Casper (film)

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Casper
Casper poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrad Silberling
Produced byColin Wilson
Written by
Based onCasper the Friendly Ghost
by Seymour Reit
Joe Oriolo
Starring
Music byJames Horner
CinematographyDean Cundey
Edited byMichael Kahn
Production
company
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 26, 1995 (1995-05-26)
Running time
101 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$55 million[1]
Box office$287.9 million[1]

Casper is a 1995 American live-action/computer-animated fantasy comedy film directed by Brad Silberling, based on the Harvey Comics cartoon character Casper the Friendly Ghost created by Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo. The film stars Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman, Cathy Moriarty, Eric Idle, and Amy Brenneman, and also features the voices of Malachi Pearson in the title role as well as Joe Nipote, Joe Alaskey, and Brad Garrett.

The film makes extensive use of computer-generated imagery to create the ghosts, and it is the first feature film to have a fully CGI character in a leading role. It goes for a much darker interpretation of the Friendly Ghost in comparison to the comics, cartoons, and films of the previous years, especially with its theme of death, most notably addressing the tragic backstory of the character's death.

Casper was released in cinemas on May 26, 1995 by Universal Pictures. It received mixed reviews from critics and earned $287.9 million[1] on a $55 million[1] budget. It went on to spawn direct-to-video follow-up films and an animated television spin-off, The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper.

Plot[edit]

In the town of Friendship, Maine, two young boys named Nicky and Andreas enter a creepy, old mansion called Whipstaff Manor, apparently on a dare, but they are scared away by a ghost named Casper. Later, after the death of her father, neurotic and spoiled heiress Carrigan Crittenden discovers he has only left her Whipstaff Manor in his will. Carrigan and her assistant, Dibs, learn of a treasure allegedly hidden somewhere within the manor, but upon investigation, they find the manor haunted by Casper and his obnoxious prankster uncles, the Ghostly Trio, who scare the two off the property. The two make several attempts to force the ghosts out of the manor by way of paranormal experts and a demolitions team, to no avail. Meanwhile, a lonely Casper watches a news report of paranormal therapist James Harvey and is instantly smitten with his teenage daughter, Kat. Longing for a friend, this provides Casper the idea of inspiring Carrigan into summoning Dr. Harvey to Whipstaff. Harvey and Kat have an estranged relationship due to the former’s reputation and obsession with contacting the ghost of his late wife, Amelia. Moving into Whipstaff, Casper's attempt in befriending the Harveys fails when his uncles try to scare them out of the house.

The next morning, Casper manages to gain the Harveys' trust when he serves them breakfast. He follows Kat to school where she becomes popular when her class learns that she is living in Whipstaff, and agrees to host their Halloween party there. However, Amber, Kat’s classmate who immediately dislikes her, becomes envious of Kat stealing her spotlight, since the party was originally going to be held at her place. Amber plots with her boyfriend, Vic, to humiliate Kat during the party. Harvey meanwhile attempts to have therapy sessions with the Ghostly Trio, who reveal that they know Amelia; in exchange for getting Carrigan to leave them alone, they promise to go through the "red tape" involved to get Harvey a meeting with his wife.

Meanwhile, Kat learns Casper has no memory of his life and unlocks and restores his old playroom to remind him. Casper comes across an old wooden sled, recalling that when he was a young boy, his father bought it for him. Casper was so happy that he played outside on a very cold day until he caught a severe cold and died of pneumonia. After his death, he became a ghost to keep his father company. A newspaper article reveals that Casper’s father was declared legally insane after he built a machine named the Lazarus, which he claimed could bring the dead back to life. Casper and Kat venture down into the manor’s basement, where they discover the Lazarus. Carrigan and Dibs sneak in, steal the formula that powers the Lazarus, and plot to use the machine to their advantage, believing it could grant them immortality. However, the two attempt to kill each other in order to test the theory and retrieve the treasure which they think is in the basement's locked vault; as a result, Carrigan falls off a cliff to her death, and rises as a ghost.

Meanwhile, Dr. Harvey becomes dispassionate after the trio pull a prank on him, prompting them to take him out for a night on the town. Unknown to Harvey, they plan on killing him to make themselves a quartet, but end up having a change of heart after a drunken Harvey states that he is going to tell Carrigan off so they can stay in their home. However, Harvey accidentally falls to his death down a manhole.

Back in the secret laboratory, Carrigan confronts Casper and Kat, steals what she believes to be the treasure from the vault and launches Dibs out of a window when he tries to double-cross her and have the treasure for his own future. Casper and Kat trick Carrigan into stating that she has no unfinished business on Earth, causing her to be involuntarily ejected into the afterlife. The alleged treasure is revealed to be Casper’s prized baseball, signed by Duke Snider; the so-called map was actually part of game Casper played with his father. When Dr. Harvey returns with Casper's uncles, now as a ghost, Kat is distraught. Her despair prompts Casper to sacrifice his one chance to return to life once more, restoring her father instead.

