Ghostbusters: Afterlife too haunted by original classic to forge its own fresh identity
GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (12A, 124 mins) Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Romance. Mckenna Grace, Finn Wolfhard, Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Logan Kim, Celeste O'Connor. Director: Jason Reitman.
Released: November 18
IN 1984, if you found an invisible man sleeping in your bed or suffered from a dose of "freaky ghosts", you were definitely gonna call 555-2368 to connect to a converted firehouse in Manhattan, home to friendly neighbourhood protectors played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson in ectoplasm-spattered jumpsuits.
Director Ivan Reitman famously unleashed a gargantuan Stay Puft Marshmallow Man on beleaguered residents of New York City for the film's spectacular finale, smothering his cast in shaving foam to replicate the aftermath of a close encounter with melting, sugary limbs.
The filmmaking baton passes from father to son when Jason Reitman helms a fourth instalment in the series, which ignores the unfairly derided 2016 reboot and directly references daring exploits of the original characters.
Reitman's script, co-written by Gil Kenan, is drizzled with nostalgia to the point of sticky saturation, repurposing outlandish plot points from more than 35 years ago to promote plucky teens as mankind's saviours in a Stranger Things-stylee (Finn Wolfhard is even cast in a leading role).
Adorably clueless Mini-Pufts, 3.5-inch tall marshmallowy scamps which borrow from the Gremlins playbook to gleefully toast each other over barbecue grills, ramp up the cuteness.
Meanwhile younger cast confidently provide comic relief. When a weary mother protests, "I have a life," one of her offspring tartly responds, "You're a mum. You live for us."
Single parent Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two children, Trevor (Wolfhard) and Phoebe (Mckenna Grace), are evicted from their home and reluctantly move into the dilapidated farmhouse of Callie's late father in the sleepy Oklahoma town of Summerville.
While Trevor secures shifts at a local diner so he can make faltering romantic overtures to sassy teenage roller-waitress Lucky (Celeste O'Connor), sister Phoebe – a proud science nerd – starts school with trepidation.
She instantly makes friends with classmate and avid conspiracy theorist Podcast (Logan Kim).
The children stumble upon a secret, buried deep beneath the hilly terrain of Summerville, which confirms Callie's father's apocalyptic predictions.
Aided by Phoebe's teacher, seismologist Mr Grooberson (Paul Rudd), the spirited tykes answer the Ghostbusters call and confront a terrifying spectral threat with refurbished proton packs.
Dedicated to the memory of Ramis who died in 2014, Ghostbusters: Afterlife spends too much time looking over its shoulder and honouring the past to carve out a satisfying stand-alone jaunt for the next generation.
A metal-gobbling phantom called Muncher is a meek substitute for Slimer and Coon and Rudd are poorly served in the frenetic denouement.
Regardless, Reitman's film whips up light, fluffy entertainment in fits and spurts and Grace's spunky heroine is a beacon of non-conformity as special effects wizardry runs amok and Ray Parker Jr's infectious theme song rises from the grave.