Live-Action Adaptation of the Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons and comics from The Nineties. Directed by Brad Silberling (who went on to do the A Series of Unfortunate Events film) and produced by (who else?) Steven Spielberg. The first feature film ever to have a CGI character in the lead role, beating Toy Story by six months.Carrigan Crittenden (Cathy Moriarty) is eager to get her claws on her dear departed dad's fortune, but discovers at the reading of his will that he... didn't like her very much and only left her a moldy old mansion. Upon learning that the house may contain treasure, she drags her long-suffering lawyer Dibbs (Eric Idle) to the Maine coastline, where they find the building is haunted by Casper and his three uncles. Carrigan eventually hires "ghost therapist" Dr. James Harvey (Bill Pullman) to get rid of them. He brings along his daughter Kat (a teenage Christina Ricci fresh off The Addams Family films), whose relationship with Casper is most of the movie.The movie didn't do well with the critics (Roger Ebert being a notable exception), but nevertheless gained a bit of a cult following and was a success at the box office.It gained a few DTV sequels: Two live action and two CGI animated. However, save Casper's Uncles, don't share any continuity with each other. Usually considered of much lower quantity then the first movie as well.
Casper: A Spirited Beginning: (1997). As the title suggests, it was meant to be a prequel which shows Casper learning his powers and befriending a boy named Chris with his own problems. However, it contradicts the story of the first film as in the first movie Casper died in the 20's where he's just recently deceased here.
Casper Meets Wendy: (1998) Showcases the meeting with Harvey Comics' Wendy, The Good Li'l Witch, when his uncles take him on a vacation where Wendy's aunts just coincidentally happened to be at the same place, albeit fleeing from a warlock who's trying to kill Wendy. It also has almost nothing to do with the first movie. Was also the introduction of a then young Hilary Duff.
Casper's Haunted Christmas: (2000) A CGI animated Christmas Movie which see Casper and the Ghostly Trio trying to scare someone before Christmas or Kibosh (the king of ghosts from the 2nd movie) will banish them to "The Dark". Casper once again meets and befriends a human character which complicates things. Notable for including Spooky and Pearl from the Harvey Comics.
Casper's Scare School (2006): The latest incarnation of Casper. This movie sees Casper sent to Scare School to learn to be a proper ghost. He makes friends, gains the wrath of a bully vampire, and stumbles onto a plot that'll put the whole world of monsters in danger. Was spun off into it's own TV show which continues where the movie left off.
Adaptation Expansion: Apart from the characters of Casper and the Ghostly Trio, the story is original. The ghosts themselves are tweaked, with Casper becoming a teen and the Trio stated to be his uncles instead of just three older ghosts he lived with.
Adaptation Name Change: In the older Casper comics, the Ghostly Trio are named Fatso (the fattest), Lazo (the tallest) and Fusso (the average one). In the film, Fatso is retained, the tallest is Stretch and the third is Stinkie. Also, the last two received different characterizations and traits, with Stretch as the leader instead of Fatso.
Battle Butler: Eric Idle's character, Dibbs. It's never explained what his relationship to Carrigan is or why he follows her around and takes her abuse.
Beware the Nice Ones: Casper is one of the nicest ghosts you could meet. But give Kat a hard time and he'll get you. Like the shoelace scene.
Beware the Silly Ones: The Ghostly Trio only scare people for kicks. However when they find out someone is pranking their house in an attempt to humilate their fleshy friends, they give them a good scare.
Big Eater: All three of the Ghostly Trio (but only Fatso, as his name implies, is fat).
Big Fancy House: Whipstaff Manor could qualify, in spite of its creepiness.
Butt Monkey: Poor Dibbs. Casper also gets treated this way by the Ghostly Trio, at least before they decide James is more fun.
California Doubling: Friendship, Maine, the setting of the film, is a real place, but none of the movie was shot there. The downtown scenes were filmed in the more touristy Rockport, Maine, while most of the movie, including all the scenes involving Whipstaff, were filmed in California.
Character Development: Both Kat and Dr. Harvey go through quite a bit of it; they learn to appreciate one another more and fully accept the death of Kat's mother.
Casper himself, while remaining fundamentally the same Nice Guy throughout the movie, does start out as having slightly more selfish motives, occasionally coming across as a Stalker with a Crush towards Kat. He (mostly) loses these tendencies towards the end, going through a Heroic Sacrifice and giving up his chance for a new life so that Kat can have her father back.
Died Happily Ever After: Amelia's ghost reveals that this is the reason James had such a hard time tracking her down; because he and Kat loved her so well when she was alive, she had no "unfinished business".
Dr. Harvey, too, after drunkenly stumbling onto an unfinished construction site. He recovers, though.
Even Evil Has Standards: Right after the Ghostly Trio decide they want to kill James so his ghost can join their gang, James (drunkenly) tells them he won't help Carrigan evict them from the manor, and declares them to be his best friends. The trio then decide on the spot that they just can't go through with doing him in.
