Ghostbusters (12A)

Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wii and Leslie Jones in Ghostbusters.

Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wii and Leslie Jones in Ghostbusters. - Credit: Hopper Stone, SMPSP

A gender swap gives life to this 80s reboot.

If there's something strange in your neighbourhood, who ya gonna call?

Filmmaker Paul Feig.

The hugely successful director of Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy applies a gender reversal to an effervescent remake of the 1984 supernatural comedy about a quartet of parapsychologists, who make a living capturing spooks in New York City.

Nostalgia oozes like ectoplasm from every glossy frame of this special effects-laden Ghostbusters, including cameos for most of the original cast and repeated bursts of Ray Parker Jnr's infectious theme song.

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'I ain't afraid of no ghosts,' deadpans one familiar face and it's certainly true that there are few jumps in a script co-written by Feig and Kate Dippold that awkwardly marries spectral scares with twisted humour.

The monstrous Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and greedy green ghoul Slimer play their part too.

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Actress Melissa McCarthy, the director's lucky talisman, is in fine fettle, effusively trading quips with co-stars including a scene-stealing Chris Hemsworth as the team's hunky male receptionist, Kevin, whose chest measurement in inches exceeds his I.Q.

'You know an aquarium is a submarine for fish,' casually remarks the beefcake in one of his cerebral interludes.

Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) hopes to secure tenure at Columbia University, but her academic future is thrown into disarray when childhood friend Abby Yates (McCarthy) peddles copies of their long forgotten 400-page tome, Ghosts From The Past: Both Literally & Figuratively.

The two women are reunited in the lab where Erin conducts experiments with her madcap protegee, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon).

A haunting at Aldridge Mansion gives the trio their first glimpse of the fight ahead, and soon after, ballsy subway worker Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones) joins the team, blessed with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Manhattan's grim history.

It transpires that a demented misfit called Rowan North (Neil Casey) is summoning ghosts to create a vortex between the living and the dead.

Armed with prototype backpacks, the gang gallantly races into the fray, risking ridicule from the media and Mayor Bradley (Andy Garcia).

When disaster looms, Erin pleads with Bradley to evacuate the city.

'Please don't be like the mayor in Jaws!' she screams, urging direct action rather than caution.

Ghostbusters affectionately harks back to the series' glory days before the creative misstep of the 1989 sequel.

McCarthy and Wiig rekindle their Bridemaids on-screen chemistry, with colourful turns from McKinnon and Jones, and merciless self-mockery from Hemsworth.

The script papers over gaping holes, including the absence of a backstory for kooky arch-villain Rowan, with spectacular action sequences and pop culture references like when the team claims a ghost flung a man out of a window and an incredulous cop replies, 'You mean, like Patrick Swayze?'

Presumably they are saving a pottery wheel seduction involving a topless Hemsworth for the sequel.

*** (Three stars)

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