartfelt glow.

The towering Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man is referenced in mini-versions who break out on the shelves of a big-box store. In a standout scenes, the adorable puffs wreak havoc and have unfortunate calamities involving flame-roasting and S’mores.

The Ecto-mobile returns, as do containment units and traps, and other vintage paraphernalia. It’s a sight for sore eyes.

The likable young cast enlivens the old story through fresh eyes and an abundance of energy, with “Stranger Things” actor Finn Wolfhard engaging as skeptical grandson Trevor and Mckenna Grace endearing as smart STEM kid Phoebe, the granddaughter who is a chip off the old block. Grace, a veteran of “Young Sheldon” and “Fuller House,” is a natural actress that draws audiences in to her character.

Supporting cast includes Celeste O’Connor, so memorable in “Selah and the Spades” and “Freaky,” as local carhop Lucky that Trevor likes and Logan Kim is funny as the talkative Podcast, who is both a sleuth and a science whiz, that makes friends with Phoebe.

As the leads, the revered Carrie Coon, more known for serious stage and screen work (like Weaver was before the original), is Egon’s abandoned daughter and struggling single mom Callie. She and newly crowned “Sexiest Man Alive” Paul Rudd, who plays teacher Gary Grooberson, are thrown together in a dating scenario that’s a stretch. Comic gold Rudd, with his appealing boyish charm, is the lazy summer school faculty who pops in VHS tapes of old scary movies.

Their respected skills help them turn into the gatekeeper and the keymaster, Zuul and Vinz, although this element gets ridiculous rather quickly. The demonic dogs do the bidding of Gozer, the shape-shifter destructive enemy from the first one, whom wealthy mine owner and land baron Ivo Shandor (J.K. Simmons) had a cult-like devotion to 37 years ago – and started the whole shebang. He’s entombed in an abandoned mine that’s a haven for paranormal activity.

While he has been gone for eight years, the talents and appeal of Harold Ramis looms large over this production, and modern technology enabled the salute to have sincere emotional pull.

Second City alum Ramis, who not only starred as the intellectual Egon but co-wrote the original, first worked with Ivan Reitman on “National Lampoon’s Animal House” in 1978 and went on to write “Meatballs,” “Stripes” and two “Ghostbusters” that he helmed.

A proud graduate of Washington University in St. Louis who stayed active as an alum, Ramis died in 2014 at age 69 from complications of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis. He is acknowledged as one of the most gifted comedy writers of his time.

At 2 hours and 4 minutes, the film could have connected the dots better between post-big city Egon and his new saving-the-world mission in the middle of nowhere.

 The dirt farm setting seems an odd choice when New York City was such a major part of the storytelling back in the 1980s. In fact, the original is cited for contributing to the perception shift to a more positive outlook about the Big Apple.

The scientific mumbo-jumbo exposition starts wearing thin when the good and evil forces collide in a battle royale for souls, as dark clouds swirl and electrical currents go berserk. But then, the cavalry arrives.

The joy at seeing Peter, Winston and Ray is palpable, and hearing the effervescent “Ghostbusters” theme song, a chart-topper for Ray Parker Jr., induces warm and fuzzies.

Reitman, a multiple Oscar nominee for directing “Juno” and “Up in the Air” (writing and producing too), has crafted a work from his heart to fellow fans reconnecting with their childhood heroes.

Yet, he has dispensed gluttonous Slimer for corpulent Muncher. Nevertheless, the movie provides a family-friendly vibe and a satisfying throwback – at least enough to make you want a Hi-C Ecto-Cooler.

“Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is a 2021 comedy directed by Jason Reitman and starring Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Dan Ackroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Bill Murray. It is rated PG-13 for supernatural action and some suggestive references and runs 2 hours, 4 minutes. It opens in theaters Nov. 19. Lynn’s Grade: B-

By Lynn Venhaus
Managing Editor
RISING STARS: Seeing talented teenagers passionately follow their dreams is such a thrill. The Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation is ahead of the game, for it fosters, promotes, and encourages young people in the St. Louis region to discover and participate in the joy and wonder of live performances.
Besides the St. Louis Teen Talent Competition, the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation also produces a variety of other performing arts programs that focus on youth including Kids’ Night at the Fabulous Fox, Broadway Master Classes, Educational Encores, and is a producing partner of the 2nd Annual St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards.
This Sunday, they are sponsoring a free event that will feature 25 entertainment acts, including finalists from the 8th Annual St. Louis Teen Talent Competition and nomineees from the 2nd Annual St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards:

