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 fantasy comedy-drama 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 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 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 Friendship, Maine, young boys Nicky and Andreas enter Whipstaff Manor on a dare, but are scared away by a ghost named Casper.

Meanwhile, following the death of her father, neurotic and spoiled heiress Carrigan Crittenden discovers she has only been left Whipstaff Manor in his will. Carrigan and her assistant, 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 Casper and his poltergeist uncles, the Ghostly Trio, and 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 Dr. Harvey to Whipstaff. Harvey and Kat are estranged due to his 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.

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. Harvey attempts therapy sessions with the Ghostly Trio, who reveal they know Amelia; in exchange for convincing Carrigan to leave them alone, they promise to go through the "red tape" involved to get Harvey 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; Carrigan falls off a cliff to her death, and rises as a ghost.

Dr. Harvey becomes despondent after the trio prank 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 a drunken Harvey declares he will tell Carrigan off so they can stay in their home. However, Harvey 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 stating that she has no unfinished business on Earth, causing her to be ejected into the afterlife. The treasure is revealed to be Casper's prized baseball, signed by Duke Snider; the so-called map was part of a game Casper played with his father. Dr. Harvey, 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, and Amber and Vic’s prank is thwarted by the Ghostly Trio, and they flee in terror. A dejected Casper is visited by the angel of Amelia, who rewards him for his selflessness by temporarily transforming him into a human boy. Casper dances with Kat, while Amelia meets with Harvey 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 in the end to find her for Harvey. Amelia departs as the clock chimes ten and, after kissing Kat, Casper transforms back into a ghost, scaring off the guests. Kat is impressed with the party, which Harvey says is not over, cuing the Ghostly Trio to play their nephew's theme 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 ghoulish uncles' antics while hoping to find a friend. He finds one in Kat Harvey, while also developing a crush on her.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.

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 song)" – Digital Underground
  14. "Remember Me This Way" – Jordan Hill (singer)
  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 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 above 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.

Cancelled Sequel/Prequel[edit]

Harvey Entertainment retained prequel rights to Casper.[14] 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,[15] and the sequel Casper Meets Wendy was released in 1998.[16]

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.[17][18]

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. ^ Matzer, Marla (1997-04-16). "Direct-to-Video Family Films Are Hitting Home". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 June 2011.
  15. ^ Leydon, Joe (October 1, 1997). "Review: 'Casper, A Spirited Beginning'". Variety. Retrieved August 14, 2017.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Duke, Paul (July 12, 2000). "Wells sets 'Time' with WB, D'Works". Variety. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  18. ^ Mink, Sammy (March 10, 2014). "{TB EXCLUSIVE} CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST SET TO FLY BACK INTO PRODUCTION!". The Tracking Board. Retrieved November 12, 2018.

External links[edit]