116 min. | PG-13

“Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts.” Wouldn’t it be nice to banish internet trolls from an alternate universe? Yes, but they pop up anyway in this reboot of the much-loved Harold Ramis comedy. When this new generation of ghostbusters record their first encounter with the paranormal, the all-female quartet hightails it back to headquarters to read the comment boards, regrettably. The internet has strong opinions about the qualifications of bitches to hunt ghosts.

Likely a direct quote from real life, it’s a meta aside, a side-eye to the nasty, wah-wahs about lady cooties on their beloved childhood blanket. Problem is, the film is so much meta, it stops just shy of a stage wink to the camera. Director Paul Feig crams the frame with cameos from the 1984 picture and callbacks to the original plot. An early snatch of Ray Parker’s iconic “Ghostbusters” theme song sets the tone. There’s that Pavlovian thrill of favorite memories, but is there anything here for a new audience?

Well, kinda. In 1984, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis weren’t yet emblazoned on Mount Comedy, though the first chisel work had already begun based on their various roles on Saturday Night Live and film projects. In 2016, it’s Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon strapping on the proton packs, and they’re just as formidable of comedians as their predecessors.

Ideally, there wouldn’t be a comparison. McCarthy already has pulled an international box office gross that wilts her predecessors’ stats—Feig first tapped her for Bridesmaids, cast her again in The Heat and as the lead in the underappreciated Spy.

Feig doesn’t give her as juicy a role to work with in Ghostbusters, but she’s its anchor, the solid center around which orbit Wiig’s deft deadpan (as a fellow scientist), Jones’ screw y’all forthrightness and McKinnon’s basement-lab mad-genius kookster (a lightly role that she somehow steals the show with).

The actresses are so quick and so supple, the force of their personalities and irresistible camaraderie hoist the film up from its middling story and scripted jokes. I would have happily stayed in my seat another two hours to continue keeping their company.