Picks and Pans Review: Casper

UPDATED 05/29/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/29/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT

Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman, Eric Idle, Cathy Moriarity, Amy Brenneman

It is about Casper the friendly if hardly beloved cartoon ghost, but this live-action-cum-animation comedy would have been better devoted to Casper the town in Wyoming or Caspar the former Secretary of Defense.

The lively, subtle Ricci—Wednesday in the Addams Family movies—is the most appealing part of Casper, even in the vaguely disturbing scenes when the 12-year-old boy's ghost is lusting after her.

Pullman plays a widower "ghost therapist" who is called in by Moriarity and Idle after they inherit an old mansion in Maine that turns out to be haunted by four visible ghosts: Casper and three uncles. While Casper is trying to regain his corporeal life, Pullman is wondering if the ghosts can track down the spirit of his late wife, Brenneman. These feats are accomplished with much screeching and much flaunting of the Industrial Light & Magic effects that mix the ghosts with some of the real actors, Roger Rabbit-style, while the film's more talented comic performers, Idle and Moriarity, are languishing on the sidelines.

The lame script by writers Sherri Stoner and Deanna Oliver leans heavily on bad puns. The ghosts have a "ghost-to-ghost network," tell "haunting stories" and give "dead parties." The less-than-exciting conclusion does introduce the brawny, young blond hunk-of-the-future Devon Sawa as Casper incarnate, but mostly it just succeeds in restoring Casper to his rightful place—that of a fourth-rate cartoon character right in there with Foghorn Leghorn, Pepe Le Pew and Gladstone Gander. (PG)

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