(...but only for children)

Start off with a shot of the moon, something like the one in E.T., tilt down past an estate to a large iron gate (Kane style) to discover two kids on bikes, something like the ones in E.T., then introduce your title ghost as a friendly miniature version of the marshmallow man from Ghostbusters, accompanied by three naughty Little Rascal-type ghosts, add in one father who looks remarkably like a young Spielberg, stir in a living (blonde) version of Gruwela, sprinkle with a number of inventions and contraptions reminiscent of Back to the Future, cover with a large portion of dependable family values, and finish with the last apparition (the long lost mother) almost resembling a human (sort of Ghost style) for sentimentality and tears, and you have the formula for Casper.

This film should really be restricted viewing for anyone over 10 years of age. This, of course, would also include Casper himself, who is 12.

Don't get me wrong. Despite a script with some pretty awful attempts at humor, kids will probably have a good laugh at this one. The computer animation is definitely fun to watch; in fact, I had a hard time tearing my eyes away from the ghosts whenever they appeared. Of course, the fact that there wasn't much acting to speak of also meant that there was nothing to compete with the animated subjects. This made concentrating on the FX all the easier.

Visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren (from Industrial Light & Magic) would like us to believe otherwise: "Five shots in, you'll forget you're seeing a special effect." Two years of work and 28 trillion bytes (the equivalent of 19 million floppy discs) produce 40 minutes (half the film) of "ghostliness" on screen which prove otherwise. As a result, this is the only interesting element of the film. One potentially comparable aspect is the story line, which is almost as thin as the ghosts.

Some appartitions are different than others, however. Please notice that the ghostly Mama has decided to make her reappearance both human-like as well as garbed in a bright red dress, not quite Robert Altman style. Casper is also given a special moment and allowed to be almost "fleshie"-like so he can dance (albeit in mid-air) with heroine Kat. I guess not all ghosts are created equal.

And as for family values? After all, this is a family film. Let's not forget the valuable words of wisdom that Mama shares with Papa (regarding their young daughter Kat) before she disappears forever into that distant place where spirits go when they've "finished" all their "business" on earth: "Don't pick up the extension when she's on the phone, french fries are not a breakfast food, and don't ask her to wear a T-shirt under her bathing suit." Excuse me, please, I think I have to vomit.

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett