Ghostbusters: Afterlife review – Will raise more than ghost of a smile

Review at a glance

Ivan Reitman made the original Ghostbusters movies and, for years now, has been nagging his son, Jason, to take the story further. Finally, Jason said yes. Isn’t nepotism adorable? Then again, Jason has a brilliant career of his own and was responsible for feminist masterpiece, Tully. Though the franchise has fallen into Jason’s lap, fortunately he is not an entitled numpty.

True, the script, which he co-wrote, completely ignores Paul Feig’s hilarious, gender-swapped, 2016 Ghostbusters reboot, thereby pandering to the toxic trolls outraged by the idea of women replacing NYC scientists-turned-exorcists, Peter, Raymond and Egon (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis). Yet, thank Gozer, the new story is anything but macho and is definitely more progressive than the 1984 film.

Carrie Coon, noir-tough and screwball funny, is Callie, a weary single-mum who, in financial desperation, drags her two kids Trevor and Phoebe (Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace) to live on an Oklahoma farm which, until recently, belonged to her estranged dad, aka Egon. When ghosts start coming out of the woodwork, it’s the aforementioned Phoebe, a multi-tasking geek, who takes charge of the busting. When not pulverising harbingers of the apocalypse, Phoebe swaps bad jokes with her summer camp teacher (Paul Rudd). The wink she performs, after a pun concerning triangles, is a delight. So is her gag about smoking. The original Ghostbusters were out-and-proud nicotine fiends. Times really have changed.

Meet the new generation of Ghostbusters

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Rudd excels in a role that gets zanier by the second. He and Coon have cracking chemistry and slyly break a ton of taboos concerning if and when it’s OK for upstanding adults to don comically sexy garb and rut like dogs.

Also splendid: the cheekily knowing epilogue (which, alas, will make zero sense if you’ve never seen the 1984 film) and some squishy and entropic critters for whom the line between homicidal and suicidal is wafer thin. These creatures are a riff on the past – because, d’oh, this is a shameless nostalgia-fest – but entirely earn their place in the present.

Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon have cracking chemistry

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Admittedly, Olivia Wilde’s baddie doesn’t have enough to do and the gang’s-all-together show-down falls flat (translation: I didn’t cry). Jason Reitman has said that when the original members of cast stepped on set together it was like “seeing the Beatles reunite.” I’d say the end result is more like watching John Lennon’s reanimated corpse sing The Frog Chorus.

In the first Ghostbusters film, Sigourney Weaver’s sardonic cellist looks at the luminously cocksure and cockamamie Peter and drawls, “You are so odd”. All these years later, genuine oddness is in shorter supply. Luckily, cast and crew do enough to raise more than the ghost of a smile.

In cinemas from November 18. 12A, 124mins

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