Funny Background Event: In the beginning, while Carrigan watches a wrecking crew attempt to tear down the haunted Whipstaff Manor, she nonchalantly lights up a cigarette...as a wrecking ball smashes into a car behind her.
Fly-at-the-Camera Ending: The movie ends with the friendly ghost flying around in the air, spelling out "The End" with a smoke trail...and then apparently trying to devour the audience.
Foreshadowing: Kat, annoyed with her father for dragging her around the country on what she sees as a Wild Goose Chase, flatly tells James that "Mom's not a ghost." She turns out to be right. Amelia died with no regrets, so her spirit never carried the burden of Unfinished Business and was allowed to properly cross over.
There's also a surprisingly funny one in one of the sequels. The school principal runs out of the bathroom, pants still down, after being scared by Casper. He runs up to a woman staff member, grabs her and says "I need you!". She looks down at his boxers, screams, and slaps the principal across the face.
The subtext surrounding Carrigan is pretty dark if one thinks about it. She pretty much killed herself trying to kill her own compatriot in an obsessive bid to get a fortune from a father that didn't love her, so soon after he himself died. Thinking further makes one wonder if he even cares that the woman who was his child had her life cut short by a series of actions he started when he shorted her out in the first place. It's played comically, but that's still pretty sad if you think about it.
Happily Married: James Harvey and his wife, Amelia. He was so shaken by her unexpected death that he made it his personal mission to track down her ghost. He finds her in the end... as an angel. They share one final moment together before she goes back to Heaven.
Heroic Sacrifice: Casper gives up his only chance to come back to life so Dr. Harvey can come back and be a father to Kat.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Carrigan becomes a Self-Disposing Villain since her one and only goal was the collection of the treasure. Upon becoming a ghost and taking it, she's fulfilled her only reason to remain in the world of the living and promptly passes on.
Human-Focused Adaptation: Sort of, as Dr. Harvey and (especially) Kat are arguably the main protagonists here — though Casper and his uncles don't lack for screen time or plot relevance and go through almost as much Character Development as the humans do.
In the case of this franchise, in fact, the movie is actually following tradition; several of the old Casper cartoons would give a starring role to whoever it was Casper was trying to befriend or help out.
Kat was originally named Wendy after Casper's witch friend, but it was changed because Universal didn't want to buy the rights to the character. Still, at one point Kat wears a red hoodie which references Wendy's outfit.
One-Winged Angel: Arguably, Carrigan when she first comes back as a ghost. The sight terrifies Dibbs, and the audience doesn't even get to see anything besides the shadow of something very large towering over him.
Dibbs: Carrigan, if there's one thing I've learned from you, it's "Always kick 'em when they're down." And baby? You're six feet under! Oh what a shame! [takes out the Elixir] Sorry sweetheart. We're through. [aims to pitch it]
Carrigan: [gasps in horror] I am NOT going to forget this, you ungrateful, lousy little worm, you!
Dibbs: [laughs] You can haunt me all you want, but it's going to 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!"
Stalker with a Crush: Casper can be seen as this towards Kat, at first. Encouraged by Casper's creepy-yet-oddly-sweet question "Can I keep you?", which can come across as stalker-like or merely him asking, in is own odd way, "Will you stay and be my friend?" Justified in that he has had no social interaction with anyone save his nasty uncles since becoming a ghost and is starved for affection.
Take That: Quite a few, considering it was written by Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver, two veterans of the Warner Bros. Animation Silver Age. Jabs at Oprah, Mark Wahlberg, and the like are commonplace.
Terrible Trio: The Ghostly Trio. Although they're astonishingly competent for secondary antagonists - though they have had over 100 years to perfect the art.
Villainous Breakdown: Carrigan has this after becoming a ghost when, after she gloats at Casper and Kat that she has no unfinished business (see above), she suddenly crosses over and, amid feverishly trying to take it back, she starts screaming at Kat and Casper for tricking her as she does so.
Who You Gonna Call?: To exorcise the house? Ultimately, Dr. Harvey, but Carrigan tries a few other professionals first. One of the trope namers even drops by to give a lampshade ("Who you gonna call? Someone else.").
Mainly, the problem is that darn Duke Snider autographed baseball. Duke Snider began his baseball career in the 1940s, but everything else in the film, particularly the art direction, suggests Casper lived sometime around 1900. To add to the confusion, a direct-to-video "prequel" portrayed him becoming a ghost in The Present Day.
The only possible explanation for the "prequel" is that after his father passed away, he was taken to the train. During the trip, time moves faster. After falling off the train, all the shorts and specials happen. Then he wanders to the town where he meets the boy Chris. Casper did say to Kat that he "didn't go where" he "was supposed to go", and he didn't. Though they can all be explained away by Broad Strokes and Hand Waves.