10 things I initially overlooked about the Casper movie

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Here are ten things I likely missed when I first watched the movie back in 1995:

  1. I am really happy that the actors never attempted Maine accents, which is probably why I didn’t remember that Casper takes place in Maine. Have you ever seen that episode of Quantum Leap where Sam assumes the identity of a horror author and a bunch of weird occurrences take place, and you come to find out that the boy at the beginning of the episode is Stephen King and it is through observing all of these shenanigans that he got all of his best ideas? My wife and I were watching that and before any of the plot became evident, we spent the first 10 minutes of the episode trying to figure out if — judging from the lead actress’ accent — if it took place in England, or if there was something profoundly wrong with her. None of the above, of course, just another shitty Maine accent. [Note: The most entertaining Maine accident portrayed in popular culture to date still belongs to Dana Carvey and Stephen Colbert in The Dana Carvey Show sketch Skinheads from Maine.]
  2. Allusions to Freud are plentiful, both overt and otherwise. Stretch, Fatso, and Stinkie, Casper’s antagonistic uncles, ask Bill Pullman’s character if his anxieties are rooted in his relationship with his parents. Casper encourages Kat, the Christina Ricci character he spends the whole movie trying to seduce, to dress in his mother’s clothes at the Halloween Party he hopes to accompany her to. The sexual longing of the long-dead is not as overt as what went down in Hocus Pocus, in which a newly resurrected Sarah Jessica Parker is DTF the teenage protagonist after spending 300 years in the ground, but it’s definitely present.
  3. For a kids movie, a lot of people die both onscreen and off. Casper is about ghosts, I know, but it is Casper, not Beetlejuice. When we come upon our protagonists, we find that the matriarch of the family is not only dead, she is responsible for Kat’s father’s prolonged mental break. Casper died, of course, which he recalls in a melancholy, stream of conscious monologue, and Kat’s dad dies after a drunken night on the town. And add to the body count the human antagonists of the movie; Carrigan dies after falling off a clip and  Dibs presumably drowns, a severance that is never reconciled.
  4. Speaking of Dibs, he is portrayed by comedy genius Eric “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” Idle of Monty Python fame. I understand, of course, that we all have to work, and that Python had long been out of commission by 1995 and the Fish Called Wanda money had likely dried up by that point, but—even though he probably made more than I will make in a decade for his appearance in the film—I can’t help but feel bad for the comedy legend when watching him deliver lines like, “You know, 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.” And: “You can haunt me all you want, but it’s gonna 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! I’ve got the power! I’ve got the treasure!” By the way, bitch, this is a kids movie.
  5. Dibs’ fate is not the only plot point that goes without reconciliation. Because the school gym is off limits due to asbestos removal (the first giveaway that this takes place in Maine), Kat hosts a Halloween party at her legitimately haunted house, which her father — a drunk who is very clearly in emotional crisis — totally irresponsibly okays. This happens because a classmate volunteers her place — which is notoriously scary — as a backup venue on her first day of class. Specifically, this occurs while she is introducing herself in front of the class and her classmates are actively making fun of her, all of which — the antagonization and the venue — her teacher approves. Despite the fact that this all was volunteered on her behalf, her rich, snooty classmate, who — next to a trio of rude ghosts and two villainous humans — is set up to be the wholly unnecessary third antagonist of the film, gets angry with her and sets up what is alluded to as a Carrie-like prank involving a boy who pretends that he is interested in being Kat’s date to her party. The prank, though, involves the boy and antagonist pretending to be a tall ghost, none of which is reliant on the feigned love interest. It’s not like the ruse was required to earn entry to the party, which, by the number of attendees portrayed, appears to have been extended to every 7th grader in the state of Maine.
  6. As mentioned earlier, Bill Pullman’s character plays a kook who loses his mind after his wife dies. He sets up a paranormal psychology practice as a thinly veiled attempt to reunite with his late wife. Even though he has never seen a ghost by the time we are introduced to him — and he has duped a widow out of some money by pretending to have offered solace to her late husband — he has developed a theory that ghosts exist on Earth because of unresolved business, and upon resolution of said business they can pass to the other side. In the end, this is proven to be true, but even though Casper appears to reconcile all of his demons — a process which involves being granted a short stint in human form during which he dances with Kat for several benignly erotic hours straight — he remains a ghost through the end of the movie. What more does poor Casper have to do to find peace? Will he continue to live with his human girlfriend, remaining the same age and state while she ages and eventually goes to college where she will inevitably find a human boyfriend and abandon the tormented boy ghost forever?
  7. Kat’s father alludes to problems with finances on several occasions and when he is hired by Carrigan to address her ghost infestation, he suggests that this is their last financial hope. When Carrigan dies, does he end up getting paid? Will he and Kat continue to live in the house? Do they find themselves in probate purgatory?
  8. Stretch, Fatso, and Stinkie plan on killing Kat’s dad so they can absorb him into their gang, but then after he delivers a drunken speech while he is drunkenly losing his mind, they decide that they can’t kill him. A few scenes later, he is dead and they are celebrating his induction into their gang. A few scenes after that, after he has been brought to life by Casper’s father’s reanimation machine, his wife — now an angel — gives him parenting advice and reveals that the trio arranged the admittedly touching rreunion. I understand that you’re the comic relief of the film, guys, but make up your goddamned minds.
  9. Casper’s Dad, an inventor who is revealed to have been institutionalized because his reports that his son haunts him indicate a mental break — but also probably because can’t handle that he bought a sled that was partially responsible for the boy’s fatal bout with pneumonia — once built about a mile of track that leads into a bat cave like basement, along which a Rube Goldberg-like series of contraptions shaves and grooms the passenger. The existence of the machine suggests that it is more likely that Casper’s dad lost his mind long before his son died. It also reminds that from 1985 to 1995, totally unnecessary Rube Goldberg machinery was very popular among Pee Wee Herman, Ernest, Casper’s tormented father, and other kid-friendly characters.
  10. Dan Aykroyd makes a cameo appearance as Ghostbuster Ray Stantz at the start of the film. Aykroyd as an aging Ghostbuster was already a sad sight in 1995, 6 years after Ghostbusters 2. Anyone who is angry that a Paul Feig directed, all female reboot won out over a third installment with the original cast should just go back, watch this scene, and count their blessings.

 

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.