Casper’s Haunted Christmas

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Casper Meets Wendy

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With Casper: A Spirited Beginning being a modest success for Fox, the studio got the same team that worked on the film back for one more round in 1998. Serving as a sequel to A Spirited beginning, while also remaining a prequel to the original. (Yeesh, What is this, Star Wars?) For this film, they decided to reintroduce a popular character from the original Casper comics and shorts, and that character was Wendy, the little Witch.   So was the film an improvement over Casper A Spirited Beginning? For the most part, yes. Although it doesn’t have the same nostalgic power that some of the other films do for me.

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the story here is more interesting simply because there’s more going on. A villainous Warlock named Desmond Spellman (George Hamilton) learns of the young girl Wendy (played by a very young Hilary Duff) and finds out that she is destined to become the greatest which of all. Desmond takes it upon himself to track down Wendy and her three aunts to stop her once and for all. Meanwhile, Casper (Still voiced by Jeremy Foley) and the Ghostly Trio take a vacation at a resort, and once there, the three ghosts leave Casper out of the fun and treat him like garbage. Casper encounters Wendy, who just so happens to be hiding from Desmond at the very same resort with her aunts, and the two of them form a bond and become the best of friends. But the two of them must keep their friendship a secret, as Casper’s uncles despise Witches, and Wendy’s aunts hate Ghosts. The story takes a few more twists and turns after that, but it never becomes too unpredictable. There’s a sense of familiarity here as the first two Casper movies followed similar plotlines, and this become the standard Casper formula that most of the films would follow. As a followup to A Spirited Beginning, it’s definitely an improvement. The direction is handled more confidently by Sean McNamara (who also helmed Spirited Beginning) and it feels more polished overall.

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An example of improvement is the special effects. While still a direct to video release, this one does seem to have a bigger budgets than the last film. The most noticeable improvements are the computer generated Ghosts. Casper and the Ghostly Trio look much better and alot more expressive than they did previously. It’s still nowhere near as good as the first film, but it works for this movie. There are still quite a few cheap looking shots, but it’s direct to video, so it’s expected. The writing has improoved a tiny bit, but not by much. The humour definitely works better, but some of the dialogue is still cheesy and Hilary Duff, while adorable in the role, isn’t the best young actress. (though to be fair, I have seen much worse.) Wendy’s three aunts, Gerti, Gabby and Fanny aren’t as entertaining as the ghostly Trio, but the three actresses do look like their having fun with the roles. I especially find it funny that Gerti’s actress happens to be Cathy Moriarty, who also played the main villain of the first Casper movie. And she even shares a scene with Ben Stein for another one of his trademark cameos. I don’t know if it was intentional, but it sure is funny.

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Desmond Isn’t too compelling of an antagonist, but the Casper series has never been especially strong with it’s villains. (the only memorable one I can think of is Kibosh) Pauly Shore returns, although not as Snivel, but as Desmond’s Magic Mirror. Desmond also has two comical henchmen that track down Wendy’s family and their humour is sort of hit or miss. The best moments of this movie are the ones where Casper and Wendy bond and when Casper stands up to the Ghostly Trio. Casper and Wendy’s relationship is border lining romantic, but they mostly keep it as simply a very strong friendship, which I think is great. (although there are a few not so subtle hints that the two may be romantically interested in one another) Casper’s relationship with his three uncles also gets some development here, and we see that the three of them really do care about Casper, and don’t simply see him as a means to an end. They’re  family first, and it really shows in this movie. The music sounds very similar to A Spirited Beginning’s score with a few more 90’s pop songs thrown in. i’m not really a fan of the songs or the soundtrack overall, and consider it to be one the weakest of the series’s scores

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Casper Meets Wendy is, much like it’s predecessor, a cute and harmless little film that kids and Casper fans should enjoy. I don’t think either one of Fox’s Casper prequels were particularly stellar, but I appertain them nonetheless, and am thankful for all the memories had with them. (although I didn’t watch Casper Meets Wendy nearly as much as A Spirited Beginning.) If your in the mood for some Halloween fluff, chances are you’ll find yourself entertained. this wraps up the live-action trilogy of Casper movies, but we’re not done Casper month just yet. As Universal takes one more shot at the franchise, and Classic Media finishes us off. See you then!

