It’s that time of year again-Halloween time. Let’s kick it off with a classic movie- Casper. Casper the Friendly Ghost can definitely connect to our inner child. They have so much in common with him, sometimes feeling misunderstood and remembering little of their earlier lives. In a world filled with all different kinds of demons, Casper reassures us there is good in the bad. In a universe of scary ghosts, it's nice to know there's one on your side.
At the time of the movie being released, May 1995, there was a bit of speculation about the coming age of computerized performances in the movies, when we will see whole characters made up of bits and bytes. Casper and his uncles - Stretch, Stinkie and Fatso - dominate a movie that essentially stars computer programming. Ghosts offer, to be sure, certain advantages to the programmers, since their bodies are soft and changeable, but their faces display a full range of emotion, and they are as real as the human characters in the film.
As the movie begins, a rich man's daughter named Carrigan (Cathy Moriarity) learns that her father has left her nothing in his will, except for crumbling Whipstaff Manor in Maine. She's extremely enraged, until her assistant, Dibs (Eric Idle), discovers a secret message suggesting that a vast treasure may be hidden there. They leave immediately for Maine - where they discover that Whipstaff Manor is haunted.
She is determined to get rid of the ghosts. Carrigan comes across interesting characters ranging from an exorcist (Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci) and a ghostbuster (Dan Aykroyd). She still can not seem to find a solution to her problem. Meanwhile, Casper, the resident ghost, pulls himself away from watching "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" long enough to learn, on the news, about a ghost psychiatrist who specializes in helping spirits come to peace with themselves, so they won't need to haunt any longer.
Casper draws the program to Carrigan's attention in an insistent if ghostly way, and soon the psychiatrist (Bill Pullman) is on the case, along with his daughter Kat (Christina Ricci). Kat and Casper soon become great friends very quickly, and Casper is telling her what it's like to be a ghost: "You know that tingling feeling when your foot falls asleep? I think I'm made of that." Unfortunately, the presence of flesh and blood in Whipstaff Manor draws Casper's uncles from an ectoplasm, and things grow to an excitement.
There are funny lines in the movie, as when the politically correct ghost psychiatrist observes, "You can call them ghosts or, as I prefer, the living impaired." The uncles could be a vaudeville team. And Moriarty makes a ferocious antagonist, clicking around Whipstaff in her high heels and trying to claim it as her own.
The real stars of the movie are the special effects and animation artists. The story is more or less what you'd expect, and there is only so much you can do with a relationship between a little girl and a ghost. Whipstaff comes alive with amazing achievements in art direction, set design, and gizmos like a chair that will brush your teeth while hurtling you down a rail at terrifying speeds. The use of special effects also allows sight gags that couldn't be done any other way, as when a car squeals to a stop on the edge of a towering cliff, just in the nick of time, and then a relieved character opens the door and steps out into nothingness.
"Casper" is a successful attempt to bring cartoons to life while incorporating them with real actors and sets. It is a technical achievement, while being very impressive and entertaining. And there is even a little winsome philosophy, as when Casper sadly tells Kat, "I guess when you're a ghost, life just doesn't matter that much anymore." Casper embodies a lot of values, one being to live life to the fullest before it's over.