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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Movie #4: Casper (1995)

"I can see right through you."

My family watched this one the other night. While my sons didn't notice - or didn't seem to notice - the language in the movie, my wife cetainly did. Fortunately she left the room and missed a couple more, but she wasn't too happy about it. Honestly, why would you base a movie on a children's cartoon and then put words like "bitch", "piss" and "damn" in it? Within the first five minutes, we heard two "hells", two "damns" and one "crap".


  • Rating: PG "for mild language and thematic elements"

  • Minimum Recommended Age: 6.5 (Common Sense Media: Iffy for ages 6 to 7, Kids Pick Flicks (review by a 17-year-old): All Ages)

  • Quality Rating: 61.3% (Parent Previews Overall Grade: C+, Common Sense Media: 3 stars, Kids Pick Flicks: 4 stars, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 4.7)

  • Number of Lists Recommend: 10

  • Sex/Violence/Profanity:

    Screen It!:

    Casper enthusiastically says "There's a girl on my bed -- Yes!" when Kat (not seeing the invisible Casper) sits on the bed. Innuendo from the ghosts trapped inside a vacuum cleaner: "Who's got their pointy head against me?" "That's not my head." There is the implication of talking about the "birds and the bees" between Kat and her dad where he starts to talk about that and she says "It's too late" and then rephrases that to "It's not that late." Lots of innuendo, much of which will go over kids' heads -- as when Casper's mean uncles drop Dr. Harvey's pants, and one comments, "You're no Marky Mark."

    "Mild language" includes "This sucks" (in reference to being sucked up into a vacuum cleaner), "Shut up," "Piss off," "This really bites," "The bitch is back", "a bitch just like you", "I'm gonna drag you and every one of those damn dolphins into court", "If you would have just forged the damn will", "Damn it, Dibs", "Stop being such a weenie", "What the hell is that thing?", "What the hell do you think you're doin', bulbhead?", "Hell, you could even fly through...walls", "To hell with the livestock", and "Cut the crap, okay?"

  • Running Time: 101 minutes

  • What does it have to do with Halloween? The dance/party at the end of the movie takes place on Halloween night


Casper is a friendly but lonely young ghost who can't seem to help scaring people. Then, one day, two new visitors show up on the doorstep of his fantastically haunted house, Whipstaff Manor: Kat Harvey and her eccentric dad, Dr. Harvey, a self-styled ghost therapist. Whipstaff's scheming owner, Carrigan Crittenden, has hired Harvey to exorcise the house's spectral inhabitants so that she can get her hands on the manor's fabled treasure. Unfortunately for Dr. Harvey, the Ghostly Trio--Fatso, Stinkie, and Stretch--have their own methods of getting rid of unwanted visitors--and a certifiably twisted sense of humor.

Watch Out For

Common Sense Media:
Parents need to know that the cartoon Casper and other Casper movies are much milder than this one. There are deaths here and much talk about the spirit world and grieving the loss of parents. The main character, Kat, sees one parent as a ghost, and another parent dies and comes back with the help of an invention. Kat also has a crush on Casper, who died as a tween boy. Casper's ghost uncles can be crude and mischievous and they take Kat's father out drinking at a bar.

Parent Previews:
On the surface, this is a typical story, which at times is surprisingly slow considering the money this film cost to make. It has a great deal of real life "cartoon" violence -- a technique used to disguise what are often very violent situations. The love interest between Kat and Casper is similar to many other movies where preadolescents are depicted in scenes with serious attraction for each other. In this case, Kat's mother has died, and there almost seems to be a need for her to have her "own man" as she seeks security outside of her family.

Parents that don't appreciate topics dealing with ghosts and the supernatural may also be concerned. This movie has a very casual attitude towards life. The rich daughter falls off a cliff and dies, but no matter, now she is a ghost with even greater powers.

The bottom line is with the marketing and promotion done on this film, your children may be begging to see it. If they do, try and help them find dangerous situations that are made to look funny. After viewing Casper, you may find that today's version of the friendly little ghost is a wolf in sheets clothing.

The only thing that I would warn about if watching with younger viewers is that the ghosts, aside from Casper, try really hard in the beginning to scare the new intruders off. So much so that I wondered if I shouldn't shut the movie off and wait until my daughter was asleep to watch it. Quickly though, almost as soon as I had the thought, the trio turns from being malicious to just mischievous and really funny. I might suggest, if you are watching with younger kids, skip over the early parts of the film for the first time and then go back to watch its entirety when they already know and like the uncles.

"Just shut up and take the picture."

Two boys are frightened by Casper

"I'm gonna drag you and every one of those damn dolphins into court!"

Dibs' hand catches on fire

"Cut the crap, okay?"

Carrigan and Dibs are frightened by Casper

Don Novello's (Father Guido Sarducci) head is turned around by the ghosts

Dan Aykroyd asks, "Who you gonna call? Someone else."

Amber is jealous of Kat

"There's a girl on my bed--Yes!"

Fatso in drag pretending to be James' wife

"This really bites."

Kat passes out when she sees Casper

Kat screams when she sees Casper again

James reacts to seeing Casper

Stretch, Stinkie and Fatso scare James

"What the hell is that thing?"

"This sucks!"

The ghosts pretend to melt from the sunlight

"What the hell do you think you're doing, bulb head?"

"Piss off!"

"Stop being such a weenie."

Carrigan tries to run over Dibs

"The bitch is back!"

The ghosts attempt to kill James

James, just before he falls into an open trench and dies

"Oh, you can haunt me all you want, but it's gonna be in a great big, expensive house... with lovely purple wallpaper... and great big green carpets... and a little dog called Carrigan... a bitch just like you."

"It's a little late for that, Dad"
"How late?"
"Oh, don't worry. Not that late."

Casper is melted

The ghost of Carrigan passes over

Kat sees the ghost of her dad

"Just shut up and get your head down."

Amber is scared by the ghosts

Amber hits her head on the floor before being dragged away

James' wife appears to him as a ghost

Kat and Casper kiss

The kids react to seeing Casper

Screencaps courtesy of newsie__nympho

Talk About It

Common Sense Media:
Families can talk about fantasies and ghosts. What is appealing about ghost stories? Why do you think Casper is friendly while his uncles are looking to cause trouble? Why do you think so many ghost stories take place in mansions?

Death and ghosts

Parent Previews:
Try and help [kids] find dangerous situations that are made to look funny.

Screen It!:
Death and dying.
Losing a parent (and forgetting what they were like).
Constantly moving and thus having no friends.

Of Note

  • This was the first film with a computer-animated title character
  • The last name of the Christina Ricci's and Bill Pullman's characters is "Harvey". Harvey Comics is the long time publisher of Casper the Friendly Ghost.
  • The cartoon Casper flips to after Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and before the Hard Copy story is the 1950 Casper The Friendly Ghost short Once Upon A Rhyme (the 1950 version of Casper is not seen in the clip used).
  • A scene was filmed with Zelda Rubinstein reprising her role from Poltergeist (1982) (shooting out of a chimney and shouting "Go toward the light!") but was not included in the final cut.

  • Ranks #10 on AMC TV's Movies with the Best CGI Performances list


Revealing Casper: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Movie

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