Casper: A Spirited Beginning

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In theory, Casper: A Spirited Beginning should be the worst movie of the bunch. It has almost nothing in common with the first film, has some pretty bad special effects for the ghosts, and has cheesy acting across the board. This film has almost nothing going for it, except for nostalgia and that optimistic and traditional Casper charm that appears in all the films. I hold this  cheep made-for-tv movie near and dear to my heart, and today I’m hopefully going to explain why I think so fondly of it.

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To start things off, let’s look at this film’s history.  The first Casper film was a hit, but not a big enough hit for universal studios to invest in making a sequel. The rights were given to Fox kids, which produced the amazing “Spooktacular adventures of Casper” cartoon, as well as two direct to video prequels of the first Casper movie. This was the first of those two prequels. Although I use the term “prequel” loosely, because there are way too many continuity errors in this film for it to be considered a prequel to the original. From Casper turning into a ghost in the present day (or in this case, the late 90’s) to the Ghostly Trio not even being directly related to Casper, to the different location of the house (Hope you didn’t enjoy Whipstaff manor too much in the first film, Cuz it’s not coming back). I like to think of this movie as a alternate reality that completely separates itself from Casper movie. If viewed in that context, the film works better.

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Casper: A Spirited Beginning begins on a ghost train (more on that later) where we see Casper (now voiced by Jeremy Foley) and 4 other ghosts going to Ghost Central Station, with Casper being completely oblivious to the fact that he’s a ghost. On the train, he irritates another passenger and gets thrown out the window, landing in a little town called Deedstown. From there, he meets the Ghostly Trio and a lonely young boy named Chris who’s father is often absent. The two form a bond, and Casper helps Chris with his problems, while Chris convinces the Ghostly Trio to teach Casper how to be a real ghost. Meanwhile, the king of all ghosts, Kibosh (voiced by none other than James Earl Jones) takes notice of Casper’s absence at the training school, and sends his henchghost Snivel (Pauly Shore) to track him down. It’s not a story that’s going to win any awards, but for a harmless little halloween flick for the kiddies, it works. It’s innocent and inoffensive while still managing to be entertaining.

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What I like about this film is the way Casper, the Ghostly Trio, Kibosh and Snivel are portrayed. While not nearly as polished or as impressive looking as they were in the first movie (this is due to a much, MUCH lower budget.) The four original ghosts remain memorable and likeable while the two newcomers, Kibosh and Snivel, prove to be fun if underdeveloped villains. Casper’s friend Chris isn’t as interesting as Kat, but he’s not a horrible character. His teacher, Sheila Fistergraff (played by Lori Loughlin), gets a few laughs as well as a few cringeworthy lines and the chris’s father (Steve Guttenberg) comes off as pretty unlikeable, but I get that that’s what they were going for. As for the special effects, they’re not very convincing this time around. The voice actors do the best they can, but the ghosts aren’t as expressive or impressive as they were in the first film. One effect that I LOVE about this film though is the ghost train. The style is very cool , and the mood of every scene is really effective. It’s not realistic, but it sure is awesome. The music is serviceable, with a few catchy tunes, but nowhere near as grand or iconic as the original.

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Casper: A Spirited Beginning is a fun trip down memory lane for me. Out of all the Casper films, this is probably the one I watched the most. It’s not as grand or as well written as the original, and comparing the two is no contest whatsoever. But it’s Cute, fun, and has a great Halloween atmosphere that really gets you in them good for the holiday. Don’t expect anything on par with the first one, but it’s a fun film regardless, and one of my childhood favourites.

