Casper (1995)

This big-budget adaptation of the famous comic strip isn’t a perfect family movie, but it sure has its moments. There’s an unmistakably Burtonesque vibe to the proceedings, from the whimsical setting (including the majestic Whipstaff manor, where the majority of the movie takes place) to the likable outcasts that make up the majority of the protagonists, to James Horner’s melancholy score, not to mention a surprisingly edgy screenplay filled with jokes for adults. Christina Ricci and Bill Pullman are well cast as a daughter-and-father pair chasing ghosts across the country, and they have surprisingly engaging rapports both with Casper himself and his rambunctious ghostly uncles. Speaking of Casper himself, the friendly ghost’s onscreen portrayal here is compelling and engaging, with terrific voice work by Malachi Pearson, who shares warm chemistry with Ricci. There’s an underlying sadness to the proceedings, what with the recurring theme of unfulfilled potential not to mention a plot that revolves around loneliness and longing, which is remarkably poignant for a family film. The special effects are truly astounding, with nary a visual flaw along the way, and the movie also benefits from the onscreen participation of Cathy Moriarty and Eric Idle as the bickering antagonists. It’s not perfect by any means and has a tendency to meander once in a while, but as it is, it does a terrific job of adapting and updating its source material for the 1990s.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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