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Casper

Casper poster

Casper poster

Directed by Brad Silberling
Produced by Paul Deason

Jeff Franklin Gerald R. Molen Jeffrey A. Montgomery Steven Spielberg

Written by Joseph Oriolo(characters)Sherri StonerDeanna Oliver
Starring Bill Pullman

Christina Ricci Malachi Pearson (voice) Cathy Moriarty Eric Idle

Music by James Horner
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) 26 May, 1995
Running time 100 min.
Language English

Casper is a 1995live-actionfeature film based on the Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons and comic strips. The ghosts featured in the film were created through computer-generated imagery.


Casper is a 1995 live-action feature film based on the Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons and comic strips. The ghosts featured in the film were created through computer-generated imagery.

The film's plot involves a greedy heiress (Cathy Moriarty) and her bumbling henchman (Eric Idle) hiring an eccentric "ghost therapist" (Bill Pullman) to exorcise the spectral inhabitants of ahaunted house fabled to contain treasure. Casper, the spirit of a deceased twelve-year-old according to the film, befriends the therapist's young daughter (Christina Ricci). Notably, this film is the only time an official explanation has been given as to how Casper died.

The film led to an animated television spin-off entitled The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper, which featured the same voice actors as the film with Dan Castellaneta and Kath Soucie voicing Pullman and Ricci's characters. Casper and his uncles were later animated with computer-generated imagery in the films Casper: A Spirited Beginning, Casper Meets Wendy,Casper's Haunted Christmas and Casper's Scare School, which do not follow the same plot line as this film. The ghosts featured in the film were created through computer-generated imagery.

PlotEdit

The film opens in the town of Friendship, Maine with two young boys (Chauncey Leopardi andSpencer Vrooman) entering a creepy, old mansion called Whipstaff Manor, apparently on a dare, but they are scared away by Casper (voice of Malachi Pearson).

Meanwhile, the ruthless Carrigan Crittenden (Moriarty), is infuriated when she discovers that her recently deceased wealthy father gave his entire fortune to environmental causes and that all he has left to her is Whipstaff Manor. However, when she throws the will into the fireplace, a secret message is revealed that states Whipstaff Manor has a treasure hidden inside. Along with Dibbs (Idle), a man whose relationship to her is not explained, Crittenden travels to Whipstaff Manor and enters the house, only to meet Casper and his beastly uncles the Ghostly Trio(voices of Joe Nipote, Joe Alaskey and Brad Garrett).Crittenden and Dibbs hire a priest (Don Novello) and a ghostbuster (Dan Aykroyd), but both are unsuccessful. Crittenden even hires a demolition team to tear down the house, but the Ghostly Trio scares them away as well.

Eventually, Casper sees a news story about Dr. James Harvey (Pullman), who explains that ghosts are simply spirits that have unfinished business on Earth and that as an "afterlife therapist" he tries to help ghosts come to terms with their "unfinished business" so they can cross over into the next world. Dr. Harvey has become an afterlife therapist in an effort to find the ghost of his late wife Amelia, but his teenage daughter Kat (Ricci) is unhappy that she never gets to stay very long in any school, thus not being able to make any lasting friends. Using his ghostly powers, Casper draws the news story to the attention of Crittenden and she hires Dr. Harvey.

Just before the Harveys arrive at Whipstaff Manor, Dr. Harvey promises Kat that his next assignment will be his last and they seal the agreement as a pinky promise. Once they reach the house, they encounter Crittenden and Dibbs. Crittenden is aghast to discover that it may take a long time for Dr. Harvey to get rid of the ghosts and makes it clear that she won't pay him until the ghosts are gone. The Harveys enter the house and Kat goes upstairs by herself to find a bedroom for herself. Casper, apparently having a crush on her, tries to work up the courage to speak to her, but gets her attention by accident and scares her.

Her father runs upstairs to see what's wrong, but he is as terrified by the sight of a real ghost as she is. Dr. Harvey frantically takes his daughter into a closet and tells her to stay there while he confronts the ghosts by himself. Meanwhile, the Ghostly Trio arrive home from a night's hauntings. Casper tries to convince them to eat outside, but they realize that he's trying to keep them out of the house and shoot him into the sky like a rubber band. With Casper out of the way, the trio finds Dr. Harvey and begin attacking him. He ends up fighting them, but he eventually discovers that he can defeat them by sucking them up with a vacuum cleaner.

