CONTAINS SPOILERS AND SURPRISE!
Yet another exception to the rule that Remakes Always Suck: granted some of them do, granted most of them do, but there are enough good ones to suggest that rule isn't as golden as it appears. A new Ghostbusters film has been on and off the cards for years, whether a reboot or a direct continuation of the two Ivan Reitman films from the 1980s. But as the years went by and the cast got older - no way could Bill Murray be even remotely credible pulling on the proton pack these days - it was increasingly unlikely that it would actually happen except as an unconnected reboot. That's pretty much what they've finally gone with and (huge sigh of relief) it's fine. It's not a masterpiece, it's not gutbustingly roll-in-the-aisles hilarious, but let's be honest: neither were the originals.
Just as the 1984 film had to assemble its team, so Paul Feig's shiny new female-led take has to bring together serious academic Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) with her old friend and former writing partner Abigail Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and brilliantly unhinged scientist/inventor Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon, for me the real star of the film) when they discover that ghosts are suddenly appearing all over New York. Someone is energising ley lines across the city to bring about The Fourth Cataclysm and allow legions of the undead through the portal to torment the living.... With feisty Patty (Leslie Jones) on the team and gloriously dim but hunky secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) back at the office, can they save the city from the erupting ghostpocalypse?
Of course they can. If Ghostbusters 2016 has a problem, it's the inexplicable need to constantly wink to the 1984 incarnation. So Slimer makes an appearance, Stay-Puft makes an appearance, the firehouse and familiar logo show up. Bill Murray has an enjoyable cameo, a cabbie says "I ain't afraid of no ghosts!" and the dialogue includes "mass hysteria" and "who're you gonna call?". Even "Cats and dogs" gets reworked into a verbal comedy routine, and Ray Parker Jr's theme song is inevitably incorporated into Theodore Shapiro's romping orchestra and choir score. One or two nods to the fans can make a nice touch but it's overdone here. In addition, towards the end the film settles for ramaging citywide destruction which gets wearing and causes the laughs to dry up. Against that: it looks terrific (the colour looks to have been ramped up whereas a lot of movies seem to want to drain it out), it's largely good-natured and funny and the team dynamics work well. Plus, perhaps most importantly for a popcorn fantasy blockbuster, the numerous ghost effects are undeniably spectacular. (I saw it, as per usual, in the 2D version and yet again it didn't seem to be crying out for 3D.)
It also manages to get a few digs in about the internet saddo brigade. It's sad that Ghostbusters 2016 is going to be remembered, as much as anything, for angering a swathe of knuckle-dragging Neanderthal quarterwits whose proton-sized minds couldn't cope with the fact that women - actual female lady women - had unthinkably been cast as fictional characters doing fictional things in a reboot/remake of a good but scarcely classic comedy over thirty years old. Blasphemy! Look: if you were a kid when Ghostbusters 1984 came out and you loved it, then great - but that means you're probably around 40 years old now, so stop whining and grow up. GB2016 isn't as funny as Spy, Paul Feig's last big-screen comedy during which I did genuinely laugh out loud in the cinema a couple of times, though that was more likely due to Miranda Hart and Jason Statham rather than Melissa McCarthy, of whom I am still not a fan (and she annoyed the hell out me in The Heat). But I had more than enough fun with it and I never felt short-changed: whatever's wrong with it, it's still as enjoyable as just about any movie I've seen this year. The post-credits sting might be a setup for a sequel, or just one final extra gag.