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When shrewd businesswoman Carrigan Crittenden (Cathy Moriarty) is given a run down mansion as part of an inheritance, her first instinct is to destroy it, that is until she discovers a secret treasure hidden deep within the walls of the spooky building. Upon entering the house, Carrigan and her offsider Dibbs (Eric Idle) are greeted by a wave of ghosts who have successfully scared off any anyone who has attempted to enter the house for years. Not to be outdone, Carrigan hires the services of an afterlife therapist, the good Dr. James Harvey (Bill Pullman) to exorcise the ghosts for her. But when one of the ghosts falls in love with his young daughter Kathleen (Christina Ricci), he realises that making these ghosts leave this world may be harder than he thinks.

Review by Craig Miller:
Despite featuring some wonderful acting talent, having strong associations with Steven Spielberg and special effects company Industrial Light and Magic, and a 1990s budget not to be sneezed at (approximately US$40 million), Casper is more than a little disappointing.

Brad Silberling's motion picture debut just manages to keep itself afloat, thanks in no small part to the wonderful job the animation team has done at bringing to life the cast of ghosts, but it's the film's inconsistencies, both in character and story that really hurt it the most. Bill Pullman is asked to extend himself time and again in scenes that his character just shouldn't find himself in. To his credit he certainly brings elements of believability, but he seems much more at home in the film's more genuine moments than he does hamming it up in scenes that involve a lot of slapstick.

Likewise a standout problem is Eric Idle's character Dibbs who appears in a nothing role thanks mainly to his own abilities. Apparently Idle's role was extremely underdeveloped, and what you see on screen is mostly him inventing a persona from scene to scene. The adlibbing of his character and the minimal reaction he has with other characters screams poor script writing, as do the story and character inconsistencies of Pullman's Dr. Harvey (who believes in ghosts completely, but is surprised when they actually exist), and the ability for ghosts to be able to pass through solid steel in some scenes, yet need to have a door opened for them in others. To name but two.

Questionable language calls and some ridiculously childish action in parts add more fuel to this confusion fire, as extremes like these often make the movie feel a little like its suffering from an identity crisis. If it's aimed at little ones, why the language? If slightly older children are your target audience, why the hammy action?

A young Christina Ricci shows glimpses of the talent that is so prevalent in her career today, and the film's voice talents are given plenty of good throw away lines with which to capture a few laughs from the audience.

It's fair to say that most of Casper's multi-million dollar budget is on screen, with some incredible sets (credit to production designer Lee Dilley) and impressive visual effects shots sprinkled throughout, but overall Casper is an average family movie that leaves you feeling more than a little empty.

In contrast to the film, this disc's special features are right on the money. Brad Silberling's commentary is very much a film specific effort with lots of information into the film making process. The 45+ minute documentary, Revealing Casper, is also a detailed feature containing a wealth of tidbits including interviews with cast an crew, and some great behind-the-scenes special effects footage (which is better than the usual DVD offering). Some easy yet enjoyable interactive games and some fun DVD-Rom activities are also great kid-friendly additions.

Published March 25, 2004

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(US, 1995)

CAST: Bill Pullman, Christina Ricci, Cathy Moriarty, Eric Idle, Ben Stein & voices of: Malachi Pearson, Joe Nipote, Joe Alaskey & Brad Garrett.

DIRECTOR: Brad Silberling

SCRIPT: Sherri Stoner & Deanna Oliver

RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes


DVD RELEASE: March 3, 2004

PRESENTATION: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Director’s commentary, Revealing Casper documentary, Deleted scene – musical sequence, Interactive games, DVD-Rom content.

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