‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ calls back to the original while adding a teenage twist

Sequel to the film franchise about Ghostbusters falls flat but director Paul Feig is back with ‘cosmic pizzazz’

‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife’ calls back to the original while adding a teenage twist

Hits and misses

• Falls flat: the return of Paul Feig as director

It’s being called the most meta-“ reboot ” ever and while it has a head-scratching opening sequence with characters talking to each other directly about what the joke is, there is only room for disappointments elsewhere.

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• Hit: the new class

Or at least there are members of the new class. They are a teenage, fiercely feminist leadership of 10-year-old witches, led by a precocious teen who seems to have taken more conscious inspiration from Beyoncé than Ghostbusters. In keeping with the typically genre-upending spirit of the franchise, this new group are called the “Ghostbusters”.

The girl speaks for herself in the first film: “I’m the Ghostbuster who finds the ghosts,” she says early on. The new class get to say the same thing. And change the genre-historical shape of Ghost Busters, too.

The new team. Photograph: Sony Pictures

• Hit: Peter’s nostalgia factor

It’s as if creator Ivan Reitman was asking to be carried into the afterlife alongside his beloved original characters. The whole movie is full of references to that 1980s franchise, and the cast, from the 70s-era ghosts and the original “Keyboard Krank” to the diner dog who wants his vocal chords operated on. It’s the entire revival film-going audience has been waiting for.

• Hit: Dan Aykroyd

The 70s weirdo who loves to make judicious quips about other 80s weirdos. Most of them are better than the ones he co-wrote. Unfortunately, he still hates the original cast, and made of unlikely currency when he pushed Ghostbusters directly in the direction of attracting a younger audience.

• Miss: the boys’ problems

Get this franchise going, where there are no men in power. It’s easy. But three of the new kids don’t have any specific task; they’re just “gods” who hang around and like to chat with everyone. You can name a handful of comic actors who are more appealing to women than to men. This is one of them.

• Miss: the novelty

I don’t miss any of the old cast members. Slimer should have just been making us laugh on the subway every time he walked past. There is also an extended scene where a couple are having sex. They get goofy and charming. But after a minute or two, it happens again, and another time. And it happens all over again. It’s like some kind of intentional gag that just makes us question whether it’s happening.

• Miss: the Ghostbusters who play songs

As if people want to catch them. “Eureka!” The team respond. “That means an incoming message from Nikola Tesla.” As if they know what the word means. As if we don’t know what the word means.

• Miss: Bill Murray

The cameo isn’t all bad. At least Murray gets to have his moments, unlike Dan Aykroyd, who is either being awkward with his sitcom confessionals or trying to make a comment about the 80s (and it isn’t the first time). He also does pretty well at the riff on Partick’s casual sexism.

• Miss: the insipid slime

It all took me back to a scene from the first movie. Who knew slime could be so incredibly emasculating? It makes me wonder if all the characters know how to take care of themselves, given how strange their characters seem. The whole scene is predicated on Murray getting scared by a ghost. Let’s be serious, guy: it’s not really skulking in the streets at night. It’s talking out loud to save his neck, dude.

• Miss: Kristen Wiig as the Ghostbusters

Do the muy comedy heavy things really need this level of familiar comic presence in the sequel? She’s bad.

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