Casper (film)

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Casper
Casper poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrad Silberling
Screenplay by
Based onCasper the Friendly Ghost
by Seymour Reit
Joe Oriolo
and Vincent E. Valentine II
Produced byColin Wilson
Starring
CinematographyDean Cundey
Edited byMichael Kahn
Music byJames Horner
Production
companies
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 supernatural comedy-drama film directed by Brad Silberling, in his feature directorial debut, 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 also features the voices of Joe Nipote, Joe Alaskey, Brad Garrett and the introduction of Malachi Pearson in the title role.

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 the lead 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 providing the character a tragic backstory that addresses his death.

Casper was released in cinemas on May 26, 1995, by Universal Pictures. It received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the film for its faithfulness to its source material (specifically the title character's portrayal), visual effects, music score, and performances, but criticized its dark story and humor. The film earned $287.9 million[1] on a $55 million[1] budget, and went on to spawn two direct-to-video/made-for-TV follow-up films and an animated television spin-off, The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper.

Plot[edit]

In Friendship, Maine following the death of her father, neurotic and spoiled heiress Carrigan Crittenden discovers she has only been left Whipstaff Manor in his will while his vast wealth has gone to several charities. Carrigan and her best friend Dibs find a map within the will's papers that tell of an alleged treasure hidden inside the manor, but find the property haunted by a ghost named Casper and his poltergeist uncles the Ghostly Trio. They unsuccessfully attempt to force the ghosts out by way of paranormal experts and a demolitions team. A lonely Casper watches a news report about paranormal therapist James Harvey and is instantly smitten with his teenage daughter, Kat, prompting Casper to inspire Carrigan in summoning James to Whipstaff. Kat dislikes her father's reputation and obsession with contacting the ghost of his late wife, Amelia. The Harveys move into Whipstaff, but Casper's attempt to befriend them fails when his uncles try to torment and scare them away, which eventually fails.

Casper gains the Harveys' trust when he serves them breakfast, and follows Kat to school, where she becomes popular when her class learns she is living in Whipstaff, and agrees to host their Halloween party. Her envious classmate Amber plots with her boyfriend, Vic, to humiliate Kat during the party. James attempts therapy sessions with the Ghostly Trio, who not only try to avoid them, but also reveal they know Amelia; in exchange for convincing Carrigan to leave them alone, they promise to go through the "red tape" involved to get James a meeting with his wife.

Kat learns Casper has no memory of his life, and restores his old playroom to remind him. Casper recognizes an old wooden sled his father bought him, and remembers playing outside until he caught a severe cold and died of pneumonia, becoming a ghost to keep his father company. A newspaper article reveals that Casper's father was declared legally insane after he built a machine, the Lazarus, which he claimed could bring the dead back to life. Casper and Kat venture to the basement and find the Lazarus. Carrigan and Dibs sneak inside, steal the formula that powers the Lazarus, and plot to use the machine, believing it could grant them immortality. However, they attempt to kill each other to test the theory and retrieve the treasure they think is in the basement's locked vault. This culminates in Carrigan's attempt to run Dibs over but instead she crashes into a cliff-side tree. Exiting her Range Rover, Carrigan falls to her death and rises as a ghost.

James becomes despondent after the trio pull a prank on him, prompting them to take him out on the town. They plan on killing him to make themselves a quartet but have a change of heart after the drunken therapist declares he will tell Carrigan off so they can stay in their home. However, James accidentally falls to his death down a manhole.

In the laboratory, Carrigan confronts Casper and Kat, stealing what she believes to be the treasure from the vault and launching Dibs out a window when he tries to double-cross her. Casper and Kat trick Carrigan into saying that she has no unfinished business on Earth, causing her to eject herself into the afterlife. The treasure is revealed to be Casper's prized baseball, signed by Duke Snider; the map was part of a game Casper played with his father. James, now a ghost, returns with Casper's uncles, and Kat's despair over this prompts Casper to sacrifice his one chance to return to life, restoring her father instead.

