Film / Casper

Live-Action Adaptation of the Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons and comics from The '90s. 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) and did even worse with Al Harvey's children. It 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, they don't share any continuity with each other. These sequels are often considered to be of much lower quality the first movie.

  • 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 Casper's backstory as presented in the first film and his connection to Whipstaff Manor, both of which had played a major role in the plot of the original film.

  • 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 its own TV show which continues where the movie left off.

The movie was the basis for the short-lived animated series The Spooktacular New Adventures Of Casper and received a licensed video game adaptation.

This 1995 film provides examples of:

  • 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.
  • The Alleged Expert: Ray Stantz from Ghostbusters is brought in to get rid of the ghosts. He can't.
  • Anti-Hero: The Ghostly Trio are examples of Nominal Hero.
  • Adorkable: Bill Pullman as Dr. James Harvey
  • An Aesop: About friendship, with a good example (Casper and Kat), a dysfunctional example (Carrigan and Dibbs) and a creepy example (the Ghostly Trio and Dr Harvey).
  • Age Lift: In the prior cartoons and comics, Casper is a prepubescent boy instead of a young teen, so crushes and romance never came up.
  • All for Nothing: The "treasure" Carrigan tries so hard to find turns out to be a baseball glove and ball signed by Casper's favorite player.
    • That's debatable - Carrigan crossed over before she even found out. It's really only 'nothing' to Kat, who wasn't looking for it.
  • Alliterative Name: Carrigan Crittenden.
  • All That Glitters
  • Alpha Bitch: Amber.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: There's enough language to justify its PG rating.
  • Award Bait Song: Remember Me This Way by Jordan Hill
  • Barred from the Afterlife: In this movie, ghosts are the spirits of people who had some important business left unfinished due to their death.
  • 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 humiliate 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.
  • Bitch Alert: Carrigan's first scene has her griping that all her father left her was "one lousy piece of property."
    • Amber snapping at Kat to "Watch it!" while nearly hitting her with her bike on the way to school.
  • Black Comedy: The Ghostly Trio warms up to James so much that they decide they want to kill him so he'll become a ghost and hang out with them for eternity. But they change their minds.
  • Boo Meets Girl
  • 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.
  • Canon Foreigner: Everyone except Casper and the Ghostly Trio.
  • Celebrity Paradox: A blink if you miss moment, but when Casper is flipping through channels he stumbles upon an episode of one of his own Cartoon's, complete with an old lady reacting in the trademark "A GGGGHOST!!!" All that does is annoy Casper enough to change the channel.
  • 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.
    • Even the Ghostly Trio go through some development in the movie, Taking A (very slight) Level In Kindness.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to the comic it's based off of. The movie doesn't pull any punches and pretty much tells you, that every ghost at least died of something. Even showing how they come to be by having Dr. Harvey's and Carrigan's deaths being shown. Casper, while a nice ghost, has the most tragic death story of them all and such tragedy is what compels him to stay and be the friendly ghost we know and love. To top it off, all of this was in a PG movie while most of the humor, swearing and scary scenes are barely leaning towards PG-13.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Kat at times. Could cross into Little Miss Snarker when you think about her age.
  • Desperate Object Catch: Kat lunges to catch the glass bottle of red substance that could bring Casper back to life. She catches it just in time, complete with slo-mo.
  • Destination Defenestration: Carrigan's response to Dibbs' "The Reason You Suck" Speech is to pitch him out of a window (and out of the film.)
  • Died Happily Ever After: Amelia's angel 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".
  • Disney Villain Death: Carrigan. Not that it stops her...
    • 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.
  • Evil Laugh: Carrigan. Particularly in ghost form.
  • The Exit Is That Way: When James sees Casper for the first time, he tries to carry Kat out of the house...only to use the wrong door
    Kat: Uh, Dad, we're in a closet.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Carrigan, especially when she first meets the Harveys.
  • Finish Dialogue in Unison: This happens during James and Amelia's final conversation.
  • 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.
  • Forging The Will: Discussed. Upon learning the contents of her father's will, Carrigan berates Dibbs for not forging one.
  • 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.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Lampshaded.
  • Friend or Idol Decision
  • 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 Dibbs accidentally falls on a lever, and a wrecking ball smashes into their car behind her.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: "There's a girl... on my bed... Yes!"
    • "Hey, boys! We got a closet case here!"
    • A literal example, as Dr. Harvey, Kat, and the audience get to watch the Ghostly Trio digest and defecate their breakfast, and then pelt Dr. Harvey with it.
    • The following exchange:
      Kat: I want to look... nice.
      James: Mm-hmm.
      Kat: Like... Like date nice.
      Kat: It's a little late for that, Dad.
      James: How late?
      Kat: Oh, don't worry. Not that late.
    • 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.
  • Ghost Amnesia: Casper and Dr. Harvey, until their respective memories get jogged. Averted with Carrigan, for some reason.
  • Ghostly Chill: "Casper, close the window. It's cold."
  • Glamour Failure: Ghosts don't have reflections. Kat dryly comments this is one reason she's not dating Casper. It's a pretty common belief that ghosts don't have reflections.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Carrigan smokes and is definitely evil.
  • Greater Need Than Mine: See Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Amber's hostility to Kat stems from this - she's jealous that the school's Halloween dance will be taking place at Kat's house instead of her own.
  • 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.
  • Haunted Headquarters
  • 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 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.
  • Hypocritical Humor
  • The Igor: Dibbs.
  • Insult Backfire:
    Kat: You guys are disgusting, obnoxious creeps!
