By Richard von Busack
Wielding an electronic ghost detector that looks like a little rotating neon vulva, a triumphant Melissa McCarthy leads the female-power redo of Ghostbusters. In this round, Kristin Wiig’s Erin is trying to get tenure as a physics professor. She fails, when a book she co-wrote years before about the supernatural materializes on the internet. The book was uploaded and sold by her miffed former writing partner Abby (McCarthy), now working at a lab in an off-brand tech school in the suburbs.
Abby’s new partner is a super-scientist who calls herself Holtzmann; Kate McKinnon plays this pretty, cocky blonde weirdette as the kind of brat who puts her boots on the mayor’s desk. The trio is joined by the blustering subway worker Patty (a lovable Leslie Jones), who saw a haunting at her station. The four team up to learn more about the afterlife; meanwhile a bitter and pale bellboy (Neil Casey) is trying to launch an apocalypse.
The new Ghostbusters is a patchy film, with head-scratching moments. The plot includes a strange piece of business about Erin accidentally-on-purpose letting a dragon ghost loose; it doesn’t make sense, even if the raging ghost is meant to give Bill Murray, as a James Randi-style skeptic, a good scare. But this remake is a different kind of patchy than its popular, sloppy hit predecessor—it doesn’t have the jittery, cocaine-laden quality to the writing. McCarthy is a demonically talented slow-burn artist. Whenever the movie stalls, she slaps it into action.
Director of photography Robert D. Yeoman (a Wes Anderson vet) makes the movie a visual carnival. The phosphorescent green goo all over the place is matched with blazing magentas and sapphire spectral glows. The colors have brightness and glitter. In the night skies, the ghosts look like the future of fireworks. The finale fight is something made to see twice and freeze-frame later, just to be able to see the multiple Times Squares of the 20th century all crammed into one time-vortex. It’s a pleasure to see Wiig’s attractive forlornness used in the service of being a kind of superhero; she even gets to fly, Supergirl style.