Ghostbusters: Afterlife (4 stars)

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

Ivan Reitman's son Jason takes the helm of a heart-warming and hilarious follow-up

1984's Ghostbusters is the stuff of many a childhood memory but surely none compare to those of Jason Reitman, who recalls being a six-year-old on the set of his dad Ivan's best loved film, and has now taken on the not insubstantial task of helming its sequel (which technically follows on from 1989's less admired second part). Nominated for an impressive four Oscars himself, Reitman Jr is the director of Juno, Tully, Young Adult and Up In The Air as well as being the screenwriter of the latter, so seems like a safe pair of hands on every front.

Afterlife introduces us to the estranged daughter of the deceased Egon Spengler, Callie (Carrie Coon), a struggling single mom who moves her 12- and 15-year-old kids, Phoebe and Trevor (Mckenna Grace from The Handmaid's Tale and Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things), into Egon's decrepit Oklahoma farmhouse, which comes complete with supernatural activity, of course. Paul Rudd plays an indolent summer school teacher whose seismology expertise comes in handy, with young newcomer Logan Kim impressing as Phoebe's sidekick.

After Paul Feig's cheeky female-fronted 2016 reboot became the target of misogynistic vitriol and underperformed at the box office, the genial franchise became sullied by association with an unpleasant element who claimed it as their own. With its nicely judged gender balance, foregrounding of likeable kids and pleasantly warm and nostalgic tone, Afterlife – which Reitman Jr wrote with his best friend Gil Kenan (who demonstrated his family horror chops on Monster House) – feels like the perfect film to heal those wounds.

Excellent casting further cements its status as a sure-fire crowd-pleaser, including the shrewd employment of the serially affable Rudd – his generation's Bill Murray, if you will – who is especially winning in scenes where his character lazily leans on a selection of inappropriate VHS tapes to occupy his students. Yet it's the mother-daughter team of Coon and Grace who bring the heart and much of the hilarity, delivering nuanced turns that consistently elevate the material. Afterlife gets pretty sentimental at the climax, with plenty of old faces thrown into the mix, and does work better when it's doing its own rather adorable thing. But you can forgive a few indulgences in something that's so transparently a labour of love.

Available to watch in cinemas from Thursday 18 November.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

  • 4 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • 2h 4min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Jason Reitman
  • Cast: Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Celeste O'Connor, Logan Kim
  • UK release: 18 November 2021

Another instalment for the ever popular Ghostbusters franchise. This is a sequel to the first two films and is directed by Jason Reitman, son of their director, Ivan Reitman.