The Halloween party kicks off upstairs. As Amber and Vic prepare their prank, they are thwarted by the Ghostly Trio, and flee the manor in terror. A dejected Casper is visited by the spirit of Amelia, who has become an angel in heaven instead of a ghost. As a reward for his selfless sacrifice, she temporarily transforms him into a human boy, until ten o’clock. The now flesh-and-blood Casper dances with Kat, while Amelia speaks with Harvey, revealing that she was so content with her husband and daughter while alive, that she has no unfinished business, encouraging him to move on. Amelia departs as the clock chimes ten and, after kissing Kat, Casper transforms back into a ghost, which scares off the party guests. Kat is impressed with the party, which Harvey says isn't over, cuing the Ghostly Trio to playing a song for them to dance to.

Cast[edit]

  • Malachi Pearson as the voice of Casper McFadden, a lonely ghost who was originally a 12-year-old boy who died of pneumonia. He spends most of his afterlife in Whipstaff dealing with his ghostly ghouling uncles' antics while hoping to find a friend. He finds one in Kat Harvey, while also falling in love with her.
  • Bill Pullman as Dr. James Harvey, Kat Harvey's father who is a ghost therapist interacting with the 'living impaired,' helping them to cross into the next dimension while hoping to find his deceased wife.
  • Christina Ricci as Kathleen "Kat" Harvey, Dr. James Harvey's 13-year-old daughter and Casper's love interest, who has lost her mother and wants to make a friend.
  • Cathy Moriarty as Catherine "Carrigan" Crittenden, a glamorous, treacherous, and greedy woman who was upset about her late father's only leaving Whipstaff to her in his will, until she discovers that the house contains treasure, and hires Dr. Harvey to get the ghosts out of the house in order to get it.
  • Joe Nipote as the voice of Stretch, the leading member of the Ghostly Trio and one of Casper's uncles who bonds with Dr. Harvey.
  • Joe Alaskey as the voice of Stinky, the second member of the Ghostly Trio and one of Casper's uncles who bonds with Dr. Harvey.
  • Brad Garrett as the voice of Fatso, the third member of the Ghostly Trio and one of Casper's uncles who bonds with Dr. Harvey.
  • Eric Idle as Paul "Dibs" Plutzker, Carrigan's assistant.
  • Garette Ratliff Henson as Vic DePhillippi, Kat's crush and Amber's boyfriend.
  • Jessica Wesson as Amber Whitmire, Kat's rival and Vic's girlfriend.
  • Amy Brenneman as Amelia Harvey, James' deceased wife and Kat's deceased mother.
  • Ben Stein as Rugg, Carrigan's lawyer.

Cameos[edit]

Production[edit]

Producer Steven Spielberg was planning a film adaptation of Casper the Friendly Ghost. He saw an episode of the television series Brooklyn Bridge directed by Brad Silberling and saw potential in this work, recruiting Silberling for directing Casper.[3] J. J. Abrams did an uncredited rewrite of the script.[4] The screenplay gave a backstory of Casper being the ghost of Casper McFadden, a boy who died of pneumonia at 12, though some of the comics, particularly in the 1960s, portrayed him as born a ghost to ghost parents.[5]

Extensive use of computer-generated imagery is used to create the ghosts, and it is the first feature film to have a fully CGI character in a leading role.[6] In the mirror scene, Dr. Harvey was also supposed to transform into Spielberg. According to director Silberling, the cameo was filmed, but was cut for pacing reasons. Spielberg was relieved, feeling that he is not much of an actor himself and was quite nervous in front of the camera.[7] Principal photography commenced on January 27, 1994, and ended on June 8, 1994.

Soundtrack[edit]

The soundtrack was composed by award-winning composer James Horner, who had worked on a number of previous movies for Amblin Entertainment, including An American Tail and The Land Before Time.

Casper
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedApril 29, 1995 (1995-04-29)
Recorded1994–1995
GenreSoundtrack
LabelMCA
Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic1.5/5 stars
  1. "No Sign of Ghosts"
  2. "Carrigan and Dibbs"
  3. "Strangers in the House"
  4. "First Haunting/The Swordfight"
  5. "March of the Exorcists"
  6. "Lighthouse—Casper & Kat"
  7. "Casper Makes Breakfast"
  8. "Fond Memories"
  9. "'Dying' to Be a Ghost"
  10. "Casper's Lullaby"
  11. "Descent to Lazarus"
  12. "One Last Wish"
  13. "Remember Me This Way" – Jordan Hill
  14. "Casper the Friendly Ghost" – Little Richard
  15. "The Uncles Swing/End Credits"

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Casper opened at #1 over the Memorial Day weekend, grossing $16,840,385 over its first three days from 2,714 theaters, averaging $6,205 per theater. Over four days it grossed $22,091,975, averaging $8,140 per theater. It stayed at #1 in its second weekend, grossing another $13,409,610, and boosting its 10-day cume to $38,921,225. It played solidly all through the summer, ending up with a final gross of $100,328,194 domestically, and an additional $187,600,000 internationally, for a total worldwide gross of $287,928,194, far exceeding its $55 million budget and becoming a commercial success.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

Brad Garrett was praised by critics for his performance.

