Run Time: 1 hour and 41 minutes
Director: Brad Silberling
Cast: Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman, Cathy Moriarty, Devon Sawa
I first saw this movie in theaters when it came out in 1995. I was 10 at the time. I don't remember the circumstances too well, but it was probably at some all girl movie birthday party. Most of the girls in my grade probably saw that movie. After all, Ricci and Sawa were like the Bogey and Bacall for pre-teen girls circa 1995.
While it is likely that I viewed this movie at least once more within that year at a slumber party, none of those viewings are particularly distinct in my mind. Up until my most recent viewing the only thing I could tell you abut the movie is that I hated Christina Ricci at the time because she got to kiss Devon Sawa twice! (bitch!). When I found a VHS copy of it earlier this month at a Hollywood Video in Oakland, CA (one that you are probably going to hear more about in this blog), I had to have it, if only for nostalgia's sake. It came in one of those puffy plastic boxes that many children's movies are packaged in. The box didn't appear to be in the best condition, but that didn't phase me.
When I popped in the tape (which had no previews), it all started to come back to me. Casper is certainly guilty of many of the cliches associated with kids movies, such as over the top villains, and little consideration for reality. That isn't to say that this is a problem. While Cathy Moriarty's performance as rich bitch Carrigan Crittenden is pretty irritating, the story and its breaks with reality are pretty dead-on in terms of appealing to the not quite teen who likes to flirt with the dark side, but not go overboard. The idea of ghosts in therapy because of their "unfinished business" is one that I realize stuck with me for many years. The movie deals with death in a way that could be considered problematic, but is actually pretty compelling. Bill Pullman's psychiatrist character gets involved with paranormal patients in order to reconnect with his dead wife. His daughter, portrayed by Ricci, has a a flirtation with Casper, who is of course, a very friendly ghost. At the age that I first saw this movie this element didn't seem that weird to me, perhaps because my own fantasies had a similar tone to them. Now that I'm more than ten years older, its still a beautiful idea, but not one that I'd expect from a kids movie. In fact, Casper is all about how the dead never really dies. At one point Bill Pullman dies, but is brought back pretty quickly. Although it is amusing to see the animated ghost version of Bill Pullman, If I were Brad Silberling I'd be a little uncomfortable sending children the message that their parents can come back from the dead. However, the whole movie is so dependant on suspension of disbelief that most children watching would not take this section of the movie literally.
At the end of the day, watching Casper at age 23 is a real treat. The quality of my particular VHS was a bit questionable, but still very watchable. If you see a copy of this for sale at your local branch of a video store chain, and are the sort who likes macabre material intended for children, Casper is worth picking up, but only if the price is right.
And btw, here's something for the fan girls and boys