Casper really is the friendliest ghost, so it’s hard to watch the kid get so thoroughly abused by his awful trio of uncles, Fatso, Stinkie, and Stretch. I’d forgotten how cruel these guys were and was shocked by their relentless bullying, which goes unchecked for longer than I’m comfortable with. I’d hoped someone would call child protective services, but the only ones called up in this Christmas special are the ghost police, and not to arrest the Ghostly Trio for child abuse.
Casper is cited for failing to scare anyone, intentionally, and has just days to meet his scare quota for the year. If he doesn’t scare at least one person before Christmas, he’ll be banished to a friendless void for all eternity. To add to the punishment, his uncles will be joining him since they’ve failed to raise him in the ways of the ghost. Kibosh, the glowy green lord of the undead, sends them off to Kriss, Mass (get it?) to get their scare on, and enlists anxiety-ridden Officer Snivel, inspector of ectoplasmic law, to oversee the matter.
There’s no reason for Casper and his uncles to end up in the most Christmas-y place in America except that this is a holiday special. The creators use every festive tool in the box to create the right mood. Folks are preparing for a performance of The Christmas Carol, the town is covered with snow and decorations, and some people have even lined their toilet seats with sprigs of holly. The merriest of the families are the Jollimores, and Casper meets Holly, daughter of Noel and Carol, of course. She mistakes him for a talking snowman, which puts a crimp in his scaring plans but he’d rather be friends with Holly anyway. His uncles, however, are more than happy to put spook up the holidays, despite having their haunting licenses revoked.
It’s hard not to love Casper, more so because the ones who should care most about him are so mean. Plus, the cuddly translucent light bulb of a boy wants nothing more than to be a good, honest kid. He is conflicted when he doesn’t correct Holly about his true nature and is worried that she’ll be scared when she learns the truth. He’s equally concerned that he’ll have betrayed her trust, something that kind of happens when Casper’s cousin, Spooky, comes to town. The Ghostly Trio hope that Casper’s doppelganger will conjure up some scares and trick Officer Snivel, releasing them from Kibosh’s threat of eternal damnation.
I have great affection for the friendly ghost, and if you have 80 minutes to spare, then this a serviceable holiday film for the family. You’ll have to overcome several things though. The truly harmful behavior by the uncles, even if they do get their due, should be put into context for kids. Also ignore the horrendous computer animation. The ghosts are surprisingly plump and squeezable, their ghostly qualities nicely rendered. Everything else, however, is animated with the grace of clunky animatronic lawn decorations.
Prod: Byron Vaughns
Dir: Owen Hurley
Writer: Ian Boothby, Roger Fredericks
Cast: Brendon Ryan Barrett, Tegan Moss, Scott McNeil, Graeme Kingston, Terry Klassen, Samuel Vincent, Colin Murdock, Lee Tockar
Time: 86 min
Country: United States