Starring: Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman, Cathy Moriarty
Writers: Sherri Stoner, Deanna Oliver, Joseph Oriolo (characters)
Director: Brad Silberling
Carrigan Crittenden inherits Whipstaff manor after the death of her father. She's pretty disgusted until she learns that there's a treasure hidden somewhere inside the mansion. However, she gets scared shitless when she discovers the place is haunted. Casper is nice as hell but she sucks and never notices this. After subliminal manipulation, she hires Dr. Harvey, a ghost communicating psychiatrist to eradicate the haunting inhabitants of Whipstaff manor. Well, Dr. Harvey's daughter Kat hits it off with Casper pretty well, and eventually, he does too. Though, Casper has a trio of not so friendly uncles living there. Meanwhile, at her first day at school, Kat makes it known that her and her father are currently staying at Whipstaff manor. Her classmates are kinda freaked, but intrigued. Next thing you know, the class Halloween party is gonna be held there. Ghostly shenanigans ensue. Well, ghostly shenanigans ensue much sooner, but whatevs.
I gotta pull out my inner vagina here (don't get too excited, dudes) and say that this flick makes me a big blubbery mess when the end credits role. I mean, holy shit, sad! Thankfully, there's enough adorable moments that even out the emo of this film, but some of this dealing with loss shit really strikes a chord with me. And the Casper back-story? Fuck. When he starts going into his spiel about how he died from staying out in the cold playing on the sled his Dad bought him... dammit man, shit's brutal. Anyway, I'll touch on some of the other tear jerking stuff later.
Brad Silberling is on it with direction, here, all the way down to pretty solid performances from everyone. There's some great cionematography that helps build the appearance of the town of Friendship, with awesome overhead views showing off the lush autumny season appearance. The interior of Whipstaff manor --as well as exterior, really-- is brilliant; Casper's room for example. The ceiling has an ice cream swirl-like design, with lights in the center. The whole house has a really creative look to it. I wouldn't live there, but it's cool.
Giving a big nod of approval here to Christina Ricci as Kat, a young girl tired of being shifted from town to town by her Father, a man claiming to be a psychiatrist for ghosts ane on pursuit of his dead wife's spirit. Ricci puts a lot of pathos into the role, especially in a scene with Casper, where she talks about here fear of forgetting the small but meaningful things she remembers about her mother. She definitely overshadows Bill Pullman in all scenes where they are doing the whole Daughter/Father thing. It's not that Pullman is bad, but I wasn't convinced with his portrayal of a man lost with grief over his wife's death. There's not a single sad face on the dude's mug. On the comedic side of things, Pullman excels, particularly in a scene where he's drunk as piss at a local bar lending his Karaoke skills to Jailhouse Rock. Shit owns. Cathy Moriarty plays Carrigan, inheritor of Whipstaff Manor. She executes the money hungry bitch persona with perfection. Her sidekick, Dibbs, is played by Eric Idle. They gel well together as the insensitive treasure hunter and a bumbling idiot helper.
Now, onto the ghosts. There's some epic voice work in Casper and not just from our main lovable ghoul, either. The uncle characters are perceived really well. Joe Nipote, Joe Alaskey and Brad Garett are excellent as Stretch, Stinkie and Fatso, respectively. They're hate worthy at first, but become quite amazing as the film progresses. Malachi Perarson provides the voice of Casper, and it's cute as a button. Even though this is a character provided by computer imagery, the interaction that's intertwined with Christina Ricci makes for some really touching moments.
Cameos up the ying yang! Don Nevello as Father Guido Sarducci, Dan Aykroyd as Ghostbuster Ray Stantz, Ben Stein as a lawyer, The Crypt Keeper, Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield, Mel Gibson, Mr. Rodgers, and Terry Murphy of Hard Copy as themselves. Then there's Devon Sawa pre-ugly phase as human Casper. Awesome stuff, indeed.
CGI is actually pretty damn wonderful in this film. The fact that the ghosts are shown transparently really help. I'm not saying it's totally realistic or anything, but it looks better than just having a bunch of straight up fully white specters floating around. It's awesome to see stuff like Casper taking the form of a pillow and to have him flowing through electricity wires, too.
The Halloween party at Whipstaff manor is kicking some motha fuckin' Digital Underground, so heavy props deserved! Shit, wish I had been partyin' there! The film score is provided by James Horner, and he serves up some Danny Elfman sounding tunes, which is definitely okay by me. Fits the film perfectly.
Ultimately, this is a great little family ghost film. Hardly horror, but there's fun to be had. Only thing that really bugged me was the fact that early on it's established that Casper doesn't cast a reflection in a mirror. Though later, Stinkie, Stretchy and Fatso are shown in a mirror to scare off a couple of kids at the Halloween party. What gives? Otherwise, whatever. This movie is a blast, aside from the whole making me cry shit... but I can't say I'm not appreciative of that, too.