Despite the modest success Fox found with the late 90’s Casper films, The rights to the franchise reverted back to Universal in 2000. The result was a very different product when compared to the first three movies. The most notable change was that this was the first Casper movie to be entirely made in CGI. (The previous films were all in live-action with computer generated Ghosts). The result is a nice little christmas special that feels Short, sweet and to the point in some ways, but also lazy in others.
In Casper’s Haunted Christmas, Kibosh returns and declares that if Casper does not purposely scare someone before Christmas day, him and the Ghostly Trio will be banished to an alternate dimension known only as, “The Dark”. What follows is your typical Casper formula; Casper finds himself a new friend and possible love interest (Casper, you playa), while the Ghostly Trio cause shenanigans elsewhere. This time however, Casper’s cousin Spooky and his girlfriend Poil make their long overdo film debut and get involved with the Trio’s plans. It’s predictable and the film’s message is a little heavy handed, but it does provides a nice warm christmasy (Is that even a word?) atmosphere that’s sure to get you in the mood for the holiday season.
The animation is a mixed bag. the ghost look consistently great, with very “lively” facial expressions and great voice actors to boot. The trouble here lies in the animation for the humans. It’a very dated and looks a bit stiff and awkward at times, and is very comparable to the ghost train passengers from A Spirited Beginning. Still, I shouldn’t be too hard on the animation though, as it is a direct to video special and didn’t have nearly the same budget that the prevouse films had. And despite the wonky animation, the humans still have good designs…I guess. Although the sequence involving Mr. Jollymore and Spooky in the shower was quite troubling to say the least, and shows WAY more than it needs to…(for those who’ve seen the film, you’ll know what I’m talking about.) The writing ranges from sappy to some of the best humour in the series. The Ghostly Trio are at the top of their game here, and provide lots of fourth wall breaking humour as well as a ridiculously amusing Dr. Seuss parody towards the end that has to be seen to be believed.
Here’s some fun trivia for you. Casper is voiced by none other than Brendon Ryan Barrett. That’s right, the same kid that portrayed Casper’s friend Chris in Casper: A Spirited Beginning got promoted to voicing the titular character himself. Speaking of voice actors, Sniviel is no longer voiced by Pauly Shore this time around, although this performer does his best to portray the ghoul. At one point in the movie, Stretch distracts Snivel by telling him that there is a Pauly Shore film festival playing downtown, which is a nice way to reference the original voice actor. Another worthy thing to note is despite the fact that this one was released by universal, it appears to share the same continuity with the Fox produced prequels, with the inclusion of Kibosh and Snivel being the most obvious callbacks.
Casper’s Haunted Christmas doesn’t bring much new to the series, but I still find it oddly endearing. Maybe it’s because out of all the Casper movies I watched growing up, I definitely watched this one the most. (Although my childhood favourite was still A Spirited Beginning) It’s a sweet warm christmas special that, despite it’s flaws, has some good humour and heart, and it’s become a personal christmas tradition. Thanks for reading, and be sure to join me later when we finish off Casper month.