Ghostbusters: Afterlife

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Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Ghostbusters: Afterlife
"The latter part of the movie labours as Reitman aims firmly for the rose-tinted jugular of parents courtesy of cameo appearances that don't sit comfortably within the fabric of the film." | Photo: © 2021 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.**ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.**

There's some unusual time-travelling going on in the cinemas this week, both in Celine Sciamma's modern fairy tale Petite Maman and director in Ivan Reitman's sequel to his father's 1984 hit - only in the case of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, the filmmaker is largely relying on your own wave of nostalgia to take you there.

Glossing - some might say firmly cementing - over any suggestion that the 2016 female-reboot happened and Ghostbusters 2, this film harks back to the original and is set in the wake of the death of Egon Spengler (played in the original film by Harold Ramis, who died in 2014 and to whom this is dedicated) His daughter Callie (Carrie Coon) has long been estranged from her dad but she nonetheless takes her kids Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace) to the dilapidated 'dirt farm' where he lived in the hope of easing her own debt. By the time they get there, we already know Egon died of supernatural causes - and it's not long before science nerd Phoebe senses something otherworldly about the place - beyond the fact that, as the kids note, it looks like they've inherited "a murder house".

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Beginning at the gallop, soon Phoebe has a new friend, Podcast (Logan Kim) - whose love of the supernatural is a nice opposing force to her practicality. Meanwhile, Trevor has found the rundown Ectomobile in a shed and is trying to get it back on the road and secure a date, while local physics teacher Mr Grooberson (Paul Rudd) is taking a shine to Callie in between showing kids in his summer school horror films (something that brought back memories of a German teacher of mine leaping to the front of the class to cover the TV screen during a nude scene he'd forgotten was in Das Boot).

Of course, this town may look sleepy but a stew of spooks is brewing at the old mine shaft and some old - and if you're of a certain vintage - familiar, enemies are on the rise. The modern-day adventure romp of all this genuinely works, as it draws on the fine traditions of the likes of Robert Zemeckis, Stephen Spielberg and Joe Dante (whose Gremlins gets a specific nod with the reinvention of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man) as the kids strap on their proton packs and start to do some damage. The new casting also works well with the kids offering plenty of spark and Rudd and Coons generating a surprising amount of heat in the small amount of space that is available for their characters' romance. Even the retention of similar CGI ghosts to the original is old-fashioned in a good way but the humour is much more middle of the road,  stripped of almost all the ironic bite of the original and is, mostly, aiming for a slightly younger audience. That "mostly" speaks volumes about the film's problems as it becomes caught in its hunt for new fans while still, somewhat slavishly, trying to serve the ghosts of fans past. The latter part of the movie labours as Reitman aims firmly for the rose-tinted jugular of parents courtesy of cameo appearances that don't sit comfortably within the fabric of the film.

Ironically, while Reitman and his co-writer Gil Kenan may be aiming for a Stranger Things vibe, what they dish up is a slice of the familiar as gradually the fan service elements of the film begin to swamp the more interesting new characters as though all those check boxes must be ticked at any cost.  It’s enjoyable to a point, certainly, but the difference in the type of nostalgia generated by this and Petite Maman is quite stark, as this comes from the heart of Hollywood, with its fan service and focus groups and audience testing, while Sciamma's film simply comes from the heart.

Reviewed on: 18 Nov 2021
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Ghostbusters: Afterlife packshot
After the death of Egon Spengler, his daughter and grandkids find themselves bustin' a whole new army of ghosts.

Director: Jason Reitman

Writer: Gil Kenan, Jason Reitman

Starring: Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Carrie Coon, Paul Rudd, Logan Kim, Celeste O'Connor Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver

Year: 2021

Runtime: 124 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: Canada, US

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