The Halloween party kicks off upstairs; Amber and Vic's prank is thwarted by the Ghostly Trio, and they flee in terror. Amelia, now an angel meets with Casper alone in his toy room and credits him for his bravery and sacrifice and grants him a Cinderella-type deal that he can have until ten o'clock back as his younger, physical self. A blonde-haired boy approaches Kat, who's watching the other dancers sat by herself, and brings her to the dancefloor and dances with her, and it is revealed to be Casper who had his wish granted by Amelia. Amelia meets with James and tells him that she was so content with her family while alive that she has no unfinished business, and encourages him to move on, explaining that the Ghostly Trio kept their promise to find her for James. Amelia departs as the clock chimes ten promising James that they and Kat will be together again one day and, after kissing Kat, Casper transforms back into a ghost, scaring off the guests. Kat is impressed with the party, which James says is not over, cueing the Ghostly Trio to play their nephew's theme for them to dance to the haunted house.

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 ghoulish uncles' antics while hoping to find a friend. He finds one in Kat, while also developing a crush on her.
  • Christina Ricci as Kathleen "Kat" Harvey, James' 13-year-old daughter and Casper's love interest who has lost her mother and wants to make a friend. Before Ricci was cast, Scarlett Johansson and Kirsten Dunst were both considered.
  • Bill Pullman as Dr. James Harvey, Kat's father; a ghost therapist interacting with the 'living impaired', helping them to cross into the next dimension while hoping to find his deceased wife. Before Pullman was cast, Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, Billy Crystal, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Martin Short, John Ritter, and Kurt Russell were considered.
  • 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 Stinkie, the second member of the Ghostly Trio with bad breath and one of Casper's uncles who bonds with Dr. Harvey.
  • Brad Garrett as the voice of Fatso, the unintelligent third member of the Ghostly Trio and one of Casper's uncles who bonds with Dr. Harvey.
  • Cathy Moriarty as Catherine "Carrigan" Crittenden, a glamorous, treacherous, and greedy woman upset about her late father only leaving Whipstaff to her in his will. She discovers that the house contains treasure, and hires Dr. Harvey to exorcise the ghosts in order to get it.
  • Eric Idle as Paul "Dibs" Plutzker, Carrigan's attorney.
  • 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's deceased wife and Kat's deceased mother.
  • Ben Stein as Rugg, Carrigan's lawyer.
  • Chauncey Leopardi and Spencer Vrooman as Nicky and Andreas, two preteen boys who explore Whipstaff in the opening scene.
  • Wesley Thompson as Mr Curtis, Kat, Amber and Vic's form teacher.
  • Michael McCarty as a bar drunk.

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] Alex Proyas had initially signed on as director, but left due to creative differences with the screenplay.[4] In an interview with Comic Book Resources, he claimed that he was intrigued with doing a children's fantasy, and wanted to do a more dark film, akin to The Wizard of Oz.[5] J. J. Abrams did an uncredited rewrite of the script.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9] Principal photography began 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. The track "One Last Wish" would go on to accompany Universal Pictures' "Logos Through Time" Montage, as part of their centennial anniversary.[10] The soundtrack was remastered and reissued as a commemorative twenty-fifth anniversary edition by La-La Land Records on August 4, 2020.[11]

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. "Same Song" – Digital Underground
  14. "Remember Me This Way" – Jordan Hill
  15. "Casper the Friendly Ghost" – Little Richard
  16. "The Uncles Swing/End Credits"

Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Casper opened at #1 over the Memorial Day weekend, grossing $16.8 million over its first three days from 2,714 theaters, averaging $6,205 per theater. Over four days it grossed $22.1 million, averaging $8,140 per theater. It stayed at #1 in its second weekend, grossing another $13.4 million, and boosting its 10-day cume to $38.9 million. It played solidly all through the summer, ending up with a final gross of $100.3 million in North America, and an additional $187.6 million internationally, for a total worldwide gross of $287.9 million, far exceeding its $55 million budget and becoming a commercial success.[1]

