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Paul Rudd in a still from Ghostbusters: Afterlife (category IIA). Finn Wolfhard and Mckenna Grace co-star, Jason Reitman directs.

Review | Ghostbusters: Afterlife movie review – Jason Reitman breathes new life into supernatural comedy series with family-friendly sequel

  • All the familiar gear – ghost traps, proton packs and even a white ’59 Cadillac – is to be found in Jason Reitman’s film, though the action has moved to Oklahoma
  • The ghosts and characters are familiar too, and the special effects are thrilling – it’s only the sentimental ending that’s off in this joyous, nostalgic romp

4/5 stars

“There hasn’t been a ghost sighting in 30 years,” says Paul Rudd’s summer-school teacher Gary Grooberson early on in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Fear not, for there soon will be in Jason Reitman’s affectionate return to the series.

The film travels not to New York, where ghosts once ran amok, but Summerville, a dead-end town in Oklahoma where Callie (Carrie Coon) and her children, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), arrive to take over the house owned by her late, estranged father.

The recently deceased owner of the property was Egon Spengler, one of the original spectre-trapping “ghostbusters”, who subsequently split from his old partners and began raving about the apocalypse.

Around his farmstead is all the familiar gear – ghost traps, proton packs and even the white ’59 Cadillac they used to ride around town in. Before long, geeky Phoebe, along with her new nerd friend Podcast (Logan Kim) and even the enthusiastic Grooberson are toying with all this ectoplasmic equipment.

It transpires this Oklahoma town is the epicentre of new paranormal activity, including a metal-munching ghost that makes the green hotdog-quaffing ghoul in the original movie look positively restrained.

A still from Ghostbusters: Afterlife.
Certainly, it’s all far better than Paul Feig’s 2016 all-female Ghostbusters that tried and failed to capture the spirit of the first two films. Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air), whose father, Ivan, directed the original movie and produces here, clearly understands what makes the franchise tick.

Undoubtedly some will see Afterlife as over-the-top fan service, with familiar ghosts, gadgets and characters all present. Even the “who you gonna call?” line from Ray Parker Jr’s theme song gets trotted out.

Original cast members also return, including Annie Potts, who plays Janine, the secretary who has been minding Spengler’s ramshackle property over the years. Yet Reitman has created a very nostalgic nod to the innocence of 1980s moviemaking even if his movie skews slightly younger than the original films.

(From left) Celeste O’Connor, Finn Wolfhard, Logan Kim and Mckenna Grace in a still from Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

Kids who don’t know Ghostbusters will respond to the younger characters, including Celeste O’Connor as local girl Lucky. Rudd, effectively playing the Rick Moranis goofball role, is a lot of fun.

The special effects are also ace (one sequence in Walmart has a real creepy Gremlins feel) and the film’s centrepiece, as the kids destroy half of Summerville while in pursuit of one ghost, is thrilling.

The only thing that feels off is the sentimental finale – a queasy nod to one of the original characters. Otherwise, Afterlife is a joyous romp.

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