Casper is the story of a ghost who is the “friendliest ghost you know”. Casper (Malachi Pearson) haunts Whipstaff Manor along with his mischievously wicked uncles Stretch (Joe Nipote), Stinkie (Joe Alasky), and Fatso (Brad Garrett). But unlike his uncles Casper is not interested in scaring the wits out of every human who enters the Manor, he just wants someone to be his friend. Unfortunately due to his appearance any efforts to make friends generally result in screaming with people running away as fast as they can.
Early on we are introduced to Carrigan Crittenden (Cathy Moriarty), and her attorney Dibs (Eric Idle). As she was really hoping for money from her father’s will Carrigan is disgusted to learn that he only left her Whipstaff Manor, so she throws the deeds to the Manor into the fire at the lawyer’s office. Dibs tries to retrieve the deeds from the fire and in the process discovers a secret parchment giving details of a treasure buried deep within the bowels of Whipstaff Manor. On investigation, they find that Whipstaff is haunted by ghosts who scare off Carrigan and Dibs.
But being a very determined woman, Carrigan refuses to be beaten, and calls in the services of supernatural therapist, Dr James Harvey (Bill Pullman), a man who talks to ghosts, who he believes have unfinished business, so it’s his job to help them before they can crossover.
Dr Harvey brings his beautiful daughter Kat (Christina Ricci) along for the ride, to whom Casper takes an immediate shine and hopes she will finally become the friend he has been looking for all this time.
Sometimes films with high special effects don’t connect with adult audiences due to the lack of an emotional context. However this is not something you could say about Casper, which uses special effects as a secondary tool to tell the story rather than having the effects as the main basis of the film.
The themes that Casper touches upon are things that we may all experience at some point in our lives like, Kat's feelings of being left out at school and in social situations, because of her father's job, she never has time to settle down in one place and make some friends like a normal teenager. These feelings are similar to the ones felt by Casper who just wants a friend too. In fact it seems that almost every character in the film is searching for something, whether it is friendship and social acceptance in Kat and Casper’s case, financial gain for Carrigan or the ghost of his dead wife in Dr Harvey’s case.
Casper is not all about deep and meaningful themes though. It is a film with some cracking jokes, mainly from the ghostly uncles, some wonderful special effects that at the time were a marvel of technological wizardry from the team at ILM. They did a particularly wonderful job on Casper, which you can see more of in the documentary included on the disc.
The sets are superb and are suitably spooky and it is a film that is more funny than scary, and it can probably be viewed by younger children without them having too many nightmares, although you’ll probably want to watch it with them first time around if you do have young children.
The cast are good, with Christina Ricci being a particular standout by really convincing you that she is interacting with Casper and his uncles even though they weren’t really there. As usual, Bill Pullman plays a wimpish character but he does it so well. Cathy Moriarty is suitably menacing and evil as Carrigan, but unfortunately Eric Idle's comedic talent is somewhat underused in his role as Dibs.
Overall Casper is definitely the friendliest ghost to ever grace the screen and it is a film that is hard not to like. Older viewers may find some of the antics of Casper’s uncles annoying at times, and it could also be said that it gets a bit too schmaltzy towards the end. However Casper is a charming tale that the whole family can enjoy.
Universal have given Casper a 1:85:1 anamorphic transfer. It is a print that is nice and colourful, and is still in fairly good shape, although some grain and the occasional blemish are noticeable.
Casper has been given both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 surround sound tracks, both of which are great. The DTS track does an especially impressive job of recreating all the wonderful ghost effects in the film to create a really spooky feel within the room while you are watching the film.
All bonus features include optional English subtitles.
The Menus - The main menu is animated with clips from the film which are accompanied by James Horner's original score. Once the menu has finished playing its introduction, you get a little animated Casper that flies around the screen before it starts all over again. The other sub menus are background images of various locations within Whipstaff Manor; these are also accompanied by music from the film.
Feature Commentary with Director Brad Silberling - This is a decent commentary especially for a then first time director, Brad Silberling, who seems like a nice guy and always has a lot to say about the film. He covers everything from pre-production to casting, special effects, setting up shots, homage’s to other films, the cameos in the film, editing, post production and ultimately the major themes of the film.
Revealing Casper- Making of Documentary
- This is a lengthy making of documentary that covers the whole production of the film. It looks at everything from early prep work and writing, through to casting, designing the look of the film, the machines in the film e.g. the chair ride to the laboratory and the Lazarus machine (changes Ghosts to Human) in the laboratory. Also covered are sections on the stunt work, special effects, music, everyone’s thoughts about the film and footage from the premiere. (46 mins)
Deleted Scene: Lucky Enough To Be A Ghost - This starts telling you about the scene and why it was deleted. It was going to be a musical number with Bill Pullman and the three ghosts, Stretch, Stinkie and Fatso. It was ultimately dropped because ILM estimated that it would probably cost about $3 million dollars to create it.
After the introduction you will get to see a comparison of the deleted scene with the animator’s version of it. There is an optional director’s commentary to accompany the scene should you wish to use it.
Casper’s Play Room
- This feature is aimed at the kids with a couple of fun little games to play including:
Casper’s Playroom - In this game you have to help Casper find five hidden treasures by exploring the DVD’s menus. Once you find a treasure click on it using your remote to add it to a treasure chest. Once you have found all five treasures you will receive a reward.
Spelling Lab - This is another game where you are given a series of questions about the film and you have to work out the answer, from the jumbled up letters at the bottom of the screen. It may be helpful to watch the film first, although it is quite easy to work out the clues without watching it.
Theatrical Trailer - This was the trailer that was shown in cinemas before the films release in 1995. It’s a nice little overview of the film, although it’s perhaps a little short for a theatrical trailer, as it is only just over a minute long.
- To use these you will need a PC with an Internet connection. In order to access these features you will need to install the interactual software player that comes with the disc. What follows are a series of features that are probably tailored more to younger kids than adults.
Casper’s Spooky Safety Tips – Lists of fun things to do at Halloween and how to do them safely.
Casper’s Haunted Arcade and Funhouse – Included are lots of things that you can make (instructions included), along with 3 little games that you can play.
Casper’s Ghostly Invitation Generator – This feature allows you to create invitations for a Halloween party. It’s simple and easy to use, you just follow the onscreen instructions to create the invitation you want, and when you’ve finished you can print them off and hand them out to your friends.
Casper’s Candy Consumption Calendar Builder – This is a very strange feature. It allows you to create a calendar so you can plan out when to eat the candy you’ve collected at Halloween so that you don’t eat it all at once.
Recipes – Casper’s Scary Kitchen – If you have a Halloween party you are obviously going to want things to eat, so included here are several recipes for things that you can make to eat. Full recipes are included which you can print off.
Casper is a fun film. It comes with a fairly decent extras package including a commentary, a decent documentary and a deleted scene, which will be of greater interest to the adults. The inclusion of interactive games and a fun DVD Rom section make it a good DVD for kids too.