The next morning, Kat enters the kitchen, first clearing the area with a hand-held vacuum. Casper meets her there and manages to explain to her that he's a friendly ghost. As Casper serves Kat breakfast and entertains her with questions about what it's like to be a ghost, the two begin to bond. Kat's father, apparently still agitated from last night, arrives a bit later, but when the Ghostly Trio arrive, they become angry at Casper for serving the "intruders" first. Kat tries to defend Casper, but her father hurries her off to school.

At school, Kat is not treated too nicely by the other students, especially Amber Whitmire (Jessica Wesson). When Kat tells the other students that she lives at Whipstaff Manor, they are shocked to discover that she actually lives inside the haunted mansion. Much to Amber's chagrin the class unanimously votes to move the setting of their Halloween party from her house to Whipstaff Manor. Meanwhile, Casper follows Kat to school, sneaks in her classroom, and ties all the other kids shoelaces together, so that they all trip when the bell rings to get back at them for their treatment of Kat.

In their first session with him, the Ghostly Trio trash several of Dr. Harvey's possessions. Dr. Harvey lets them do this until they try to destroy a photograph of his wife. To his surprise, the trio display an awareness of Amelia and he asks them whether they have a way of contacting others of their kind. They tell him that it involves a lot of difficult paperwork, but that they'll manage it if he keeps "that ghoul Crittenden off our backs."

Meanwhile, Vic DePhillippi (Garette Ratliff Henson) asks Kat to the dance and she agrees. Vic, however, is revealed to be in cahoots with Amber, who wants to get back at Kat, although he shows that he doesn't like the idea. Casper shows signs of being jealous of Vic, but Kat is insistent that she can't go to the Halloween dance with a ghost. In order to impress her, Casper takes her to a lighthouse. When she asks him about his life, he realizes that he doesn't remember any of it and sadly informs her that, when you're a ghost, none of that really matters anymore.

Kat speaks to her father about how she wants to look "date nice" at the dance with Vic. He tells that he would love to buy her whatever she wants, but says that he won't get any money until Crittenden pays him. Later, the Ghostly Trio observe him packing his things. Fearing that he may be moving out, they decide to give him "our own prescription" and take him to a bar. Taking advantage of the Ghostly Trio being out of the house, Crittenden and Dibbs enter the house to search for the treasure.

Meanwhile, Kat finds some of Casper's old possessions from when he was alive and he starts to remember his life. He takes Kat up to the attic, where he discovers an old sled. This causes him to remember how he died and he tells Kat:

I begged and begged my dad to give me this sled, but he acted like I couldn't even have it, because I didn't know how to ride. But then one morning, I came down for breakfast and there it was, just for me, for no reason at all. I took it out, went sledding all day. My dad said "that's enough," but I couldn't stop I was having so much fun. It got late...got dark...got cold...and I got sick. My dad got sad...

Kat and Casper find an old newspaper article that explains how Casper's father, a great inventor, built a machine called the Lazarus that can bring ghosts back to life. Casper takes Kat to his father's secret laboratory, which is filled with various steampunk-esque contraptions, including the Lazarus. Crittenden and Dibbs follow, finding that the laboratory also contains the vault leading to the treasure. Meanwhile, Kat finds a glass capsule containing just enough of what Casper describes as "kind of an instant primordial soup mix" to bring one ghost back to life.

Unable to open the vault, Crittenden and Dibbs steal the capsule, realizing that if one of them were to die, they could go through the vault door, get the treasure out and come back to life. Not able to decide which one of them should die, they make several attempts to kill each other. This culminates with Crittenden falling to her death off the edge of a cliff. Now a monstrous ghost, she flies into the laboratory and grabs the treasure chest inside the vault. However, Casper steals the capsule back from Dibbs and takes Kat upstairs so she can welcome the kids who have arrived for the Halloween party.

Back downstairs, Kat and Casper install the potion into the Lazarus only to find Crittenden inside the machine. She orders Dibbs to turn her human again, but he turns on her, prompting her to angrily fling him out a window. Kat and Casper point out that people only become ghosts because they have "unfinished business" and ask Crittenden what hers is. Crittenden declares that she has no unfinished business, thereby accidentally causing herself to cross-over. The treasure chest falls to the floor and opens, revealing the "treasure" was actually a baseballautographed by Duke Snider, Casper's favorite player.