Critical response[edit]

Brad Garrett was praised by critics for his performance.[citation needed]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 51%, based on 41 reviews, with the site's critical consensus reading, "A meandering, mindless family movie that frequently resorts to special effects and transparent sappiness."[12] On Metacritic the film has a score of 49% based on reviews from 22 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[13] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade A on scale of A to F.[14]

Time Out London described it as "an intimate and likeable film".[15] 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."[16] Robert Firsching of AllMovie gave the film his above average star rating while praising the film for its visual effects.[17]

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".[18] 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.[19]

Accolades[edit]

The film was nominated for Worst Picture at the 1995 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards but lost to Showgirls.[20]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Kids' Choice Awards May 11, 1996 Favorite Movie Casper Nominated
Saturn Awards June 25, 1996 Best Performance by a Younger Actor Christina Ricci Won
Best Fantasy Film Casper Nominated
Stinkers Bad Movie Awards[20] 1996 Worst Picture Universal Pictures Nominated
Young Artist Awards 1996 Best Performance by a Young Actor: Voiceover Role Malachi Pearson Won
Best Family Feature: Musical or Comedy Nominated
Best Young Leading Actress: Feature Film Christina Ricci Nominated

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.[21] Fatso (Season 1–2), Stinkie,[21] 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.

Prequels[edit]

Harvey Entertainment retained prequel rights to Casper.[22] Two direct-to-video follow-ups to the film were released by 20th Century Fox. An indirect prequel Casper: A Spirited Beginning was released in 1997,[23] and its sequel Casper Meets Wendy was released in 1998.[24]

Cancelled sequel[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.[25][26]

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. A Casper game for Sega Genesis was planned but never released.[27] 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. ^ "Proyas vanishes from 'Casper' pic". Variety. 28 November 1993. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  5. ^ Khoury, Jorge (26 October 2008). "- Talking with Director Alex Proyas". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  6. ^ Jensen, Jeff (9 June 2011). "Super 8: Steven Spielberg meets J.J. Abrams". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  7. ^ "The physics of Casper the Friendly Ghost: why can't he open the door?". The Guardian. May 29, 2017. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  8. ^ "Visual and Special Effects Film Milestones". AMC Filmsite. Tim Dirks. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  9. ^ Cindy Pearlman (1995-06-21). "Ghost Busters". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2014-12-02.
  10. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E98iTbFqRuM
  11. ^ "CASPER: 25th ANNIVERSARY REMASTERED LIMITED EDITION (2-CD SET))". La-La Land Records. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
  12. ^ "Casper (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  13. ^ "Casper". Metacritic. Retrieved 2020-10-01.
  14. ^ "CASPER (1995) A". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  15. ^ "Casper Review. Movie Reviews - Film - Time Out London". Timeout.com. Retrieved 2012-11-24.
  16. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 26, 1995). "Casper movie review & film summary (1995)". Chicago Sun-Times.
  17. ^ Firsching, Robert. "Review by Robert Firsching". AllMovie. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  18. ^ Lowry, Brian (22 May 1995). "Casper". Variety (magazine).
  19. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2014). Leonard Maltin's 2015 Movie Guide. Penguin. ISBN 978-0698183612.
  20. ^ a b "The Stinkers 1995 Ballot". Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Archived from the original on 11 July 2000.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Matzer, Marla (1997-04-16). "Direct-to-Video Family Films Are Hitting Home". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  23. ^ Leydon, Joe (October 1, 1997). "Review: 'Casper, A Spirited Beginning'". Variety. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ Duke, Paul (July 12, 2000). "Wells sets 'Time' with WB, D'Works". Variety. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  26. ^ Mink, Sammy (March 10, 2014). "{TB EXCLUSIVE} CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST SET TO FLY BACK INTO PRODUCTION!". The Tracking Board. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  27. ^ "Titles Designed & Developed By RSP". Riedel Software Productions. October 16, 1997. Archived from the original on 1998-01-27. Retrieved 2020-12-04.

External links[edit]