While the title of this movie suggests something family-oriented and light-hearted, there is so much more embedded in this classic paranormal tale. Casper the Friendly Ghost started as a cartoon and then remade a time or two, but one thing remains the same: It is oddly relatable and treacherous.
To be a ghost means death was the precursor to reach such phantom fate. Audience members learn of Casper’s death due to pneumonia and his inventor father’s longing for his return. Casper stuck around in his shadowy essence to keep his father company. This is brutally sad when you really think about it. What would anyone do in sudden death and their protector/best friend is deserted in a realm all alone? Would you stick around if you could, even if it were in a translucent vision? Is there peace on another side, or would simply being with your loved ones be peace enough? For something deemed pleasantly paranormal this is achingly tragic. This chipper apparition teaches us to care and value what we have while it is still within reach.
In terms of relatability, the 1995 film reeks of honesty. Christina Ricci does an excellent job of conveying an outcast teen who simply wants to fit in. This almost serves as a coming of age story all on its own, aside from the ghosts inhabiting her house. Kathleen, or Kat, is just on the cusp of womanhood trying to navigate a new school, growing up, and wanting to look “nice.” Oh, and ghosts. Watching a girl in the in-between is not only relatable but inspiring. She is dealing with navigating the awkwardness of tweenhood, but also the grief from losing her mother. It is all very, very real, and human. Although, there is a spiritual twist. So, there is a happy mix of reality and fantasy.
All in all, yeah, say what you want about Casper the Friendly Ghost. The visual and computer effects might not be super spectacular, but the storyline goes beyond that. For 1995, the visual effects are pretty stellar and still hold up today as being one of the first films to incorporate animation and real-life characters. However, it is perfect if the more life-like paranormal movies aren’t your thing. This is a nice wholesome/ spooky balance. Also, it makes you think, feel, and maybe even (hopefully) forget all of the mundane struggles that are right in front of you, even if just for a moment. It is relatable, tragic, and oddly enough very human. So, thank you Casper, for a life lesson, or maybe even two.