Meanwhile, Dr. Harvey, out at a bar with the Ghostly Trio, gets drunk and falls into an open sewer. Now a ghost himself, he flies into the laboratory with the Ghostly Trio. As a ghost, he is now loud and goofy like the trio, but he apparently has no memory of his daughter. While Casper's uncles are very pleased with this, Kat is driven to tears. However, when she makes the gesture of the pinky promise with her ghostly father, he finally remembers her. Casper realizes that Dr. Harvey must be brought back to life, thereby making it so Casper must remain a ghost.

With her father brought back to life, Kat goes back upstairs to join the party. Amber and Vic sneak into the house planning to freak Kat out by dressing up as a spooky creature, obviously unaware that Kat lives with real ghosts. However, they encouter the Ghostly Trio, who scare them and cause them to run wildly out into the foyer. Their costume falls apart, ruining their prank, but they keep running to Kat's confusion and the applause of the other students.

Amelia Harvey (Amy Brenneman) appears to Casper, revealing that she became an angel instead of a ghost. For his selfless act of bringing Dr. Harvey back to life instead of himself, she allows Casper to become alive again until ten for the Halloween party as a "sort of a Cinderelladeal." Amelia later appears to her husband and explains to him that, because he and Kat loved her so well when she was alive, she had no unfinished business and tells him to not let her become his.

The human Casper (Devon Sawa) joins the party and dances with Kat, but he turns back into a ghost just when he and Kat kiss, freaking out all the other kids and causing them to run wildly out of the mansion. Kat wryly comments that that "wasn't bad for my first party," but her father tells her that the party isn't over yet and the Ghostly Trio begin playing rock music. The disembodied voice of Little Richard sings the theme to "Casper the Friendly Ghost" as Kat, her father and Casper dance together and the end credits start to roll.

CharactersEdit

CasperEdit

Main article: Casper the Friendly Ghost

Casper McFadden has been haunting his family home of Whipstaff Manor for some time, having died after he played out in the cold for too long when he was twelve years old. A newspaper seen during the scene in the attic says he died from pneumonia, but this is factually inaccurate. [1] Now in the care of his three wicked uncles, Stretch, Stinkie and Fatso, Casper's afterlife is not exactly pleasant. He has had to put up with his uncles' outrageous antics and his wish to gain a friend is always ruined. Casper is very friendly and outgoing, but he sometimes appears rather shy.

The Ghostly TrioEdit

Main article: The Ghostly Trio

The Ghostly Trio are Casper's uncles, and they hate humans, or as they call them, "fleshies" and "bone-bags." They include Stretch, the hot-headed leader, Stinkie who almost always smells and uses his bad breath on others, and Fatso, who loves to eat. The three are chaotic in every sense and can't resist scaring no matter what the cost. However, there is a turning point to their horrid ways when they keep their promise to Dr. Harvey, and get his wife Amelia for him.

Dr. HarveyEdit

Dr. James Harvey (or "Doc" as he is called by the Ghostly Trio) is a psychiatrist and is shown to be an alumnus of Johns Hopkins University. After his wife Amelia's death, he has gone on to become a "ghost therapist," only to find and make contact with his wife, because he believes she is a ghost. However, after learning that she instead became an angel, he and his teenage daughter Kat stay at their new home of Whipstaff, at least according to The Spooktacular New Adventures of Casper.

Dr. Harvey has to put up with the Ghostly Trio, who have learned to like him, but he has as well. Dr. Harvey is an easy-going guy with a big heart. He obviously loves Kat, although he sometimes appears rather neglectful of his now motherless daughter's emotional needs. As demonstrated in the scene where he speaks with his angelic wife, he is worried that he's not taking good care of her, but Amelia assured him that he was doing a good job, although she gave him some "motherly" advice ("Don't pick up the extension every time she gets a phone call, french fries are not a breakfast food..." etc.)

Kat HarveyEdit

Kathleen "Kat" Harvey is the daughter of Dr. Harvey and a fairly typical teenager with a cool sense of humor. She is about thirteen years old (though Ricci was actually fifteen when the movie was filmed) and is a generally good companion to Casper. Kat hates having to put up with the Ghostly Trio, because none of them get along with her as would be expected.

Throughout the film, she and Casper have a romance of sorts, in which, for the most part, he is infatuated with her, but she can't get past the fact that he's a ghost. However, despite not reciprocating his obvious interest until the end of the film, in which he temporarily becomes human and they kiss at the Halloween dance, she still appears to care for him.

