Origin stories are like lifetimes, you only get one (in theory). When you have been around for the past 40 odd years, and a bunch of interesting theories develop, it would be nice to set the records straight. It would also be nice to at least codify how one of the most iconic and the friendliest ghost came to fruition. That was the predicament facing the Casper franchise, and after partially filling in how Casper became a ghost, in 1997 Casper: A Spirited Beginning attempted to fill the gaps.
Staring in media res, we open to find Casper is a ghost, he’s on a train with other ghosts who aren’t as receptive to his questions and chuck him off the train. He stumbles into the town of Deedstown to find equally inhospitable townsfolk to the friendly ghost. He, however, finds and befriends Chris Carson, a paranormal-obsessed child, with a workaholic father who’s trying to demolish an old antique mansion, who has objectors among the living and the dead. If that wasn’t enough Casper et al. must also deal with an evil spirit overlord upset at Casper’s dereliction.
From the description of the plot, you can tell this film packs a lot into its one hour and 20 odd minutes. From troubled father/son dynamics, the debate about preserving history over renovation, and other issues surrounding growing up. Intermingled with all of this is the story meeting up with fellow deserters and learning how to scare. These plotlines blend seamlessly together and demonstrates a lot more depth than your traditional children’s direct-to-video typically has to offer.
The casting is strong, as is to be expected from the Casper franchise. Ben Stein is back, briefly and Rodney Dangerfield is back from the 1995 film with his usual strong material. Spinal Tap member and famed lawyer Michael McKean also makes a humorous appearance as the exterminator, and the film ropes in the vocal talents of James Earl Jones and Pauly Shore. The main cast is also solid with Steve Guttenberg giving an impressive performance as Chris’s father, managing to not come off too cartoonish, especially during the father/son moments.
A Spirited Beginning also works wonders with the technology of the time. The intro animation that would also be seen in Casper Meets Wendy is back, but there’s a new theme song and it’s catchy, joining the other music in the film, with other horror-themed like bands such as Oingo Boingo. Aside from the intro, we are treated to the “Ghost Central Station and even with the technology of the time it still has an interesting and imaginative look to it, that hints at a far richer tapestry of story beyond the mortal world of Casper.
Casper’s A Spirited Beginning is a wholesome stop gap between the tragic final moments of Casper’s origins in the 1995 motion picture and the events that followed. A strong interquel an Interesting interpretation of the mythos, with a lot in store for anybody’s tastes. While watching, we as an audience, get the origins of one of the most famous friendly ghosts we know, what we also get Is the origins of a good family film.
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