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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Brad Silberling
Cast:
Bill Pullman, Christina Ricci, Cathy Moriarty
Writing Credits:
Sherri Stoner, Deanna Oliver

Synopsis:
An afterlife therapist and his daughter meet a friendly young ghost when they move into a crumbling mansion in order to rid the premises of wicked spirits.

Box Office:
Budget
$55 million.
Opening Weekend
$16,840,385 for 2714 Screens.
Domestic Gross
$100,328,194.

MPAA:
Rated PG.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 9/2/2014

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Brad Silberling
• “Revealing Casper” Featurette
• Deleted Scene
• Animated Short


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RELATED REVIEWS


Casper [Blu-Ray] (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 30, 2020)

Though we associate “comic book movies” with superheroes, the genre embraces a mix of other characters and themes as well. In the more kid-oriented vein, we go to 1995’s Casper.

When greedy Carrigan Crittenden’s (Cathy Moriarty) father dies, she inherits nothing more than a drafty, ratty old mansion. Though she initially intends to demolish the place, she changes her mind when she locates a map that may lead to hidden treasure within the grounds.

However, Carrigan finds it difficult to locate the loot because a variety of mischievous ghosts reside there. They scare away Carrigan and leave her desperate to get rid of them.

Eventually Carrigan hires “afterlife therapist” Dr. James Harvey (Bill Pullman), so he and his adolescent daughter Kat (Christina Ricci) move into the mansion. While James works on the nasty spirits, Kat meets and befriends Casper (Malachi Pearson), “the friendliest ghost you know”.

I recalled Casper as a box office disappointment, but apparently I remembered incorrectly. Though the movie’s $100 million US didn’t dazzle, it proved enough for eighth place in that year’s grosses.

However, with a budget of $55 million, the movie didn’t do well enough to spawn a theatrical sequel, so I guess my memories of Casper as a less than successful flick weren’t totally off-base.

Though I was 28 back then and not in the film’s target audience, I saw it theatrically, and I liked it. I thought the movie had more emotion and spirit than I expected from a kid-friendly comic book flick.

A quarter of a century later, this Blu-ray allows me to revisit Casper and see if it resonates with 53-year-old me like it did with my 28-year-old self. The answer: no, but it offers a reasonably good piece of family entertainment.

In truth, I think Casper impressed me 25 years ago for one main reason: its ending. I won’t discuss that sequence in the interest of spoiler avoidance, but suffice it to say that the film concludes on a surprisingly touching and emotional note.

Or I should say it nearly finishes in that way. Probably to reconnect with its youthful audience, the film’s dramatic finale immediately gets undercut with comedy. It’s not a choice that ruins the tale but I wish the filmmakers let the characters go out on a bittersweet note and didn’t feel the need to wind up with a wacky bang.

As for the rest of the movie, it seems less memorable – not bad, but fairly ordinary for a piece of family fare. Though not a painful affair for those over the age of 10, Casper also fails to offer a whole lot to enchant grownups.

Actually, Casper does nod toward adults in terms of its cameos. Also in an attempt to avoid spoilers, I won’t mention who appears, but the film comes with a handful of big names who add mirth to the proceedings, mainly because the movie uses them in clever ways.

While I suspect Casper went with these cameos for publicity/gimmick value, it does manage to integrate them nicely. The guests fit the film well and add to the fun.

Or the potential fun, as outside of occasional lively moments, Casper seems less like an enchanting adventure and more like an inconsistent attempt to launch a new franchise. Face it: though we never got a big-screen sequel to Casper, I feel certain that the producers hoped it’d act as the first in a series, and the movie emits that kind of “made by committee” approach.

Though that might seem unfair to director Brad Silberling, as he does attempt to impart his own sensibility. With flicks like Casper and 1998’s City of Angels, Silberling tended to focus on death and healing, and his embrace of that subject matter does add a layer of depth to this film that another director might lack.

Nonetheless, Silberling’s themes can’t do enough to make Casper more than a sporadic pleasure, as the kiddie-oriented parts tend to fall a bit flat. It doesn’t help that Casper himself has always been an awfully dull character.

How much fun can someone as milquetoast as Casper be? The bad ghosts add some mirth, though all the spirits lose some points due to the era’s now-lackluster computer graphics.

In truth, the animation holds up pretty well for its age, as one can easily find much worse circa mid-90s CG. However, the ghosts tend to look awfully rubbery, and they don’t tend to integrate with their surroundings especially well.

All of these factors make Casper a film that fares better than one might expect, but it never quite excels. Still, it comes with a moderate amount of charm for both kids and adults.


The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio A/ Bonus B

Casper appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became a generally good transfer but not one that excelled.

