Casper (film)

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Casper
Casper poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBrad Silberling
Written by
Based on
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[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$55 million[2]
Box office$287.9 million[2]

Casper is a 1995 American fantasy film directed by Brad Silberling, in his feature film 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 and Eric Idle, with voice talents of Joe Nipote, Joe Alaskey, Brad Garrett and the film 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[2] on a $55 million[2] budget, and spawned two direct-to-video/made-for-TV indirect prequels, Casper: A Spirited Beginning (1997) and Casper Meets Wendy (1998) as follow-ups to the film and released by 20th Century Fox, 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 lawyer 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 there. Her envious classmate Amber plots with her friend, Vic (who Kat has a crush on), 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 in the attic 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 attempting to run Dibs over with her Range Rover, only to instead crash into a cliff-side tree. Upon exiting her car, Carrigan falls to her death and becomes 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, while still drunk, James accidentally falls to his death down a manhole.

In the laboratory, a furious ghostly 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. As Carrigan demands to be brought back to life, Casper and Kat trick Carrigan into saying that she has no unfinished business on Earth, causing her to eject herself into the afterlife. After Carrigan's ghost disintegrates and disappears, the chest she had been holding falls to the floor and the lid opens, revealing the treasure inside 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 and still in his drunken state, returns with Casper's uncles and after bringing him back to his senses, Kat's despair over this prompts Casper to sacrifice his one chance to return to life, restoring James 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, crediting 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, allowing him to attend the party and dance with Kat. 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, while explaining that the Ghostly Trio kept their promise to get him a meeting with her. 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, nonetheless, 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.

Cast[edit]

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.[4] Alex Proyas had initially signed on as director, but left due to creative differences with the screenplay.[5] 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.[6] J. J. Abrams did an uncredited rewrite of the script.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] The track "Descent into Lazarus" was used in a trailer for The Grinch another film by Universal Pictures and has music by James Horner. The soundtrack was remastered and reissued as a commemorative twenty-fifth anniversary edition by La-La Land Records on August 4, 2020. The soundtrack was originally released however on April 29, 1995, almost five weeks before the film.[12]

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic[citation needed]
Filmtracks[13]

All tracks are performed by James Horner except where noted

Track listing
No.TitleArtistLength
1."No Sign of Ghosts" 7:31
2."Carrigan and Dibbs" 2:40
3."Strangers in the House" 2:36
4."First Haunting/The Swordfight" 5:01
5."March of the Exorcists" 2:45
6."Lighthouse—Casper & Kat" 4:56
7."Casper Makes Breakfast" 3:41
8."Fond Memories" 3:38
9."'Dying' to Be a Ghost" 7:02
10."Casper's Lullaby" 5:39
11."Descent to Lazarus" 10:20
12."One Last Wish" 4:19
13."Remember Me This Way"Jordan Hill4:28
14."Casper the Friendly Ghost"Little Richard2:10
15."The Uncles Swing/End Credits" 6:23
Total length:1:14:09

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.[2]

Critical response[edit]

Casper has an approval rating of 51% based on 41 professional reviews on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 5.1/10. Its critical consensus reads, "A meandering, mindless family movie that frequently resorts to special effects and transparent sappiness."[14] Metacritic (which uses a weighted average) assigned Casper a score of 49 out of 100 based on 22 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[15] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "A" on scale of A to F.[16]

Time Out London described it as "an intimate and likeable film".[17] 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."[18] Robert Firsching of AllMovie gave the film his above average star rating while praising the film for its visual effects.[19]

The CGI effects, which were considered cutting edge at the time, and the performances of the main cast 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.

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.[20]

Accolades[edit]

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[21] 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 job of directing the 1998 film City of Angels, a remake of Wings of Desire starring Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan.[4]

TV series[edit]

A cartoon series, The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper, was released in 1996 based on the film.[22] Fatso (Season 1–2), Stinkie,[22] 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]

With Harvey Entertainment retaining prequel rights to Casper,[23] 20th Century Fox released two direct-to-video follow ups to the film; an indirect prequel, Casper: A Spirited Beginning[24] and its sequel Casper Meets Wendy in 1998.[25]

Cancelled sequel[edit]

Following the release of Casper, Simon Wells co-wrote a screenplay for Casper 2, 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.[26][27]

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.[28] An LCD handheld game was released for Tiger Electronics in 1995.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Casper". Australian Classification Board. July 3, 1995. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Casper". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ a b Ojumu, Akin (February 16, 2003). "The family that grieves together..." The Guardian. Retrieved July 16, 2017.
  5. ^ "Proyas vanishes from 'Casper' pic". Variety. 28 November 1993. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  6. ^ Khoury, Jorge (26 October 2008). "- Talking with Director Alex Proyas". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  7. ^ Jensen, Jeff (9 June 2011). "Super 8: Steven Spielberg meets J.J. Abrams". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  8. ^ "The physics of Casper the Friendly Ghost: why can't he open the door?". The Guardian. May 29, 2017. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  9. ^ "Visual and Special Effects Film Milestones". AMC Filmsite. Tim Dirks. Retrieved 2010-12-27.
  10. ^ Cindy Pearlman (1995-06-21). "Ghost Busters". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2014-12-02.
  11. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "New Universal Logo - Logos Through Time - 100th Anniversary (2012) HD". YouTube.
  12. ^ "CASPER: 25th ANNIVERSARY REMASTERED LIMITED EDITION (2-CD SET))". La-La Land Records. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
  13. ^ "Filmtracks: Casper (James Horner)".
  14. ^ "Casper". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 9, 2022. Edit this at Wikidata
  15. ^ "Casper". Metacritic. Red Ventures. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  16. ^ "CASPER (1995) A". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  17. ^ "Casper Review. Movie Reviews - Film - Time Out London". Timeout.com. Retrieved 2012-11-24.
  18. ^ Ebert, Roger (May 26, 1995). "Casper movie review & film summary (1995)". Chicago Sun-Times.
  19. ^ Firsching, Robert. "Review by Robert Firsching". AllMovie. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  20. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2014). Leonard Maltin's 2015 Movie Guide. Penguin. ISBN 978-0698183612.
  21. ^ "The Stinkers 1995 Ballot". Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Archived from the original on 11 July 2000.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Matzer, Marla (1997-04-16). "Direct-to-Video Family Films Are Hitting Home". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  24. ^ |last=Leydon |first=Joe |access-date=August 14, 2017 |work=Variety |date=October 1, 1997 }}
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ Duke, Paul (July 12, 2000). "Wells sets 'Time' with WB, D'Works". Variety. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  27. ^ Mink, Sammy (March 10, 2014). "{TB EXCLUSIVE} CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST SET TO FLY BACK INTO PRODUCTION!". The Tracking Board. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  28. ^ "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]