A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the computer animation is pleasing to look at, and character voices are appealing. Songs include Casper's famous tune (sung by Randy Travis), Christmas standards, and an enjoyable new song about friendship. According to tradition, there's always a moment in which Casper is convinced that nobody likes him. In another scene, Casper's new friend Holly has a fight with Casper's rude look-alike cousin Spooky, believing that he's Casper. Casper is threatened with being banished to "The Dark," a sort of ghost purgatory. Kibosh, the Supreme Ghost, may frighten sensitive viewers with his sharp teeth and scowling face. Casper makes a half-hearted attempt to scare a child, although he quickly realizes the error of his ways. Stories about ghosts could lead kids to ask questions about death and the afterlife. Parents should be prepared for these questions. The ideal age group for the friendly ghost's adventures is grade-school kids. Kids with a yen for Casper will have a lot of fun. Older kids probably prefer more complex animated heroes.
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What's the story?
Casper is paid a visit by Kibosh, the Supreme Ghost, who informs Casper that he's not fulfilling his minimum quota of one deliberate scare per year. If he doesn't scare someone by Christmas, he'll be forever banished to the dreaded ghost land known as "The Dark." To make matters worse, Casper's malicious uncles -- Stinkie, Stretch, and Fatso -- will be banished with him for failing to whip the friendly ghost into shape. The four are all exiled to Kriss, Massachusetts, "the most Christmassy town in the world." Casper befriends Holly Jollimore, a young girl who recently moved to Kriss with her Yuletide-obsessed parents. Afraid to reveal his true identity, Casper pretends he's a magical talking snowman. Meanwhile, Casper's desperate uncles decide to enlist Spooky, Casper's look-alike cousin, to fill Casper's scare quota, while attempting to ruin Christmas for the town's inhabitants. Can Casper save the day?
Is it any good?
Part of the appeal that Casper stories hold for young viewers is their reassuring predictability. The childlike Casper means well, but is always misunderstood and pre-judged due to his ghostly appearance. His eventual triumph over narrow-minded individuals makes the friendly ghost an ideal role model for any child just learning to believe in him or herself. CASPER'S HAUNTED CHRISTMAS more or less follows this pattern, but updates it with digital animation and a self-mocking sense of humor. The computer animation used here, while not up to the big-budget standards of Toy Story, is nevertheless impressive. In fact, Casper and his ghostly pals seem livelier in these more three-dimensional incarnations than they did in their original hand-drawn versions. The human characters are also well rendered, avoiding the talking mannequin pitfall that so often plagues computer-generated humans.
Apart from the requisite one-liners and visual gags, there's quite a bit of humor directed at Christmas specials themselves. A sequence in which Casper's uncles rob the town's residents of all their Christmas gifts spoofs How The Grinch Stole Christmas. There are also references to movies such as Scream and Say Anything, which will most likely be lost on younger viewers. The only downside to this Christmas tale is that it's not especially involving. Casper is ostensibly in a race against time, yet he seems curiously unconcerned that he may be banished forever to ghost purgatory. At 84 minutes, a greater sense of urgency would help keep the story focused and prevent kids' minds from wandering.
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