The High Schooll Musical Theatre Awards representatives include: Outstanding Lead Actress winner Maggie Kuntz and nominees Paige Terch. Meg Gorton and  Sydney Jones
Outstanding Lead Actor nominees Tony Merritt and Jared Goudsmit.
Outstanding Supporting Actress nominees Annelise Laakko, Natalie Brown and Haley Driver.
The Teen Talent Showcase representatives include pianists John Yanev and Robyne Sieh, singers Morgan Taylor, Josh Royal, Bennett English and Jennifer Ferry; dancers Arielle Adams, De’Jai Walker, Madison Alexander, Megan Mayer, Brooke Reese, Hillary Zgonina, Kelsey Carnes and DessaRae Lampkins; alto sax player Kameron Huff and TBD (Lilliana Matthews, Aaron Moore, Everett Remstedt, Allan Stacy and Jalen Thompson.
The Rising Stars Showcase featuring the Stars of Tomorrow will take place on Sunday, Aug. 5, at 2 p.m. at The Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Blvd., St. Louis. Admission is free and it is open to the public. For more information, visit: www.foxpacf.org.
 
Photo Maggie Kuntz, Dolly Levi in Cor Jesu’s “Hello,Dolly!” She went on to compete in the National Jimmy Awards.
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EXPLORE ST. LOUIS:  St. Louis will be rolling out the red carpet when throngs come to the city for the 100th PGA Championship Aug. 6 – 12 at the Bellerive Country Club.
Have you seen the four commercials that award-winning actor and St. Louis native Sterling K. Brown has done for the St. Louis Visitors and Convention Bureau? The 30-second segments are “Arch,” “Blues,” “Family Fun” and “Neighborhoods.”

Local actor, playwright and theater booster Stephen Peirick played Merriwether to Matt Lindhardt’s Lewis in the “Arch” commercial. He said Sterling was kind and introduced himself before they started working on the spot.
If you want to see the commercials or find out more about what’s happening here in August, check out www.explorestl.com.
 
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GO SEE A PLAY POLL: Meet at the Muny for “Meet Me in St. Louis,” the finale of the Muny’s Centennial Season! Those who send in their choice in the poll will be placed in a drawing for two tickets to any performance of “Meet Me in St. Louis” from Aug. 4 – 12 at the Muny in Forest Park.
“Meet Me in St. Louis” was a 1944 MGM movie before it was adapted as a stage musical in 1989, although the Muny presented it before that.in the 1960s and ’70s.
This 2018 production will feature a revised book by Gordon Greenberg and new orchestrations by John McDaniel is the first since 2009, and the eighth overall.
McDaniel, a Grammy, Tony and Emmy-winning producer, composer, conductor and pianist is from St. Louis. He was Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show bandleader from 1996 to 2002, and has worked with the Muny before, on the 2012 “Pirates!”
Poll Question for Ticket Drawing: What is your favorite movie that either takes place in St. Louis or was shot in St. Louis?
“The Game of Their Lives”“The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery”“King of the Hill”“Meet Me in St. Louis”“Up in the Air”“White Palace”
Send your selection by email to: [email protected] by 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3. Please include your phone number. The winner will be notified, and arrangements will be made with the Muny for the night you choose.
Our July 28 poll winner was Robert Kapeller of St. Louis. He won two tickets to “Evita” at The Rep on Sept. 7. As for the favorite girlfriends musical, “Wicked” won in a landslide.
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DOWN MEMORY LANE: The first time I saw the movie “Meet Me in St. Louis” was at a free showing at the downtown Famous Barr department store the summer of 1974. They had special events and exhibits in honor of the 70th anniversary of the World’s Fair in St. Louis and showed the movie for free in their ninth floor exhibition hall. (That’s what was transformed into the holiday world extravaganza at Christmastime.) At the movie, they sold specially-priced iced tea and hot dogs, two refreshments who made their debut in 1904.
Sally Benson’s “Kensington Stories” was the basis for the movie, and her family lived at 5135 Kensington in north St. Louis city. The house is long-gone but this is what it once looked like, pictured at left.
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TRIVIA TIME-OUT: Forty years ago, the first National Lampoon movie, “Animal House” premiered. This groundbreaking movie first shown on July 28, 1978 spawned many knockoffs and launched the careers of many young stars, including the first film by SNL breakthrough John Belushi. (And is very helpful in the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game).
Question: Who are the two people associated with the movie that have a local connection?
Answer: Writer Harold Ramis attended Washington University, Class of 1966, and used his college days as a member of Zeta Beta Tau for inspiration. He would go on to fame as a writer, actor (“Ghostbusters”) and director (“Groundhog Day”), and returned to his roots here. He served two terms on the Washington University board of trustees and was master of ceremonies for Homecoming in 1984. Here is a 1979 photo of him back in a Wash U frathouse.

Karen Allen, who played Katy, was born in Carrollton, Ill. Her mother was from Jerseyville and her father from Roodhouse, and she spent summers visiting her grandparents in Jersey County after his FBI work took them to other cities for her first 10 years. Her father went to Washington University after her parents married; they met at Illinois College in Jacksonville.
I interviewed the delightful and very active Allen two years ago when she was being honored by the St. Louis International Film Festival. She said she enjoys seeing cast members at film reunion events.

At left she is shown with Peter Riegert. “Animal House” was her first movie.
To read more about her life, here is my feature in the Belleville News-Democrat. https://www.bnd.com/living/magazine/article114225998.html
***WORD: Wise advice from the late great screenwriter, actor and director Harold Ramis:
“There’s a great rabbinical motto that says you start each day with a note in each pocket. One note says, “The world was created for you today,” and the other note says, “I’m a speck of dust in a meaningless universe,” and you have to balance both things.”
“No one will laugh at how great things are for somebody.”
“My only conclusion about structure is that nothing works if you don’t have interesting characters and a good story to tell.”
― Harold Ramis (1944 – 2014)
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WINNERS CIRCLE: Cinema St. Louis handed out awards for the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase on July 22. This year’s event featured 107 films, and some advanced to the 27th annual St. Louis International Film Festival Nov. 1 – 11. These are the juried award winners that were written, directed, edited, or produced by St. Louis residents or films with strong local ties.
DOCUMENTARIES
Best Use of Music: Busking on the Wagon, Randy Shinn and Drew Gowran
Best Sound: Such and Such, Cory Byers
Best Editing: Gateway Sound, Justin Fisher and Patrick Lawrence
Best Cinematography: Lingua Francas, David Christopher Pitt
Best Local Subject: The Man Behind the Merferds, Phil Berwick
Best Direction: Lisa Boyd, An American Tragedy
Best Documentary Short: For a Better Life, Yasmin Mistry
Best Documentary Feature: Gateway Sound, Justin Fisher
EXPERIMENTAL
Best Experimental Film: Passages in Revisiting: I Hear Someone Playing Urheen, Xinyue Deng
NARRATIVES
Best Costumes: Shutter, Nancy Eppert and Maude Vintage
Best Makeup/Hairstyling: East Plains: Get Out!, Jessica Dana
Best Use of Music: The Wedding Song, Ben Stanton, Thia Schuessler and Will Dickerson
Best Sound: Strings, Ross Mercer, Ryan Kneezle and Theo Lodato
Best Production Design/Art Direction: Parallel Chords, Gypsi Pate
Best Special/Visual Effects: Dawn of Man, Vlad Sarkisov
Best Editing: MLM, Benjamin Dewhurst
Best Cinematography: Parallel Chords, Kyle Krupinksi
Best Screenplay: Foxes, Tristan Taylor and Garrick BernardBest Actor: Ayinde Howell, Foxes
Best Actress: Jackie Kelly, Mother of Calamity
Best Direction: Richard Louis Ulrich, Steve
Best Animated Film: Tiffanys, Caitlin Chiusano, Sean Esser and Zhara Honore
Best Comedy: Cabin Killer, Michael Rich
Best Drama: Saint Sinner, Brian Cooksey
Best Narrative Short: Foxes, Tristan Taylor
Best Narrative Feature: Parallel Chords, Catherine Dudley-Rose
To see the list of films selected for SLIFF, visit www.cinemastlouis.org
Pictured are Best Actor Aynde Howell of “Foxes” and Best Actress Jackie Kelly of “Mother of Calamity” on the Showcase program.
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Have any tidbits for the column? Please contact Lynn Venhaus at: [email protected]
Featured photo of ‘Meet Me in St. Louis” from Tams-Witmark. Harold Ramis photos from Washington University archives.