Carrigan CrittendenEdit

Carrigan Crittenden is the film's villain and she is thus very nasty and selfish. Her late father had a huge fortune, but he didn't leave any of it to her, which deeply angers her. Therefore, upon discovering that the old mansion that he did leave to her may contain treasure, she becomes obsessed with possessing the treasure for herself. At the end of the film, she dies and becomes a ghost, but is tricked into crossing over.

She is unmarried as evidence by the fact that she is referred to as "Miss Crittenden." The fact that her father owned Whipstaff Manor seems to indicate that either she and Casper are distantly related or that someone in her family bought the mansion from someone in his. In her ghostly form, she tended to use stereotypical "evil laughter" frequently, although the only time she used it when she was alive was when she was trying to run Dibbs down with her car.

DibbsEdit

Paul "Dibbs" Plutzker appears to work for Carrigan Crittenden as a kind of toady despite the fact she constantly belittles him. Although he is technically a villain, he doesn't seem to be as nasty a person as she is. His motivations are unclear, but he turns on her when he thinks he has the advantage, only to be cast out of a window by her. The film doesn't explain what happens to him after this or even if he survived. His full name is only known from the end credits, since he is always referred to as "Dibbs" in the actual film.

Some reviewers have identified him as her lawyer, since he acts much as a lawyer in the scene which him and Carrigan are introduced, but his behavior later in the film is very atypical of a lawyer. The most likely connection between Crittenden and Dibbs seems to be that they are lovers. For example, he refers to her with terms such as "sweetheart" and "baby" throughout the movie, in one scene she seems to kiss him on the lips and he tells her that "we're through" after turning on her. When he introduces himself to the Harveys, he says he's a "close personal friend" of hers.

Plot holes and contradictionsEdit

According to the film's trailer, Casper has been dead for over one hundred years, but the fact that he owns a baseball autographed by Duke Snider, which, presumably, he got while he was still alive, means he could not have died any earlier than the 1940s. However, earlier in the film Mr. Rugg (Ben Stein) said that Whipstaff Manor was "lousy fifty years ago...now it's condemned." The film was made in the 1990s, so fifty years ago would be the 1940s, making the house "lousy" while Casper was still living. Alternatively, Casper's father got it for him after Casper died. In Casper: A Spirited Beginning, he dies in the present day.

Furthermore, this means that Whipstaff Manor is, apparently, condemned, making it unclear how the Harveys can be allowed to live there, especially after Crittenden's death since she legally owned the house and they were only living in it under her authority.

Crittenden and Dibbs are seen walking down the chair's track into the McFadden laboratory, while, earlier, they were riding in the chair. Also, the fact that they were in the chair at all is strange considering that the chair seemed to have remained in the laboratory with Kat and Casper the whole time; unless there was a second chair to begin with.

When she allows Casper to come alive again until ten, Amelia tells Casper, when he asks why Cinderella got until midnight, that "Cinderella wasn't twelve years old." Earlier in the film when Casper is explaining his death to Kat, the camera goes over a bunch of newspaper articles and one says "pneumonia claims life of 11 yr. old boy."

The film's "rules" for its supernatural elements are somewhat vague and contradictory. The most obvious example of this is the fact that ghosts in the film can pass through solid object, yet seem to be capable of interacting with physical objects whenever they so choose, although this contradiction had previously appeared in Casper comics and cartoons. The other plot holes involving cosmic "rules" that will be mentioned in this section are unique to this film.

According to the film, ghost are souls of the deceased who have "unfinished business" on earth. The reason Casper stayed behind as a ghost is explained to be the fact that he was needed to keep his grieving father company, but his father is now long dead, so there is no obvious reason for Casper to remain a ghost. A possible explanation is that he simply forgot about what he was doing in Earth: in one scene, he seems to remember that for the first time in a long time. His "unfinished business" could've also changed.

The characters who become ghosts during the course of the film appear as "cartoonalized" versions of the live-action actors and, thus, have hair and articles of clothing, which the other ghosts do not have. Carrigan Crittenden's ghost is physically larger then the other ghosts and speaks in slightly modulated voice, making her seem more powerful and intimidating, while Dr. Harvey's ghost is about the size of the other ghosts and speaks in his normal voice. Crittenden's hair is also brown as a ghost, while blonde as a human. Although this is seen as a contradiction, it may be a pointed joke that Crittenden is not a real blonde. The ghosts of characters who die during the film are voiced by the same actors who play them in live-action, while, when Casper is brought back to life, he is not played by the same actor who voiced him in his ghostly form.

