Casper: one of the most underrated family movies of the 90s is coming to Netflix
Casper (PG, 100 minutes) Directed by Brad Silberling ****
Sandwiched between the two when Demi Moore released her paranormal soup round and Haley Joel Osment began to see deaths, Hollywood attempted to create a box office bargain by merging one of its child stars. most beloved and comic books spanning several generations. character from the book known as “the friendly ghost”.
Originally conceived as the central figure of a children’s book in the late 1930s, Casper was actually sold to the animated division of Paramount Pictures before it could get it printed, while one of its creators was on a mission during World War II (for a one-time payment, which meant they had never received royalties for its subsequent multimedia success).
First appearing in comic book form in 1949, it provided decades of entertainment, as children relished adventures where he was more interested in befriending the living than scaring them. Usually accompanied by his good friend Wendy the Witch (sadly overlooked here), he fought his uncles’ wishes to come out and scare off any blowers who might come in his way.
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The comics, animated shorts, and TV series were all pretty light-hearted and innocent, but this 1995 live-action flick was something darker (though still aimed at kids, probably mostly to those – and their parents – who enjoyed the role of Christina Ricci Addams Family films from previous years).
At the start of this story, Casper’s Maine home, Whipstaff Manor, came into the possession of the evil Carragon (Cathy Moriarty) and his sidekick Dibs (Eric Idle). They have heard rumors of a vast treasure within its walls. However, when they arrive, they find three very hostile ghosts waiting to drive them away (Casper’s aforementioned uncles: Fatso, Stinky, and Stretch).
Enter James Harvey (Bill Pullman) and his daughter Kat (Ricci). Harvey took on the unusual occupation after his wife’s death, learning her trade in the hopes of “finding” her. But his immediate task here is to suppress the Whipstaff Specters, something that’s easier said than done, especially when a fourth appearance – Casper – took a blow out of Kat.
After the horror of The Flintstones the year before, even the great Steven Spielberg must have been wary of producing another live-action cartoon adaptation. Corn Casper more than made up for this parody.
The characters, both alive and “alive impaired,” are charming, while the storyline is engaging for children and adults alike. As for the special effects, even more than 25 years later, they still hold up quite well and the Gothic level is well placed just this level below the Addam duo and anarchic of the years 1988 beetle juice. But, while the evil characters are mean without being too scary, and understandably bad humans are worse than ghosts, perhaps the Guardians should be warned of the mildly disturbing message that “death could be better than life.” .
That aside, there’s the fun of unexpected cameos from an eclectic celebrity group including Rodney Dangerfield, Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood and two terrific center stage performances.
Pullman’s character may be the source of a lot of slapstick, but he manages to do well, while also beautifully describing his obsession with locating his “lost wife”.
However, the real star is Ricci. Proof that she wasn’t just a “Wednesday” wonder, although it was still a family film, it was a serious first role, which led to films like Sometimes, The ice storm, Ox ’66 and The opposite of sex before the end of the decade.
Admittedly, the subject is a little morbid, but the charm of the characters really illuminates the screen. More like a Cinderella Story than a gothic horror, this was truly one of the most underrated movies of the 1990s and should keep viewers of all ages enthralled with a slow day of summer vacation.
Casper is now available to stream on Netflix.