My first “family-friendly” installment of #52PickUp isn’t as beloved as some of my other films on this list… but there were some things in it that resonated with me. What are they? Here we go–
Casper is a 1995 film based on the classic Harvey Comics Casper the Friendly Ghost series and the “Noveltoons” (beginning in 1945), but actually his inception dates back as far as the 1930s.
In the first feature-length adaptation (and only in my mind), Casper lives in his childhood home with his three mischievous ghost uncles: Stretch, Stinky, and Fatso. The house? Whipstaff Manor in Friendship, Maine.
Well, an evil bitch of a person, Carrigan Crittenden inherits the haunted house, and makes every attempt to cleanse the tired property.
When none of that works, Casper, who’s looking to make a friend (he is friendly after all) helps to get Carrigan to hire Dr. James Harvey (played by Bill Pullman, NOT Paxton), psychiatrist to the spiritual world. Dr. Harvey travels the country “freeing” spirits from their Earthly unfinished business, but forcing his daughter Kat to be “chained” to his misadventures.
That is if they actually found any ghosts so far, and the only one Dr. Harvey really cares about is his long-gone wife.
Once he’s hired at Whipstaff, they immediately make contact: Friends with Casper, uncomfortable roommates with the Ghostly Trio.
Kat has a hard time fitting in at school. So when the gym is unavailable for the Halloween dance, someone else offers up her house (see: asshole kid), and she reluctantly accepts.
The film takes a turn when Casper remembers his past life, and The Lazarus Machine, an invention his father created to bring Casper back to life.
Carrigan gets wind of this and steals the elixir, the Lazarus’ fuel, and ends up dying to steal the treasure in the vault. Once she does, Kat and Casper trick her into exclaiming that she has no unfinished business and she explodes to the other side.
Meanwhile, Dr. James Harvey accidentally dies falling down a construction site. When Kat is about to revive Casper, her Ghost Dad (Not Bill Cosby) flies in, and Casper sacrifices his one chance at life to save Dr. Harvey.
Soon after, Kat must deal with her party guests. She rushes up to join the party. And Casper gets a visit from Kat’s Mom (Amy Brenneman). She grants him about five minutes of life, and visits her former husband. Thanks, Judging Amy.
And then coupled with the score, as a kid my heart melted. I was sad, then after the song “Remember Me This Way” by Jordan Hill kicked in–
The film was followed by a resurgence of Casper-related material. First was an animated series called The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper which ran for four seasons.
Then four more films were produced: Casper: A Spirited Beginning in 1997, and Casper Meets Wendy in 1998, Casper’s Haunted Christmas in 2000, and finally Casper’s Scare School in 2006; all of which were direct-to-video.
Where/ when did I first see it?
I believe I first watched Casper when it came to video cassette in 1996. Up until this point in time, I didn’t watch a lot of movies in the theaters. My first theater experience was in 1992 (but more on that later).
We would go to Paradis Shop and Save every week for groceries with our Dad and every time we’d go by the movie rentals we’d shake him down for at least a few rentals. But… Sometimes there were new movie releases in a small metal stand near the rentable films. And in it one week was Casper. We may not have seen many trailers then, but we certainly kept notes while watching home video commercials on TV.
So after some light begging, the big soft-shell Casper cassette was ours.
How does it hold up?
Casper is a silly kids’ movie. It’s not meant to be anything more than that. Now, trying to be impartial and not let my nostalgia take over… That’s a whole other story.
I did note a minor issue that I had with the film. Great scripts typically set-up their elements ahead of time, so that the audience can say (to themselves), “Oh yeah, I remember that!” Aside from the set-up of Casper not knowing a lick of his past life, it’s largely void of any lead in for the Lazarus machine. And if I’m not mistaken, that talk about his past life is only thirty or forty minutes into the film. The lazarus machine is introduced at the halfway mark.
I get that they couldn’t introduce his inventor father any earlier, so the screenwriters had to do what they could.
The special effects are surprisingly strong for a movie from 1995. The ghostly effect of opacity around the fringes of the ghosts figures held up well. It does help (and I’ll say this time and time again), when they supplement the special effects with practical effects. No unnecessary CGI here.
What did I like about it and Why?
Let me sum up the majority of the reasons as to why Casper is a part of the #52PickUp:
Christina Ricci was my absolute first movie crush. Movies became so much more when I could relate with the characters’ plights and root for them to win. And boy did I want her and Devon Sawa (human Casper) to get together at the end of the movie.
Casper wasn’t the only the aforementioned adoration, it was so much more. I wouldn’t say it was “funny” as a kid, certainly amusing. But I never laughed out loud. I did love the Ghostbusters and Father crossovers, not to mention the cameos from Clint Eastwood, the Cryptkeeper and Mel Gibson.
Also FUN FACT: My former foster mother named one of her daughters Carrigan after the main villain!
- Casper came into my life at the beginning of my movie obsession.
- There was a reason why I thought Christina Ricci was pretty then, because she’s gorgeous now.
- If she ever comes across this, I’m going to look like a terrible perv.
Bonus– Stretch can speak Spanish!
Where Can You See it?
Check out Casper on CanIStream.It?