A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Casper is a 1995 adaptation of the well-known cartoon series chronicling the adventures of the titular "friendly ghost." The cartoon Casper and other Casper movies are much milder than this one. There are deaths here and much talk about the spirit world and grieving the loss of parents. The main character, Kat, sees one parent as a ghost, and another parent dies and comes back with the help of an invention. Kat also has a crush on Casper, who died as a tween boy. Casper's ghost uncles can be crude and mischievous and they take Kat's father out drinking at a bar. There is some bullying -- Kat is verbally teased by the popular kids as the "new kid" in school, and Casper's uncles bully him too. There is some profanity: "bitch," "damn," "hell," "Jesus," "for Christ's sake." A tween girl says "piss off." There's also some sexual innuendo: In one scene, Kat's father's pants are removed by Casper's mischievous uncles, and one of the ghosts says that "he is no Marky Mark." Parents expecting a wholesome movie version of the cartoon series will be surprised by the language and violence.
What's the story?
In CASPER, motherless Kat Harvey (Christina Ricci) and her father (Bill Pullman), a psychologist who helps spirits complete their journey onto death, move into Whipstaff Manor. The nasty Carrigan Crittenden has hired the doctor to rid her recently inherited property of its ghosts so she can hunt for the treasure hidden somewhere within its walls. One of the ghosts, Casper, develops a crush on Kat, while his rowdy ghost uncles make life comically difficult for everyone. When the Harveys throw a Halloween party, Kat and Casper discover a "resurrection machine" built by Casper's father, as well as the "treasure." Carrigan wants the machine for her wicked plans, and eventually there's a mad chase about the house and in and out of spirit worlds. In the end, Casper faces a tough choice: his life or Dr. Harvey's?
Is it any good?
Great special effects and fine acting should entertain older tweens, who may also like the mild romance between Casper and Kat, but teens will find the scares too mild and the tone too sentimental. Viewers on the younger side should find the haunted house in Casper pretty cool, although they may be frightened at times. Parents will not appreciate the unexpected profanity and violence.
That said, the relationship between Kat and her father is genuinely sweet. Cathy Moriarty as Carrigan is enjoyably Cruella de Vil-ish, and sidekick Dibs (Monty Python's Eric Idle) has funny moments. Cameos by Don Novello as the exorcist, Father Guido Sarducci, and Dan Aykroyd as Ghostbusters' Dr. Ray Stantz are good in-jokes. The Victorian Gothic set -- with a nifty revolving panel and roller coaster ride to the basement -- is indeed cool.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about fantasies and ghost stories like Casper. What is appealing about ghost stories? Why do you think Casper is friendly while his uncles are looking to cause trouble?
How is this movie darker than the original cartoon series?
How is violence shown in the movie? Does it seem appropriate to the story, or does it seem gratuitous?
Why do you think so many ghost stories take place in mansions?
- In theaters: May 26, 1995
- On DVD or streaming: September 23, 2003
- Cast: Ben Stein, Bill Pullman, Christina Ricci
- Director: Brad Silberling
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild language and thematic elements.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.