Another feature that happens to ghosts in the film after they die (particullaly Casper and Dr. Harvey) is that they appear to forget eveything about their life until something incredibly familiar reawakens their memory yet Crittigan appears to remember everything when she dies simply by seeing Dibbs. However, it is suggested that Casper and his uncles have been dead for almost a century, which means that perhaps ghosts lose their memories over time. This however does not explain Dr. Harvey's amnesia. One could make a point that he (Dr. Harvey) forgets simply because he was very inebriated when he died and was still drunk as a ghost. Causing him to forget certain things.

After Dr. Harvey is brought back to life, there should be two Dr. Harveys; one alive and one dead. The film never explains what happened to Dr. Harvey's dead body. It could be suggested that the potion that made the machine work actually created a new body for the ghost to dwell in.

ReactionEdit

The film was generally well-received as a family feature, with Time Out London describing it as "an intimate and likeable film"[2]. The CGI effects, which were cutting edge at the time, and the performances of Bill Pullman and Christina Ricci were especially praised, especially considering that, in the scenes where the Harveys interact with the ghosts, Pullman and Ricci were actually acting with nothing.

Cathy Moriarty's performance, however, was much criticized, with Variety saying she does "a poor woman's Cruella de Vil"[3] in the movie. Many reviewers also felt that Eric Idle, being a venerable comedian, was underused in the role of Moriarty's obsequious henchman. Some critics also felt it was a mistake for the film to juxtapose cartoon-esque comedy with serious themes about death. Nevertheless, the film was a success at the box office, grossing $100 million in the United States, almost twice its budget, and $326 million worldwide.

The film continues to be shown on television in the family feature slot of many networks, especially around Halloween and Christmas.

TriviaEdit

  • Dr. Harvey and Kat's surname is a reference to Harvey Comics, which created Casper the Friendly Ghost.
  • In the film, McFadden is revealed to be Casper's last name.
  • The machine that brings ghosts back to life is obviously named for Lazarus, a man in the New Testament whom Jesus brought back to life. Furthermore, the button that activates the Lazarus is hidden inside a false copy of Frankenstein, which was about a scientist attempting to bring the dead back to life.
  • This is the only Casper film in which the main villain is a normal human, rather than a ghost or a human with supernatural powers, although she does become a ghost at the end of the film. This is also the only one where the villain is female.
  • Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Rodney Dangerfield and The Crypt Keeper all make a cameo appearance as persons Dr. Harvey morphs into when the Ghostly Trio invade his body. Dangerfield also played the mayor in Casper: A Spirited Beginning.
  • Cathy Moriarty returned to the Casper franshise in Casper Meets Wendy, where she plays one of Wendy's bossy aunts.
  • Dan Aykroyd cameos as Ray Stantz of Ghostbusters fame, when Carrigan attempts to remove the Ghostly Trio from Whipstaff Manor. ("Who you gonna call? Someone else.")
  • Don Novello makes a cameo appearance as his character Father Guido Sarducci (of Saturday Night Live fame) as one of the would-be ghost exterminators.
  • Later in the film, during the Halloween party scene, you can hear Digital Underground's Same Old Song playing in the background. This was the headline song for the film Nothing But Trouble (1991), which Dan Aykroyd, wrote, directed, and starred in.
  • When Casper is seen flipping through channels, one channel shows a cartoon woman shouted "g-g-ghost!" This was taken from theCasper cartoon "Once Upon A Rhyme."
  • The film's theme song, "Remember Me This Way", was a major hit on the radio in 1995.
  • Feature-film directing debut of Brad Silberling, who would go on to direct City of Angels and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events.
  • Director Silberling and Amy Brenneman (Amelia Harvey) were married in 1995.
  • For a while in 2001, there were rumors of a theatrical sequel titled Casper II. The rumors turned out to be false and thus far a propersequel to this film has not been made. One is unlikely given that the sets built for this film would have probably been destroyed and that Christina Ricci has since well outgrown her character.
  • The international theatrical distributor of Casper, United International Pictures, is a joint venture of Universal and Paramount Pictures, which distributed the original Casper theatrical short cartoons.
  • When the Harveys arrive at the house, Dr. Harvey said it was a pretty good home, and Kat says "For Stephen King maybe".
  • When Kat walks into the Ghostly Trio's room and reads their names, she says "I wonder where Doc and Dopey sleep."
  • The scene where Casper tied Kat's classmates shoelaces together, Casper did the same thing to a group of football playing bullies in the Casper cartoon short "Line of Screamage"

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