WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Ghostbusters: Afterlife, now playing in theaters.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife does a decent job of bridging the old generation with the new, as two eras of Ghostbusters come together in Summerville, Oklahoma, to stop Gozer's rise once more. At the heart of it is Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), as she embraces the legacy of her grandfather, Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis), but she has help from a crew of misfit teens. However, as the film squanders its big romance, it ends up repeating a major mistake from the previous movies.
There are a few cute romances in Afterlife, with Egon's daughter, Callie, and Gary (the kids' teacher) being into each other, as well as Podcast having a crush on Phoebe. But the film's most prominent is between Finn Wolfhard's Trevor and a girl he meets at a diner, Lucky.
Trevor ends up working there, too, while his sister investigates the Spengler legacy, but it ends up being a half-formed romance. There's little chemistry, with no sentimental moments to build them up. Afterlife never even addresses if Lucky was joking when she gave Trevor her hoodie to work in the cold freezer after saying the item of clothing was her boyfriend's.
It's a weird plot point to drop, with the teens not even discussing anything about liking each other. All they speak about at the canyon with their friends is how both have families that make them feel pinned down. Had they gone on a date or had a moment where they almost kiss, it'd be more endearing and organic to the bond building. Instead, they're barely friends, so it's odd when the film makes a weird cut after Trevor uses Ecto-1 to help Phoebe and Podcast trap their first ghost.
The sheriff (Lucky's dad) has them in the cell afterward for wrecking the town, but Lucky doesn't even discuss the idea of the paranormal as she teases Trevor. Still, the next day Lucky joins the gang to go hunting. It's a jump without reason, making it feel superficial and forced. It gets worse on the quest when she finds out from Phoebe that Trevor is 15, not 17. At this point, the older Lucky should drop any romance, but again, she gets closer to Trevor.
In the finale, Lucky dons a proton pack, only to be turned into one of Gozer's dogs. It's done just to have Trevor get emotional over the object of his affection being ripped away. If he had been turned, that'd have made Callie and Phoebe fighting the villain off make more sense. It'd resonate with a cathartic edge, giving Egon's ghost reason to come to help as he does in the flick. Honestly, it's a true travesty to treat the one Black heroine in the movie like this, making her feel like a prop to showcase Trevor isn't a jerk, after all.
What this does is also dredge up memories of actor Ernie Hudson complaining in the past about how he felt like a token character. Winston, after all, wasn't a founding member and just joined for the salary, which is a selfish role Hudson wanted to course-correct. While Afterlife seems to be positioning him as more of a leader, it's still tone-deaf when it comes to Lucky, only using her to make Trevor better rather than detailing a portrait of an ambitious young girl wanting more in a dusty town. Sadly, it lets Trevor define her when she has so much fight and potential on her own to explore.
To see how Trevor and Lucky's romance is wasted, Ghostbusters: Afterlife is in theaters now.
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