Casper

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Doing justice to a film you love just by writing about it is hard. At least in my experience. There’s always so much that I want to talk about and so many corners of the film that I want to explore to express why I adore it. But then I risk ruining the film for those who haven’t seen it, or I sound totally biased. Casper is one of those movies. Anyone who knows me well knows it’s one of my all time favourites, and that Casper as a character played an important part in my childhood. As I said in my introduction, he was a great role model. (As well as an awesome imaginary friend.) So today, I’m going to attempt to explain why I love Casper so much and why it’s still one of my favourite films of all time. (A fair warning: There are a few spoilers, so if you haven to seen the film, I suggest you do so before reading this review.)

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For starters, Casper is one of those movies that carries a strong “movie magic” vibe throughout (at least for me). It’s top notch effects make it feel limitless, and it’s memorable characters and solid story give it substance. Casper is the story of a friendly ghost who lives with his three uncles (Strech, Stinkie, and Fatso) in the abandoned whippstaff manor. When a Ghost therapist (Bill Pullman) arrives with his teenage daughter Kat (played by Christina Ricci), Casper (voiced by Malachi Pearson) sees the opportunity to finally make a friend. After some time passes the two of them have a strong bond, and Casper soon develops feelings for the human girl. The story of Casper is almost tragic. At it’s core, it’s a love story. Not just romantic love (although Casper’s relationship with Kat does get some focus here) but the love you have for your family and for your closest friends.

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One of the best scenes in the film is when Casper remembers his life before becoming a ghost and recalls his father and some other memories from his childhood. It doesn’t last too long, but it’s impactful, and makes the movie very heartfelt. It never goes overboard, since this is a film that was based off a comic strip and a cartoon, there’s still plenty of slapstick and comedy sprinkled throughout the movie too. But it’s the extra bits of emotion that make this movie feel complete. And that brings me to another point; Casper’s relationship with Kat is quite possibly one of the most tragic love stories i’ve ever seen. Casper clearly has feelings for this girl, and she grows fond of him too, but the fact of the matter is…he’s a ghost. This creates a wall between the two characters that only manages to crumble towards the end when he becomes human for only an hour. It’s a tragic love story, and I love it.

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But Casper and Kat aren’t the only characters who get the spotlight. The Ghostly Trio make their film debut here as well, and their execution is perfect. They come across as the loveable jerks of the movie that also provide alot of the film’s comedy, which is handled like a live action cartoon, and it works, since the source material WAS a cartoon to begin with. Kat’s father Dr Harvey is also an interesting character, with his odd profession (a ghost therapist) and his infractions with the Ghostly Trio are highly entertaining and stand as some of the movie’s impressive effects-heavy sequences. The only characters that feel a little unnecessary are the villains. Carrigan (Cathy Moriarty) and Dibbs( Played by the one and only Eric Idle). They are create a subplot that involves some hidden treasure hidden somewhere in Casper’s home, and while it’s entertaining, it does slow the movie down a little bit, and I don’t think this movie necessarily needed a villain. (although their subplot does start off with a cameo by Ben Stein, who would later go on to cameo in the next few Casper films as well) I think The Ghostly Trio cause enough conflict in the story.

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The music in this movie is beautfaul and Like the movie, it’s one of my favourites. It can be whimsical, it can be heartbreaking, it can be scary, it can be funny, and it can be romantic. Very few scores manage to make me emotional like Casper’s does, and it’s just wonderfully done here. As I mentioned before, The special effects in this film are great. The Ghosts are all very expressive and look like they’re really there in every shot. Whipstaff manner itself is a sight to behold, and it’s one of my favourite film sets as well as one of my favourite haunted houses in film. (Was I the only one who thought it looked like then ouse from Tales From the Crypt opening? Huh, I guess that explains why the Crypt Keeper was in that one scene.)

