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What do you know? Bustin' makes me feel good, no matter who's doing it.

Director Paul Feig's "Ghostbusters" is the best movie of the summer — a laugh machine that fires on all cylinders, channeling the manic spirit of Ivan Reitman's 1984 original, while bringing a lively modern take that spins giddily into new and surprising directions. Most important, it's a showcase for the sharpest comic performers working today, collaborating with a director who knows how to get the best out of them.

After a prologue that sets up the ghostly doings to come, Feig and co-writer Katie Dippold introduce us to Dr. Erin Gilbert ("Bridesmaids" star Kristen Wiig), a physicist whose rigorous scientific mind is about to earn her tenure at Columbia. That is, until an old book about the paranormal, which Erin wrote with her former best friend, researcher Abby Yates (Feig's go-to comedian, Melissa McCarthy), surfaces on Amazon. That, along with Erin's excitement at a new haunting, gets her fired. Soon, Abby and her inventor cohort, Jillian Holtzman (Kate McKinnon), are bounced from their jobs at a less-prestigious university.

The three set up shop above a Chinese restaurant (the rent on an old firehouse is beyond their budget), where they get two more partners: Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones), a sassy MTA worker with encyclopedic knowledge of New York history, and Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), their hunky new receptionist, who has little knowledge of anything, encyclopedic or otherwise. The four women start capturing ghosts and blasting their proton packs around the Big Apple, gaining attention from the press and a paranormal skeptic (played by … well, you'll find out).

Feig and Dippold (who wrote Feig's hit "The Heat") create a story that draws on the wackiness of the 1984 version — including some delightful cameos and iconic throwbacks — without following the footsteps of Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Zeddemore too closely. Within that framework, Feig lets his four stars bounce jokes off each other to dizzying effect. These ladies aren't out-of-control one-liner dispensers, though; their humor is nicely grounded in their characters.

Feig lets the four play to their strengths: McCarthy as the feisty fireplug with a flair for physical comedy; Wiig as the rock-steady scientist who discovers giddy joy that her ghostly discoveries are true; Jones, the sharp-tongued go-getter; and McKinnon, scoring an MVP trophy as the whacked-out gearhead who's just a little too gleeful with her new, and highly dangerous, inventions.

Feig, handed a budget that dwarfs his previous comedies ("Bridesmaids," "The Heat" and "Spy"), is a kid in a candy store when handling action. The ghostly effects are often truly scary and otherwise pleasantly spooky. In the 3-D version, he also plays cleverly with the proportions of the screen, with proton streams and other things breaking the very limits of the frame.

Along the way, Feig & Co. also answer the haters who have attacked this movie since the gender-swapped cast was announced. The performers have fun mocking the internet, such as when Erin and Abby run into some YouTube commenters whose vitriol is uncomfortably close to reality. Also, it's no accident that the main villain (Neil Casey, from the Feig-produced "Other Space") is the sort of pasty loner one would expect to hear complaining about how a remake would defile his childhood.

This "Ghostbusters" isn't going to ruin anyone's childhood. Quite the opposite. A new generation of kids — girls included this time — are about to learn that busting ghosts is the best job in the world.



Prepare for mass hysteria: This reboot of the 1984 paranormal action comedy delivers a proton pack full of laughs.

Where • Theaters everywhere.

When • Opens today.

Rating • PG-13 for supernatural action and some crude humor.

Running time • 116 minutes.