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(From left) McCarthy, McKinnon, Wiig and Jones are parapsychologists in search of paranormal activity in the new Ghostbusters. The rebooted version is funny and reasonably entertaining in parts.

All-female ghostbusters provide big twist to beloved franchise

Jul 15, 2016 5:50 AM

SOMETHING strange is in the neighbourhood, and it's the same again - only different. Ghostbusters is back in town, rebooted, re-gendered and reimagined for the new age, but with more than a nod and a wink to the 1984 original comedy about parapsychologists in search of paranormal activity.

Ghostbusters is a phenomenon that just won't go away, having extended its lifespan through the preceding decades by way of a sequel (Ghostbusters 2, 1989), two animated TV series and several video games. Now comes a new film (and familiar theme song), directed by Paul Feig and written by Katie Dippold and Feig. The storyline remains the same, although the big twist comes in the form of all-female ghostbusters, with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones replacing the original characters played by Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson.

McCarthy has been Feig's go-to funny girl in the past (Spy, 2015 and The Heat, 2013) and he also made major mayhem with McCarthy and Wiig in Bridesmaids (2011). The familiarity fares less well in Ghostbusters because while there is obvious chemistry among the main cast members, the mojo is missing in other departments - notably the villain, ghosts and the less-than-super special effects.

Hauntings are taking place all over New York City, and that's music to the ears of Abby Yates (McCarthy) and Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon), research partners-in-slime - so to speak - and eager to capture an apparition or two. They're joined - reluctantly at first - by Erin Gilbert (Wiig), who is acutely aware that trying to prove the existence of the paranormal won't pave the way towards tenure at her Ivy League university.

But after Erin is slimed at a sighting and ejected from her job, she gives in to her true calling and together with Abby and Holtzmann, begins conducting ghostbusting business from the second floor of a Chinese restaurant. The office in the original was a disused fire station but their transportation of choice remains a converted Cadillac hearse with the vanity plate Ecto-1.

Meanwhile, the proton packs used to harness ghosts have been updated and supplemented by additional hardware (coming soon to a toy store near you).

Gender reversal is given a further jolt with the introduction of Chris Hemsworth as Kevin the receptionist - a blond bimbo and a definite sight for Thor eyes. The original receptionist was played by Annie Potts, who makes a cameo appearance (as do Murray, Ackroyd and Hudson) to generate an extra thrill or two for hard-core fans of the franchise.

The final member of the team is subway worker Patty Tolan (Jones) who has been traumatised at a sighting engineered by Rowan North (Neil Casey), just another one of those guys with a grudge against humanity. Rowan's dastardly plan is to unleash an army of undead souls on the city, through a device that attracts paranormal activity.

The new Ghostbusters is funny and reasonably entertaining in parts, and proof positive that girl power - especially alumni of Saturday Night Live - can bring something new to a beloved franchise. Is it better than the (imperfect) original? Not really. After all, there are only so many ways to shoot proton streams at flying apparitions. Perhaps it's time to give up this ghost.

Rating: C+