Plot: After the death of her estranged father, Carrigan (Cathy Moriarty) hoped to inherit a windfall, but instead, she was left a rundown old mansion. The estate is a sizable one however and with some work, the place could be cleaned up and restored, returning some of the value. But when she her hapless assistant Dibs (Eric Idle) visit the mansion to give it a once over, they discover the cobwebs are the least of their worries, as this house is haunted. A friendly ghost named Casper greets them, but the mansion also houses several other, less amicable spirits. After numerous attempts to drive out the ghosts, Carrigan brings in a ghost therapist in Dr. Harvey (Bill Pullman) who moves in to deal with the paranormal, along with his daughter, Kat (Christina Ricci). But even if Harvey can get to the bottom of the unfinished business that links the spirits to the house, will they even want to move on?
Entertainment Value: This slick, big budget adaptation of Casper the Friendly Ghost makes no bones about what it wants to be, trying hard to conjure up Amblin vibes at every turn, but it never happens. Casper is still a fun movie, especially by live action, family friendly standards, but it doesn’t often rise above that, which is by no means a bad thing at all. The narrative is acceptable, if a little overly serious at some points and the ghost hunter angle is kind of out of place. But I understand they wanted well known performers to be the focus, not a CGI ghost, though Casper was one of the first fully CGI lead characters. The visual effects look good and honestly, still hold up even decades later. Not the flashiest or most memorable perhaps, but well crafted and Casper himself is given a nice cartoon inspired slant, which is welcome. I wish the premise was more interesting however, a routine haunted house yarn with a teen romance woven in, not much to write home about. But it is a solid watch and has some laughs, so it is worth a look if you need a family friendly cinema option.
The movie might be named after the little ghost, but his living costars tend to get most of the screen time here. The ghosts are given a good amount of presence and Casper’s story is central to the movie, but the live action stars seem to have been the focus of the writers in most scenes. Christina Ricci has the most prominent role and she does fine work, a kind of serious presence in an otherwise comedic, even slapstick movie. This helps somewhat when the tone shifts to more serious moments, but her restrained effort does feel a touch out of place at times. Bill Pullman spirals into almost all out screwball comedy as the movie rolls on, which can be fun to watch. Cathy Moriarty and Eric Idle also have some good scenes together, while a host of big name cameos are sprinkled around as well. Some of the brief appearances here include Clint Eastwood, Devon Sawa, Mel Gibson, and the great Rodney Dangerfield.