It’s really really hard for me to review my passionate favourites. I sat down to watch this today not knowing if I’d be in the mood for it, but within minutes – even before Christina Ricci appeared onscreen – I was back 10 years ago.
It’s so hard to believe how old this movie is – the effects still stand up completely. For me they’re among the very best in movie history. The ghosts aren’t marvels of 3-dimensional modelling, but on this viewing I realised for the first time what exactly is so good about the visual effects on this movie – it’s all in the lighting. In every scene, the ghosts blend in so perfectly. There’s simply no doubting that they are in the scene with the humans, they’re as much characters as anyone else. Ironically, the only time this illusion slips is when the ghosts are in a frame of their own, the editor cutting back and forth to a human jerking their head around “following” the ghosts’ motions.
My favourite thing about this movie is the score by James Horner. You can say what you like about its obviously being ripped off from Danny Elfman’s Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands scores (it’s almost too clear that these were probably used as a temp score at times), but somehow, for me at least, it ultimately stands as a work on its own. The piano theme alone, Casper’s Lullaby, which is one of the few parts you really can’t attribute to Elfman, is worth an Oscar. When coupled with the image of a lonely young girl passing her hand through that of a lonely ghost, it makes for me one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever seen on film.
I’m always surprised by the sheer number of sad scenes in this movie. I always think I’m going to come to it and find Carrigan and Dibs (Eric Idle and Cathy Moriarty – I have to admit, even they are brilliant in flashes as pure comic relief, you couldn’t ask for better actors in a movie like this) all over the place. But from the image of a haunted Bill Pullmann on a tabloid news show, trying to contact his dead wife, to Ricci pulling a photo of her mother out of a box while unpacking (that piano theme making itself heard for the first time), to the aforementioned breakfast “touching” scene, to the scene that really made me break down this time – when Casper asks Kat (Ricci) “Can I keep you?” and kisses her on the cheek, and she mistakes his natural coldness as the window being open – it’s just an incredibly sad movie, right down to Casper basically losing his dream in the end. It always really kind of shocks me how deep the movie goes. I’m convinced it’ll always be close to my heart, this one.