All-girl Ghostbusters comes up short

The significant differences between Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters (1984) and Paul Feig’s new Ghostbusters are changing the gender of the heroes from male to female, which is no big deal, and that the new film isn’t nearly as funny or inventive as the original, which is a very big deal.

What was fresh and novel 32 years ago simply isn’t this time around. Although the new Ghostbusters posits itself as a remake – as if the original and the 1989 sequel never occurred – its biggest laughs, such as they are, tend to be winking nods toward its predecessor.

Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and Kate McKinnon play the paranormal investigators this time out, joined shortly thereafter by Leslie Jones. They’re all quite likable, especially McKinnon, who all but steals the film, but they simply don’t have the instant chemistry of their forbearers. In addition, Katie Dippold and director Feig’s screenplay spends an awful lot of time setting things up, whereas the original film breezed right along.

Chris Hemsworth plays the Ghostbusters’ hunky but dim-witted receptionist and Neil Casey the malcontent anarchist who starts all the trouble, while Andy Garcia, Charles Dance, Ed Begley Jr., Michael Kenneth Williams, Cecily Strong and Matt Walsh drop by, to little effect.

As his been well-publicized, a number of the original cast members have cameo roles. Bill Murray (channeling his Franklin Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson), Dan Aykroyd (who earns an executive-producer credit), Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson and Annie Potts each earn a chuckle or two when they pop up, and there’s an inspired visual gag that pays tribute to the late Harold Ramis (to whom the film is dedicated) The special effects constantly threaten to upstage the proceedings, and often they do. The slam-bang CGI climax, in which New York City is invaded by giant-sized specters, is essentially a reprise of the original film’s ending. It’s impressive visually but not terribly funny. There’s plenty of ectoplasm, but not enough effervescence. !