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film review

The Ghostbusters: Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), Erin (Kristen Wiig) and Patty (Leslie Jones).Hopper Stone

Pointless. Insulting. A callous pillaging of my childhood that leaves me no choice but to shun Hollywood and all of its wares forever and ever! Yes, everything you've heard from the legion of Ghostbusters haters is true …when it comes to the new theme song. Fall Out Boy? Ugh, c'mon guys.

But in terms of the new Ghostbusters film itself, the premature protesters couldn't be further off the mark. Paul Feig's female-led reboot of the long-dormant franchise is thrilling, hilarious, lovingly crafted and the wild, colourful, giddy blockbuster this otherwise staid summer movie season so desperately needs.

Why so many (mostly male) fans of the original series decided to take up arms against this reboot in the first place is a mystery. Well, maybe not so much a mystery as just a dispiriting reminder that misogyny is alive and well on the Internet, where it can metastasize to gross extremes with zero justification. And for anyone eager to stand atop a pedestal to righteously proclaim that objections to a new Ghostbusters simply stem from a frustration with Hollywood exploiting adolescent nostalgia, well, where are all the virulent Internet campaigns against, say, the new Ninja Turtles series? Or the upcoming remake of Pete's Dragon? Or the continued desecration of the Transformers franchise (if such a thing was ever in a state where it could actually be desecrated)?

No, it is easy to see what the Ghostbusters furor is really about: angry, bored, women-hating men expending otherwise untapped energy mining their own feelings of social inadequacy in a toxic bid for attention. If Sony and the Ivan Reitman brain trust had somehow convinced Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson and the ghost of Harold Ramis to headline a new, straight-up Ghostbusters sequel, surely few of the Internet trolls would object. Just, you know, keep women out of the picture.

Thankfully, that's not the direction Sony and Reitman decided to pursue, even though a new Ghostbusters had been a twinkle in the eyes of various studio chiefs ever since Ghostbusters II wrapped in 1989 with Lady Liberty traipsing through miles of pink slime. Instead, Reitman has taken a producing back seat and handed the franchise's reins to the ingenious comic mind of Paul Feig, an acolyte of the Judd Apatow church of comedy, which worships improvisation, group dynamics and the unparalleled power of expert casting.

And thank Zuul for that, because if any brand lived or died on the strength of its cast, it's Ghostbusters. The original two films would be little more than forgettable, ectoplasm-drenched diversions if it weren't for the almost supernatural comedic chemistry generated between Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis (and Hudson, were he given much of a chance). Having previously assembled note-perfect ensembles for Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy (last year's funniest film), Feig was the perfect choice to build a ghostbusting team for a new generation. And partly because it's 2016, as Justin Trudeau might say, and partly because they simply are the funniest people working in entertainment, these new Ghostbusters just happen to be women.

Leading the new group is Melissa McCarthy, Feig's most frequent collaborator, as Abby, a paranormal-obsessed genius still nurturing hurt feelings over a professional rift with her one-time colleague Erin (Kristen Wiig, another Feig vet from Bridesmaids). Add Saturday Night Live 's Kate McKinnon as the eccentric engineer Jillian and fellow SNL castmate Leslie Jones as the adventurous and eager civilian Patty, and you have the Ghostbusters 2.0.

From the moment they all cram into a room together – this time above a Chinese restaurant, versus the original's abandoned firehall – it's comedic gold. The performers simply click, in much the same way Murray and company seemed so fully formed before Slimer even entered the picture.

And while Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold could have lazily made each new character a mere update of the original, the filmmakers refuse to take the easy way out. Yes, Jillian has touches of Egon Spengler and Abby has a dash of Peter Venkman, but everyone here is their own, unique, complicated creation – a refreshing departure from what could have simply been a gender-swapped facsimile.

Narratively speaking, the plot is about as nuanced and compelling as the first film's, which is to say, not very. Although it's tempting to read the film's villain – a bullied weirdo who makes it his mission to punish the world for ignoring him – as a fun-house version of the many men's rights activists who cry out desperately into the night for attention, his presence and ultimate plan mostly exist as a means of getting the central, extraordinarily talented performers in a room together to crack wise about "class-four apparitions."

If that weren't enough, though – and in a season otherwise glutted with flaccid comedies and watered-down franchise extensions, it would be more than enough – Feig also fills out nearly every other speaking role with some other master of comedy, be it Cecily Strong as a shrewd mayoral aide or Zach Woods as a cowardly historian or the glorious Chris Hemsworth as the team's secretary/eye-candy/man-baby/walking punchline Kevin. It is astounding how deftly Feig has put all the pieces together (which is why it's also slightly disappointing that the film grinds to a halt for a round of fan-service cameos, one of which will initially elicit cheers and gasps, before it stretches on and drowns in yawns).

But for all its minor faults, Ghostbusters is glorious fun – two hours of wit and wights, the ideal summer cinema that the rest of Hollywood just can't seem to wrap its head around lately. If all that and the presence of leading women still rankles you, then the movies are better off for your absence.

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