Casper (1995)PG

Half a cape

It’s revolutionary! SEE, as you never could before, the amazing spectacle of a REAL LIVE GHOST interacting with living human beings!! Okay, maybe you’ve already seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but this is even more amazing, it’s BREATHTAKING, because it features the incredible lifelike magic of COMPUTER ANIMATION!!!!!

The maroons who put this together — namely Amblin Entertainment, the shit-factory built on the name of Spielberg — must have been thinking in terms like that, as if the jaw-droppingness of being able to do the project was reason enough that it would have to wow the audiences and fill the seats. The slogan on the video box says “Seeing is believing”, in an echo of 1978’s “You will believe a man can fly.” But come on, in 1995? Who’s going to be impressed?

You’ll be even less impressed now, of course. You’ll probably be depressed instead. Because the old Casper cartoons never were very funny, and this is, in its best moments, almost as humorous as they were. And the attempt to graft on a real plot in the second half suffers from transplant rejection. There isn’t a plot point anywhere in it that doesn’t stink of obvious fake contrivance.

Or maybe they were just thinking along the same lines as the people who recently made the much-reviled live action Cat In The Hat — a sure-thing product brand with lots of merchandising tie-in potential. Well, if that’s what they thought, I hope they learned their lesson. (Woops, they didn’t.)

Basically they just recycle the old slapstick with some lame pop-culture quotes added. The one good point is a 15 year old Christina Ricci, who gives the role all of her considerable talent that she can fit into it, because she isn’t yet old and cynical enough to know better. There are lots of comedy cameos, but they’re wasted. The family-friendly humor is not even as good as the kind mass-produced by Disney. (Amazing to think that Amblin Entertainment and Disney, together, once made Roger Rabbit...) And the animation, in terms of how Casper and the other ghosts move and act, not to mention their comic timing, is thoroughly inferior to the old hand-drawn days. The result is annoying, unfunny, and fails utterly to look like anything but generic manufactured entertainment product.

(Note: Casper was originally created for animation, but moved to comics soon after and remained there long after the original animation series died out, and it was in the comic that he acquired the name “Casper” and his three surly uncles.)

This is another movie that I only got through by taking frequent breaks. Without Ricci this would have been in sub-Supergirl territory.

But what does John Stanley say?

works well indeed... rollickingly funny... A definite step upward in the imaginative use of technology.