Film Review: Casper (1995)

casper

Beneath the cutsey-poo veneer of this big-budget family spectacle is a surprisingly morose Ghost and Mrs. Muir subplot. The screenplay is a bit scatter-shot in its aim, but I have to give this flick major kudos for tackling the subjects of death and loneliness in a kid-friendly way.

There are a few terrific little scenes between young Christina Ricci (Addams Family, Mermaids) and Casper, an ILM computer-generated confection voiced by Malachi Pearson. In one, Casper and Ricci sit atop a lighthouse looking out over the ocean while Casper laments not being able to remember his parents. Since Ricci’s character recently lost her mother and is terrified of forgetting her, the scene is a pretty powerful one for a kids’ film. It’s also interesting when Casper starts to remember how he died from pneumonia, and how sad his parents were.

The tone of the film is somewhat muddled — too mature for young children, too silly for older kids and adults. This is crystallized in the movie’s halfhearted attempt to introduce a tween romance between Ricci and Casper. There is a scene where the two try holding hands. Casper says it’s his first time. She says it’s her’s, too. Then her warm hand moves through his cold apparitional one. Before the two can remark on the experience, Bill Pullman’s silly father figure and the grotesquely comic Ghostly Trio puncture the moment.

Casper isn’t great, but it’s odd and a little unusual, and that makes it worth a look for me. Kathy Moriarty (Soapdish, Matinee) makes a great leading villain for the piece and Brad Silberling’s direction is solid for a first-time feature filmmaker. Leslie Dilley’s production design and James Horner’s music are also quite memorable. Look for a glut of gratuitous cameos from Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Dan Akyroyd, Ben Stein, and Father Guido Sarducci.

Rating: 3.25/5 ★★★¼☆ 

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About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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