Casper’s Scare School is an unexpectedly pleasant short feature in more ways than one. Casper’s uncles, the Ghostly Trio of Fatso, Stinkie, and Stretch, have renounced their bullying ways since the last time we saw them in Casper’s Haunted Christmas. They’re still an unpleasant lot, but they’re not cruel, and neither is Kibosh, the ghostly ruler of monster-kind. Instead, they’re old grumps but grumps who have the best interest of their charges at heart. The ghosts’ more amiable nature is in tune with the movie’s message about kindness and friendship, and I can support any film that tries to instill these values in kids.
Casper’s problems start as they always do with his inability to scare people. In fact, he’s the one getting scared by the “fleshies”, and when his latest embarrassing fright makes it to the evening news, Kibosh decides that Casper needs to spend some time at Scare School. It’s not exactly the Hogwarts of the underworld. Instead, it’s a remedial school for creatures who need help upping their scare game. Casper’s classmates include a mummy, Ra, who has unraveling issues and Mantha, a zombie who literally can’t keep herself together. Most of the students are like Casper and don’t have a particular desire to spook humans, all except for vampire Thatch, that one kid who tries to be cool by being an absolute jerk.
The headmasters of the school are Alder and Dash, conjoined slug-things who have a very high opinion of themselves. They resent their babysitting job, which they think is a waste of their talents, and instead hope to be promoted to something more important. What they really want is Kibosh’s gig. They don’t agree with his theory of balance, which holds that creatures must scare fleshies just the right amount. Too much and the humans will rise against the monsters; too little and the humans will rise against the monsters. Alder and Dash want all the scares all the time.
After so many stories where Casper is the lone friendly ghost, it’s nice to see that he’s finally found like-minded friends. The school is a meeting place for all sorts of outcasts, and there’s an assortment of furry creatures, skeletons, and pumpkin heads. Alder and Dash and the other teachers may not appreciate his kindness, but everyone else is quick to compliment him on his polite manners. The most touching scene comes when Casper ventures into the Valley of Shadows, a place to where ghosts like him are banished and never heard from again. There, he finds a safe space, but he also realizes that he doesn’t want to hide and be bullied into exile. Casper gets a dose of courage and decides he’s willing to risk getting hurt to stand up for the happiness of others. What a dear, dear ghost boy.
The production quality is fair but not brilliant. There’s some creativity with the story details – I enjoyed the explanation about “scare juice,” i.e. sweat, and the kids cruise around in a stellar pirate ship. But the end credits boast the best animation, drawing on German expressionism, and I would have loved a more stylized rendition of this familiar cartoon.
Dir: Mark Gravas, Ben Choo
Writer: Andrew Nicholls, Darrell Vickers
Cast: John DiMaggio, Billy West, Dan Castellaneta, Debi Derryberry, Scott Menville, Devon Werkheiser, Brett DelBuono, Pat Fraley, Kevin Michael Richardson, James Belushi, Bob Saget, Matthew Underwood, Christy Carlson Romano, Kendre Berry
Time: 75 min
Country: United States