All Casper ever wanted was a friend, and he found a bunch of them in executive producer Steven Spielberg and the special-effects wizards at Industrial Light and Magic. They teamed up to bring the friendly ghost to wondrous, um, life, in this 1995 live-action fantasy. Bill Pullman (Sleepless in Seattle, While You Were Sleeping) stars as Dr. James Harvey, a therapist who ministers to the "living impaired." In search of hidden treasure, Carrigan Crittendon (Cathy Moriarty), a real witch, summons Dr. Harvey to rid the condemned Whipstaff Manor of its mischievous poltergeists. Lonely Casper finds a kindred misfit spirit in Harvey's motherless young daughter, Kat (Christina Ricci). The Ghostly Trio (the aptly named Stretch, Stinkie, and Fatso) supply the supernatural slapstick and rude noises. Monty Python member Eric Idle is a real scream as Crittendon's put-upon accomplice. Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield, Mel Gibson, the Crypt Keeper, and Dan Aykroyd -- as a ghostbuster who suggests Crittendon call "someone else" -- supply haunting cameos. References to death and the afterlife may be upsetting to younger viewers, but, mild profanity aside, this treat will be just the trick for ‘tweens and teens looking to scare up some frighteningly fun entertainment.
Maybe it's time to start looking at modern Hollywood films from a different perspective. Certainly, the story in this youth-oriented fantasy is nothing to write home about: a haunted mansion containing treasure, a little girl who befriends an amiable young ghost, and various greedy and oafish adults acting like morons. Standard stuff. But the selling points here are the film's visual elements, which take the popular cartoon character and bring him to computer-generated life (afterlife?) with marvelously handled special effects and a production design that's a joy to behold. Other than a few unnecessarily prurient double entendres (which young kids probably won't catch anyway), this is a visual delight despite its workmanlike plot.
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