Casper (1995)

Posted by on Dec 29, 2011 in Welcome to Our World | 0 comments


Disclaimer: Some deceased drinkers (spirits for spirits, if you will), bits of ripe language, and a little murder.

Though you may think they pale in comparison to today’s standards, when Casper came out in the mid-90s it boasted cutting edge special effects from the likes of Steven Spielberg (Amblin Entertainment) and George Lucas (Industrial Light & Magic). Coupled with sharp animation and humorous writing, the friendly ghost made a successful and entertaining run as the first computer-animated title character in motion picture history (and inspired two sequels, a prequel, and a new TV series separate from the original cartoon).

After her animal-adoring father dies, Ms. Carrigan (Cathy Moriarty) anxiously awaits her inheritance. The will (as read by the always-monotone Ben Stein) proves disappointing, however, only leaving her a condemned gothic manor. When she throws the deed in the fire, it reveals a secret message that leads her assistant Dibbs (Eric Idle) to believe there’s pirate treasure there. When they go to Whipstaff Manor to retrieve the riches, they instead discover a creepy mansion complete with cobwebs, cracked molding, and ghosts. They try an exorcist (SNL’s Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci) and a Ghostbuster (Dan Aykroyd), but to no avail. With nowhere else to turn, Carrigan calls a ghost psychiatrist, who helps the “living impaired” complete their unfinished business.

So the widower doctor (Bill Pullman) Casper2packs up the station wagon and heads for Maine hoping to resolve the situation and reach his deceased wife. Along for the ride is his loner daughter Kat (Christina Ricci), who resents her father’s transient and odd occupation. “Try explaining after-life therapy to a bunch of junior high kids,” she says. “I’d just like to stay in one place long enough to make a friend.” Conveniently the manor resides in a town called Friendship, where a friendly ghost named Casper (voiced by Malachai Pearson) awaits her arrival. He’s a self-conscious and insecure spirit, who instantly falls for Kat (every 12-year-old boy will) and tries his best to become human again so she’ll fall for him (every 12-year-old girl will – it’s Devon Sawa).

While the love story entrances the young girl viewers, the boys and adults will certainly favor Casper’s eccentric, troublemaking uncles Stretch (Joe Nipote), Stinkie (Joe Alaskey), and Fatso (Brad Garrett). While these wild ghosts are around, there’s slapstick, clever dialogue, great visual gags, double entendres, and pop culture references galore. There’s never a dull moment, kind of like The Marx Brothers. There’s morphing that involves Mel Gibson, Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield, and The Crypt Keeper; as well as funny homages to Apocalypse Now, The Wizard of Oz, Superman, Terminator 2, Cinderella, Carrie, and Frankenstein.

Idle is his usual wacky self and Moriarty seems to be straight out of a film noir (she’s draped in black, sports stiletto heels, and puffs on a cigarette). The animators created Casper and his three uncles as cartoonish figures, instead of transparent humans, which allows the film to remain unblemished as technology advances. Thanks to some great artistry, however, these characters have just as much (if not more) range as their fleshy counterparts. Unlike the Harvey Comic on which he is based, the film presents ghosts that are far more than friendly. In fact, the other characters seem less dimensional when you compare them to the ghosts, who take center stage from the get-go. And why shouldn’t they? The inherant appeal for kids is the idea that they might have their very own ghost friend – even if the world of the living deems them an outcast. And, let’s face it, a friend like Casper is way cooler than any flesh bucket you’ll ever meet.

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