    Ghostly Trio: ...Thank you!
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: Father Guido Sarducci and Dr. Ray Stantz briefly show up.
    Stanz: Who you gonna call? [Ghostly Trio laughs] Someone else!
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: After learning that Kat's father died and had turned into a ghost, Casper gives up his only chance to be human again and let Kat have her father back. This also doubles as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
  • Jerkasses / Jerks With Hearts of Gold: Stretch, Stinkie and Fatso.
  • Jerk Jock: Downplayed with Vic, since he never acts like a jerk to Kat's face and seems genuinely uncomfortable with Amber's plan to humiliate her, but goes along with the plan anyway. Maybe he's just a bit of a doormat.
  • Let Her Grow Up, Dear: Amelia says that James is doing very well in raising Kat, but she raises a few points that sorely need to be addressed. Amelia mostly says that Kat, who is a teenager, must be allowed to engage boys with dignity and a measure of privacy.
  • Live-Action Adaptation
  • Logo Joke: The Universal globe turns into the moon outside of Whipstaff Manor at night.
  • Low Clearance: Amber is riding piggyback on Vic as they flee the house. Vic runs under a set of lights strung across the ballroom, and continues to drag Amber across the floor as he runs away.
  • Meaningful Name: The Ghostly Trio. Stretch's spectral body looks as if it's been stretched out, Stinkie is a ghostly biohazard, and Fatso is self-explanatory.
  • Mirror Scare: After possessing Dr. Harvey, the Ghostly Trio change his reflection into Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield, Mel Gibson, and the Crypt Keeper.
  • Monochrome Apparition: The ghosts are ghostly white.
  • Mythology Gag: Kat and James' surname is Harvey. Casper the Friendly Ghost was originally published by Harvey Comics, which was defunct by the time this film was made.
  • Named by the Adaptation: Casper McFadden.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Doctor Raymond Stantz has taken on far more formidable and aggressive ghosts. Several hardcore Ghostbusters fans often argue there is no way he would chicken out so easily.
  • 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.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Dibbs. We only see his real name (Paul Plutzker) in the credits and in the DVD extra features.
  • Passed-Over Inheritance: Carrigan expected to inherit way more than she did. Her father left almost everything to charity.
  • Pet the Dog: The Ghostly Trio keep the promise they made and find Kat's mom.
    • They also scared away Vic and Amber, who were about to crash Kat's party. But it's debatable whether they were doing this as an apology for killing her dad, or just for a good ol' scare. Maybe both.
  • Pinky Swear: Between Kat and her father in the beginning, when James promises her that if he doesn't find her mom's spirit in Whipstaff, he'll stop looking.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Dr. James Harvey's initial interactions with Casper and the Ghostly Trio make it obvious that - despite being a "paranormal psychologist" - he'd never seen an actual ghost before. But he may have felt their presence in his previous cases.
  • Pixellation: An in-universe example. During the news report on Dr. Harvey, the widow of one of his previous clients is shown with her face censored out this way, presumably to protect her identity.
  • Precision F-Strike: Both Carrigan and Dibbs' respective use of the word "bitch" in reference to Carrigan herself.
  • Premiseville: A movie with An Aesop about friendship is set in Friendship, Maine.
    [A classmate snores]
  • Promise Me You Won't X
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: To Carrigan from Dibbs, after he gets fed up with her and decides to take the treasure for himself.
    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!"
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: It is revealed that Casper's father invented a serum that can bring back the dead. Unfortunately, there is only enough for it to be used once, and it is all used in bringing back Dr. Harvey. Not once does it occur to anyone to bring the formula to a scientist who could replicate it.
  • Rich Bitch: Amber's implied to be quite well off.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: The "Up'n'at'em" machine.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: Carrigan proclaims she has no unfinished business as a ghost, causing her to cross over.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Ghostly Trio is too much even for Ray Stantz of the Ghostbusters.
    Ray: Who you gonna call? ... someone else!
  • Sitting on the Roof: Casper and Kat talk while sitting on the roof of a lighthouse in one scene.
  • Skewed Priorities: Dibbs's response to Carrigan falling off a cliff is to dryly lament that she had his favorite sunglasses.
  • Someone's Touching My Butt: Just after the Ghostly Trio have been sucked into a vacuum cleaner and are, for some reason, temporarily stuck inside the bag...
    Stretch: Who's got their pointy head up my
    Fatso: That's not my head.
  • 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 his 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.
  • Starring Special Effects: Has the distinction of being the first movie where the title character is CG.
  • Steam Punk: Casper's father's secret laboratory.
  • 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.
  • Totem Pole Trench: Employed by Vic and Amber in order to play a prank on Kat at the dance.
  • Terrible Trio: The Ghostly Trio. Although they're astonishingly competent for secondary antagonists - though they have had over 100 years to perfect the art.
  • Transformation of the Possessed: When Dr. Harvey is possessed by the Ghostly Trio they transform him into Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield, Mel Gibson and the Crypt Keeper. Though it's not exactly made clear whether this was actually happening, or if it was just a hallucination.
  • Unfinished Business
  • 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.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Ghostly Trio are this with all their "friends".
  • Vocal Dissonance: Carrigan's voice sounds deep and manly. What else can you expect from Cathy Moriarty?
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": Dibbs tells Carrigan that when he's rich from the treasure, he'll get a little dog, and name it after her.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Played with.
  • 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.").
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Just try to work out what time period Casper lived in.
    • 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.
  • You Won't Feel a Thing:
    Carrigan Crittenden: [stalking after Dibs, carrying a huge battle axe] Damn it, Dibs! This won't hurt a bit!

Alternative Title(s): Casper The Friendly Ghost