'Ghostbusters' review: A fun, funny dose of freaky ghosts

The affectionate, well-cast update of the classic phantasmic comedy is one of the best remakes in years. Here's our spoiler-free review.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
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When I was about 6, I smashed my front tooth nosediving off a playground picnic bench while chasing a ghost. I was playing "Ghostbusters".

Obviously, I was obsessed with "Ghostbusters" -- and "Transformers" and "Doctor Who" and all sorts of stuff that I still love to this day. They've all now been revived, remade and rebooted, with varying results. When "Doctor Who" came back after 15 years away, I wasn't sure about the fast-paced and effervescent new version until I saw my nephew flip out for it. That should be a useful reminder for those online multitudes inexplicably enraged by the prospect of a "Ghostbusters" reboot that sometimes it's cool for other people to enjoy something, even if you're not keen on it.

So is the new "Ghostbusters" any good? Yes.

Some fans have already made their decision, but if you go into the movie with an open mind, this is one of the better remakes Hollywood has produced in recent years. It's fun and funny, breezy and playful, and finds its own voice while staying respectful of the original.

The special effects do a neat job of updating the floaty, gaseous ghost effects of the original, and modern CGI means the film doesn't have to cheap out on apparitions. (Have you ever noticed how few ghosts there actually are in the original?) It's even legit spooky at times.

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Who ya gonna call? Abby (Melissa McCarthy), Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), Erin (Kristen Wiig) and Patty (Leslie Jones) are the new Ghostbusters.

Hopper Stone/Columbia Pictures

Sure, it's mostly chucklesome rather than laugh out loud, and it's nowhere near as quotable as the prototype. While the original "Ghostbusters" is a great comedy, "Schindler's List" it ain't, and treating it as some kind of sacred text is pretty laughable. This affectionate reinvention isn't going to make your copy of the original movie spontaneously combust any more than the past 30 years of lunchboxes, cartoon spin-offs or spurious toys.

Behind the wheel of the new 'Ghostbusters' Ecto-1 (pictures)

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Like the original, the new flick's strength is its core casting. Once again it unites four comic actors who form, basically, a gang you want to be part of. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon don't try to re-create the characters so memorably inhabited in the original movies by Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson. Instead they form a new team to unite against both ghosts and a skeptical world.

While none of them runs away with the film the way Bill Murray did in 1984 -- Wiig's character in particular is a bit of wet blanket for much of the movie -- the breakout star is Kate McKinnon. The camera constantly cuts to her reactions as if it can barely keep up with her scene-stealing energy.

And yeah, they all happen to be women. The new "Ghostbusters" doesn't so much pass the Bechdel test -- an informal measure of how women are represented in fiction -- as ace the Bechdel test. It should win a Bechdel Prize for showing the rest of the world how it's done. It shouldn't be novel, but it is.

"Ghostbusters" is fun and silly, and if you don't like it you don't have to watch it. No need for mass hysteria. The film opens in the UK on 11 July, in Australia on 14 July and in the US on 15 July.

Watch this: 'Ghostbusters' director Paul Feig talks remakes, funny women and online fury