Casper received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 44%, based on 36 reviews, with the site's critical consensus reading, "A meandering, mindless family movie that frequently resorts to special effects and transparent sappiness."[8] Time Out London described it as "an intimate and likeable film".[9] Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars, calling it a "technical achievement, it's impressive, and entertaining. And there is even a little winsome philosophy."[10] Robert Firsching of allmovie gave the film his average star rating while praising the film for its visual effects.

The CGI effects, which were considered cutting edge at the time, and the performances of Pullman and Ricci were praised, especially considering that, in the scenes where the Harveys interact with the ghosts, Pullman and Ricci were actually acting either with nothing or with stand-in maquettes used as animators' references.

Moriarty's performance was criticized, with Variety saying she does "a poor woman's Cruella de Vil".[11] In his 2015 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin gave the film a "BOMB" rating, objecting to the portrayal of Casper as a deceased child rather than a ghost.[12]

Legacy[edit]

The success of Casper secured Silberling the position of director for the 1998 City of Angels, a remake of Wings of Desire starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan.[3]

TV series[edit]

A cartoon series, The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper, was released in 1996 based on the film.[13] Fatso (Season 1-2), Stinkie,[13] Stretch and Casper were all voiced by the actors from the film, while Dr. Harvey was voiced by Dan Castellaneta, and Kat voiced by Kath Soucie.

Sequels and prequel[edit]

Following the release of Casper, Simon Wells co-wrote a screenplay for Casper 2, in which he was set to direct. However, in July 2000, it was reported that Universal Pictures had cancelled the sequel due to the disappointing sales from the direct-to-video Casper films and the hesitation of Christina Ricci.[14][15]

Two direct-to-video follow-ups to the film were released by 20th Century Fox. The prequel Casper: A Spirited Beginning was released in 1997,[16] and the sequel Casper Meets Wendy was released in 1998.[17]

Video games[edit]

There were several video games based on or tied-in with the film released on the major consoles of the time, such as the 3DO, Super NES, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Game Boy Color and original Game Boy. An LCD handheld game was released for Tiger Electronics in 1995.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Casper (1995)". Box Office Mojo. 1995-09-24. Retrieved 2012-11-24.
  2. ^ Cheng, Cheryl (2015-07-30). "N. Brock Winkless IV, the Puppeteer of Chucky in 'Child's Play,' Dies at 56". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-08-23.
  3. ^ a b Ojumu, Akin (February 16, 2003). "The family that grieves together..." The Guardian. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  4. ^ Jensen, Jeff (9 June 2011). "Super 8: Steven Spielberg meets J.J. Abrams". ew.com. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  5. ^ "The physics of Casper the Friendly Ghost: why can't he open the door?". The Guardian. May 29, 2017. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  6. ^ "Visual and Special Effects Film Milestones". AMC Filmsite. Tim Dirks. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  7. ^ Cindy Pearlman (1995-06-21). "Ghost Busters". EW.com. Retrieved 2014-12-02.
  8. ^ http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/casper/
  9. ^ "Casper Review. Movie Reviews - Film - Time Out London". Timeout.com. Retrieved 2012-11-24.
  10. ^ "Casper :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. 1995-05-26. Retrieved 2012-11-24.
  11. ^ Lowry, Brian (1995-05-21). "Variety Reviews - Casper - Film Reviews - - Review by Brian Lowry". Variety.com. Retrieved 2012-11-24.
  12. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2014). Leonard Maltin's 2015 Movie Guide. Penguin. ISBN 0698183614.
  13. ^ a b Cabrera, Maria (February 7, 2016). "Joe Alaskey Dies: Voice Of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck & Tweety Passes Away [VIDEO]". Enstars. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  14. ^ Duke, Paul (July 12, 2000). "Wells sets 'Time' with WB, D'Works". Variety. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  15. ^ Mink, Sammy (March 10, 2014). "{TB EXCLUSIVE} CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST SET TO FLY BACK INTO PRODUCTION!". The Tracking Board. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  16. ^ Leydon, Joe (October 1, 1997). "Review: 'Casper, A Spirited Beginning'". Variety. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  17. ^ McGahan, Michelle (October 17, 2016). "Hilary Duff's 'Casper Meets Wendy' Snapchat Is The Halloween Throwback We All Need — PHOTO". Bustle. Retrieved August 14, 2017.

External links[edit]