Re-Watch: Casper (1995)

Director: Brad Silberling
Writer: Sherri Stoner, Deanna Oliver
Based on: Seymour Reit and Joe Oriolo‘s character Casper the Friendly Ghost
Cast: Malachi Pearson, Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman, Cathy Moriarty, Eric Idle, Joe Nipote, Joe Alaskey, Brad Garrett, Amy Brenneman, Devon Sawa, Dan Aykroyd, Rodney Dangerfield, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson
Seen on: 5.1.2021

Casper (Malachi Pearson) is a ghost who lives with his three uncles Stretch (Joe Nipote), Stinkie (Joe Alaskey) and Fatso (Brad Garrett) in a mansion. Contrary to his uncles, Casper is not interested in haunting humans, though. He would rather make friends. When the mansion gets inherited by Carrigan (Cathy Moriarty) who is sure that there is a treasure in the house, the uncles dial up their haunting, leaving Carrigan desperate to get into the house by any means necessary. When Casper learns of Dr. Harvey (Bill Pullman) and his daughter Kat (Christina Ricci) who travel the country trying to help ghosts, he sees a chance to fulfill his wish and Carrigan sees a chance to fulfill hers. But things turn out differently from what they all anticipated.

Casper is one of the films that was in constant circulation at home when I was a kid. But I probably haven’t seen it in over twenty years. Looking at it as an adult, it’s still a very sweet and funny kids’ film, although things, of course, strike me differently now.

The film poster showing Casper glimpsing over the letters of his name above the manor. His three ghost uncles' heads can be seen coming out of the manor. In front of it are Dr. Harvey (Bill Pullman) and Kat (Christina Ricci).

What I remembered most about Casper was the romance between Kat and Casper, so watching it now, I was surprised by how little space that actually takes up (and delighted by how age-appropriate it was). The film leans much more on the jokes and it is much sillier than I remembered. For example, I had completely forgotten the entire Casper’s dad was an inventor thing.

Some of the jokes didn’t age all that well (Carrigan is one sexist trope, for example), and I will admit that the frantic pace of them was definitely more exhausting for adult!me than it ever was for child!me. But there were also bits and pieces that I certainly didn’t appreciate as a child – like Dan Aykroyd’s short appearance as a ghostbuster. (That the two racist asshole Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson also make an appearance is better ignored – which is easy.)

Casper and Kat (Christina Ricci) looking at each other.

Despite the comedy emphasis, I still loved the romance angle most though, also this time around. When Devon Sawa appears at the end as the corporeal version of Casper, my heart still swelled – it is such a cute moment. But I kept thinking a lot more about the implications of the ending – how would they live in the aftermath of everything: what happens next? The ending is much more bittersweet than it seems when you think about it.

So often, childhood memory movies don’t live up to what we remember of them, but Casper is not such a case. Even the technological side still looks good. I would have no problem to let my hypothetical kids watch it now and I’d be sure they’d love it. And I’d be glad to watch it with them.

Dr. Harvey (Bill Pullman) with two of the three ghost uncles.

Summarizing: perfect for kids.

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