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Casper is not a perfect movie. But it’s a movie with engaging characters, great comedy, lots of heart, outstanding special effects (that still hold up!) and a wonderful atmosphere. I keep telling people it’s one of my favourite movies of all time, and if you haven’t seen it, there’s no better time then halloween to change that. It’s a highly entertaining film for all ages and it continues to impress and sweep me off my feet me to this day. Recommended!!

Let’s Be Cops

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The buddy cop genre is one that I’m definitely not a fan of. With very few exceptions, (the only one that comes to mind right now is Hot Fuzz.) It never feels like any of these comedies offer anything new. It’s just the same old thing over and over again. Let’s Be Cops ALMOST had something with the story, but once this movie drops the ball, it rarely picks it up again.

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Let’s Be Cops has a premise that actually has a bit of potential. Two down on their luck friends decide to go to a costume party dressed in police uniforms. They soon learn that everyone around them thinks that their real cops, and they take advantage of this every chance they get. But when the bumbling duo get pulled into a case involving a gang of criminals, their fun begins to turn into danger. Now this is a premise that I thought sounded pretty funny. It’s kind of a clever idea. Unlike the characters in the movie however the film rarely takes advantage of the premise and resorts to cheap unfunny jokes that could be found in any given buddy cop comedy. I was bored watching these two characters act like idiots because the movie seemed bored with itself.

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The only characters worth mentioning are the leads. Jake Jonson and Damon Mayans Jr. play Ryan and Justin and they don’t have nearly enough chemistry that a movie like this needs to stay on it’s feet. I know that I bashed 22 Jump Street a few months ago, but what saved that film was the meta humor and the chemistry between the two leads. This movie doesn’t have either of those, so I can’t even give them an A for effort. The rest of the characters are just there to serve the jokes or act as plot devices (such as Justin’s love interest,Josie, who has very little impact on the plot and could’ve easily been written out of the movie entirely, and there would be almost no difference. This movie, like it’s characters, was just boring.

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I realize that this has been a very short review, and I apologize for that, As I usually enjoy going more in-depth when discussing movies. But there is just nothing more I can say about this movie without repeating myself. It could have been something unique, but instead it resorts to a generic and forgettable movie that just didn’t make me laugh or appeal to me in any other way. If you like buddy cop comedies, that’s great. You’ll probably love this. But for me, It’s just another forgettable, boring, and unfunny buddy cop movie.

But hey, at least the film opens with Backstreet Boys song “I want it that way”. That’s got to count for something. …Right?

Casper Month: Introduction

 

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Part of the reason why Fall is my favourite season is because it feels like it begins and ends exactly when it needs to and it never seems to linger or arrive too early. I love the sense of new beginnings it brings out in me, and I might go as far to say that the first week of fall feels more fresh then something like the first day of January. So naturally, Halloween is one of my favourite holidays. And with Halloween comes truckloads of films and shows that I could talk about that relate to the holiday. Last Fall I discussed a few random films that I enjoyed watching at this time of year, but this year I wanted to do something a little more focused. I wanted to cover a franchise or a series of films that I had grown up with and knew a lot about, that also had a strong connection to Halloween and/or fall in general. I had quite a few properties to choose from, but the one that seemed like a no-brainer and I ultimately settled with happens to be the friendly ghost himself, Casper.

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I’ve been Watching Casper since I was in kindergarden and next to Godzilla, he is one of my favourite fictional characters. I can’t really pinpoint an exact reason why I find the character so endearing, but I think that it might have something to do with the fact that he was a great role model. Growing up, I wanted to be like Casper. Optimistic, Open minded and of course, kind.  While some adaptations of the character fare better then others, Casper has remained mostly consistent and reliable with only a few exceptions. This month, I’m going to cover all five of the Casper movies. Content for this month won’t be limited to just Casper related stuff however, as I’ll still post my normal movie reviews alongside them.So for the month of October, let’s take an in depth look at the friendliest ghost you’ve ever seen.