For the most part, sharpness was pleasing. A few wider shots demonstrated some tentative delineation, but those never became major issues. Instead, the movie usually offered good clarity and definition.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, but some light edge haloes cropped up during the flick. Source flaws were minor, as I noticed a few small specks but nothing more.

Grain seemed erratic. Some shots offered a good layer, but others – mainly interiors – could feel a bit “scrubbed”. Still, the noise reduction didn’t seem heavy, so the image usually retained a fairly natural feel.

Colors worked well. I thought the hues looked nicely warm and natural, and the movie displayed a bright and vivid palette throughout the film.

Black levels appeared deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not excessively thick. All of this was good enough for a “B-”.

Back in the laserdisc days, the DTS LD of Casper became regarded as one of the all-time great soundtracks. 25 years later, the mix held up well and remained impressive.

The soundfield felt well-defined and engaging, so throughout the movie, all five speakers received a nice workout. The forward spectrum provided clean and well-delineated sound that spread clearly and accurately across the front speakers.

Music showed positive stereo separation, and effects were placed appropriately within the spectrum. Elements also blended together well, and they panned neatly from side to side.

Surround usage seemed to be excellent, as the rear speakers often added some serious punch to the package. During quieter scenes, the surrounds stayed with general ambience, but the louder sequences strongly ratcheted up the auditory action.

Those parts of the film made the rear channels active partners in the mix and they created a very encompassing and aggressive setting. When appropriate, the soundfield became quite involving and powerful, usually connected to the various ghosts.

Audio quality also seemed to be quite good, so speech was warm and concise. Music appeared robust and bright, and it held its own among the mix of competing elements.

Effects were positively terrific, as they showed fine clarity and excellent dynamics. When the mix got loud, the effects appeared powerful and accurate.

Low-end seemed to be very strong, as explosions and other deep elements sounded rich and vibrant. Ultimately, Casper offered an excellent auditory experience.

As we shift to extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Brad Silberling. He brings a running, screen-specific look at story and characters, sets and locations, cast and performances, music, effects and animation, stunts, and connected domains.

From start to finish, Silberling provides a simply terrific commentary. He remains invested and involved throughout the discussion, and he touches on all the appropriate topics. Expect a really strong chat here.

One Deleted Scene lasts three minutes, 16 seconds. It brings a therapy session between Dr. Harvey and the ghostly trio. A musical number, it wouldn’t add to the film’s narrative, but it offers some fun.

The scene didn’t get finished due to costs, so it remains incomplete here. The Blu-ray allows us two versions: one that shows what the sequence would look like sans any ghosts, and another that lets us see animator’s reference models where the ghosts would be. I like the option to see the two renditions.

We can watch the scene with or without a one-minute, 43-second intro that features Silberling, producer Colin Wilson, and actors Bill Pullman and Joe Alaskey.

They give us a quick overview of the sequence and why it got the boot. (The answer is money, as the scene would’ve cost a fortune due to the heavy use of CG.)

The scene also comes with optional commentary from Silberling. He mainly lets us know what we would see if the sequence got completed, and that makes his chat helpful.

Revealing Casper goes for 47 minutes, 10 seconds and offers notes from Silberling, Pullman, Alaskey, Wilson, production designer Les Dilley, director of photography Dean Cundey, executive producer Steven Spielberg, screenwriters Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver, animation director Phil Nibbelink, set decorator Rosemary Brandenburg, stunt coordinator Gary Hymes, digital character modeling supervisor Kyle Odermatt, digital character supervisors Dennis Muren and Stefan Fangmeier, visual effects plate supervisor Scott Farrar, editor Michael Kahn, animation director Eric Armstrong, character design supervisor David Carson, digital modeler Matthew Hendershot, composer James Newton Howard, and actors Cathy Moriarty, Christina Ricci, Malachi Pearson, Joe Nipote, Eric Idle, and Brad Garrett.

“Revealing” discusses the project’s origins and development, story, characters and screenplay, how Silberling arrived on the project, cast and performances, sets and locations, animation and effects, stunts, editing, music, and the film’s release.

As that synopsis implies, “Revealing’ offers a pretty thorough overview of the production, though it starts on a cutesy note, as it launches with a discussion of Casper as though he were a real actor. Happily, “Revealing” soon abandons that dopey conceit and turns into a solid discussion of the movie’s creation.

Finally, we locate an animated short from 1956. Penguin for Your Thoughts runs seven minutes and provides Casper’s attempt to deliver a wayward baby penguin to the South Pole. Thoughts seems more cute than funny, but I’m glad the disc includes a look as “classic Casper”.

As a piece of family entertainment, Casper seems mildly above average. While it comes with its ups and downs, it delivers a memorable finale and does enough to seem reasonably likable. The Blu-ray brings acceptable visuals along with top-notch audio and a mix of very good bonus materials. Casper doesn’t consistently click, but it manages some good moments.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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