The new Ghostbusters is covered in a reverent glow.
That the glow is green and emanates from the icky ectoplasm of spectral creatures unleashed on an unsuspecting New York should come as no surprise to fans of the old Ghostbusters.
Ghost slime was in abundance then, it's in abundance now.
What's new, of course, in the remake-slash-reboot of the 1984 paranormal smash comedy is that this time around the four exterminators with the quips, the coveralls, and the proton packs are female. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones replace Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson. And under the game guidance of Paul Feig, who directed McCarthy and Wiig in Bridesmaids and McCarthy again in Spy, the re-gendering of Ghostbusters proves to be more than a gimmick.
Girl power and ghoul power - it's a winning combination.
Version 2016 of Ghostbusters begins in a historic Manhattan mansion, where a tour guide (Zach Woods) rattles off the old haunt's special features (a "face bidet," an "anti-Irish security fence") and tells the onlookers about the legend of Gertrude, the ghost locked in the basement.
It's a quaint yarn, but later, when the guide makes an ill-advised visit to said basement, he encounters the murderous wraith. Who you gonna call? How about Abby Yates (McCarthy) and Erin Gilbert (Wiig), colleagues and coauthors of a book that tries to prove ghosts are real. Joined by Abby's assistant, the strenuously goofy Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon), they set up shop in a dumpy office above a dumpy Chinese restaurant. (Ghostbusters' original HQ, a firehouse, Hook & Ladder 8, was available, but the rent proves prohibitive.)
Soon the trio are joined by the brassy MTA subway worker Patty (Jones), who displays a knowledge of the phantasmagoric (at least she knows about those creepy twin girls in The Shining) and who has access to a vehicle to convey the Ghostbusters and their nuclear-powered gizmos around town. Yes, it's a hearse.
Chris Hemsworth shows up as Kevin, applying for the receptionist job. Erin is in quivering awe of this hunky man-babe ("pure muscle and baby-soft skin," she sighs), and so, despite evident shortcomings (he's an idiot!), the guy is hired. Hemsworth has a lot of fun playing the brainless beefcake - and Wiig's wigginess in his company provides one of the film's sturdiest ongoing gags.
The villain of the new Ghostbusters (there has to be a villain, right?) is a pasty-faced social reject named Rowan (Neil Casey), who works as a bellhop at a spooky hotel and who is plotting to let loose an army of phantoms, just for the heck of it.
It should be noted that the special effects - the laser blasts, the ghost monsters, ghost humans, ghost blobs - are state-of-the-art and cheesy at the same time. As with the original, the visuals don't get in the way of the comedy. McCarthy, Wiig, McKinnon, and Jones bring a spirit of spontaneity to their interactions; it's not exactly seat-of-the-pants improv, but it doesn't feel blocked-out and belabored, either.
And speaking of the original, Feig and company's faithful redo is rife with cameos by folks from the 1984 version. Stick around through the end credits - by then just about all of the key players from yesteryear will have shown up (even Ramis, who sadly passed away in 2014, gets an affectionate on-screen nod). Of the inaugural film's alumni, Murray has the meatiest role this time: that of a famous debunker brought in to, well, debunk the distaff team of Ghostbusters.
He gets what's coming to him.
Directed by Paul Feig. With Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, and Chris Hemsworth. Distributed by Sony Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 56 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (scares, supernatural violence, adult themes).
Playing at: Area theaters.