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Davis Journal

The Movie Guru: ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ charms, ‘King Richard’ well-acted

Nov 18, 2021 08:55AM ● By Jenniffer Wardell

If you have any love for the original “Ghostbusters,” you need to watch “Ghostbusters: Afterlife.”

Opening this Friday, the movie is the rare sequel that manages to expand and enrich the movie that came before it. It both honors the original movie and tells its own sweet, charming story, one full of deeply likeable characters and just the right amount of danger. This is the movie both my inner child and grown-up self had no idea we were waiting for.

The movie focuses on a mom and two kids who inherit a big, creepy farm in the middle of nowhere from their grandfather. (The movie plays coy with this information for awhile, but all it takes is one look at Mckenna Grace’s character to make it obvious their grandfather is Egon Spangler.) As the kids explore, however, they discover that their family history is more complicated and dangerous than they ever realized.

Some critics have complained that the movie doesn’t capture the working-man cynicism from the first movie, but “Afterlife” isn’t trying to. It’s more a children’s adventure story like the kind Spielberg once did so well, and the thread of dark humor has transformed itself accordingly. There are also some beautifully heartbreaking moments, and overall there’s a lot more depth than the original. The entire cast is fantastic, with Grace as the particular standout.

The movie does get a little intense at times about referencing the original movie, but for the most part the nods are a treat for longtime fans. Even if you feel it gets excessive, it’s an easy sin to forgive when there’s so much here to love.

Grade: Three and a half stars

King Richard (in theaters)

In a lot of ways, “King Richard” is a good movie.

Opening this Friday, it tells the story of Venus and Serena Williams’ father and how he shaped their careers. Some of that is heartwarming, particularly those moments where he fights to get them seen by top coaches despite their skin color and economic background. Other heartwarming moments come from seeing the family together, which the movie portrays as being incredibly close and deeply fond of one another’s company.

There are also plenty of tense moments, particularly in the beginning where Richard and the rest of the family have to deal with living in a dangerous neighborhood. This is leavened by a solid sprinkling of humor, with both the drama and humor coming mostly from Will Smith’s performance. The actor is at his best here, and if this is the Oscar bait it looks like then Smith has a solid shot at it. Aunjanue Ellis is fantastic as well, though the movie gives her almost nothing to do.

In fact, the movie gives most of the cast almost nothing to do, including the actresses playing Venus and Serena. Watching “King Richard,” it’s all too easy to imagine that two of the greatest tennis players who ever lived were little more than inventions created by their father. The script keeps telling us that neither girl will be successful unless they have a true passion for tennis, but the only passion the movie seems to care about is Richard’s. It’s a well-told story, but it’s not about the people who most deserve to be heard.

Grade: Three stars

Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Utah Film Critics Association. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at [email protected].