The all-female title characters of 2016’s Ghostbusters can bust ghosts just as well as their 1984 forebears. Just don’t expect them to bust a lot of guts in the process.

Despite its overall quirky charm, the original film was primarily a Bill Murray comedy. It was fun to watch the other Ghostbusters spout pseudo-scientific jargon as they tried to save New York from a spectral invasion, but what made it funny was Murray’s wry attitude to the whole thing. He was too busy trying to romance Sigourney Weaver to take his job seriously.

The main problem with the new Ghostbusters is that despite its comedically adept cast, no one is given the chance to fill Murray’s laconic shoes. Nor, unfortunately, are they allowed to take Ghostbusters in a revolutionarily new, female-centered direction. Certainly nothing on a par with director Paul Feig and star Kristen Wiig’s 2011 buddy picture/romcom, Bridesmaids.

Yes, there are a few sly, feminist-informed jokes, such as the ghost-hunting team’s revulsion when a suggested logo for their new business is dominated by huge boobs. There are also some not-so-sly jokes, such as one involving a queef (i.e., vaginal fart).

Mostly, though, the film is too busy paying homage to the original to chart a new course. Despite the team’s disgust when a TV news report labels them “Ghostbusters,” it’s only a matter of time before they adopt not only the name but the original team’s logo. Meanwhile, Murray and nearly all of his surviving 1984 co-stars punctuate the flick with cameo appearances.

So what went wrong? On paper, it must have seemed like a foolproof plan to recast the classic comedy with female comedians, most of them past or present cast members of Saturday Night Live. Maybe it seemed so foolproof that no one thought it was necessary to give them characters they could actually sink their teeth into.

Wiig’s Erin Gilbert at first wins sympathetic chuckles as a college professor trying to land tenure while living down her one-time interest in paranormal phenomena. But she turns into a generic drooling female when faced with the ghost-hunting team’s hunky but dumb-as-a-pet-rock receptionist, Kevin (Thor’s Chris Hemsworth).

Melissa McCarthy makes even less of an impression as Abby, the effective leader of the team. She doesn’t even do her “I think I’m sexy even though no one else does” shtick, which she probably couldn’t pull off anyway with her new, sleeker look.

The two current Saturday Night Live cast members fare no better. Kate McKinnon has little to do besides acting cocky as tech-savvy Jillian, and Leslie Jones’s Patty is like a toned-down version of Jones’s boisterous SNL alter ego. 

The film does have winning moments here and there. The beginning, in which the first ghost makes its appearance, is effectively scary. Later, when the team tries to capture a monstrous spirit that’s invaded a rock concert, the action is both fun and funny.

But joke after joke falls flat, and the inevitable final showdown is marred by the kind of mass destruction that’s become a staple of superhero epics.

Maybe none of this will matter to true Ghostbusters fans. At the preview I attended, they were ecstatic every time another alum of the original showed up, and they cheered when the late Harold Ramis’s name appeared in the closing credits.

For such folks, it may be enough to see a new crop of Ghostbusters get slimed while their predecessors make cameo appearances and echoes of the familiar theme song play in the background. For others, the flick is simply a dim and mostly unfunny shadow of a 32-year-old classic.

Rating: 2½ stars (out of 5)

Ghostbusters, rated PG-13, opens Friday (July 15) nationwide.