Children's: A boy and three experienced, but unauthorized ghosts try to teach a new ghost how to be scary.
Casper (voice of JEREMY FOLEY) has joined the ranks of the deceased, but is thrown out of the death rain headed for Ghost Central Station before he gets trained how to be a terrifying ghost. Kibosh (voice of JAMES EARL JONES), the dictator-like director of the station, is none too happy about this and sends his lowly assistant, Snivel (voice of PAULY SHORE), to find Casper. Meanwhile, in the world of the living, Chris Carson (BRENDON RYAN BARRETT) is the loner kid of Deedstown, home of the famous but soon to be torn down Applegate Mansion. Chris' workaholic architect dad, Tim Carson (STEVE GUTTENBERG) is in charge of the demolition, meaning he'll have even less time for this son, thus furthering the ten-year-old's feeling of human isolation. Chris has an active imagination and that, along with his belief in ghosts, are the reasons he has no friends. That is, until Casper shows up and the two quickly hit it off. Chris feels that he should teach Casper how to be a true ghost, so he introduces him to the three ghostly residents of Applegate Manor, Fatso (voice of JESS HARNELL), Stinky (voice of BILL FARMER), and Stretch (voice of JAMES WARD). When word gets out that a "fleshy" (human) and three unauthorized ghosts are trying to teach Casper, Kibosh is outraged and orders that they be found. Meanwhile, local opposition to the destruction of the mansion, headed by Chris' school teacher, Sheila Fistergraff (LORI LOUGHLIN), causes Tim to go to extreme measures and he hires a local military mercenary, Bill Case (MICHAEL McKEAN), to blow up the mansion. As things head for an explosive finale, Casper and Chris do what they can to help each other as friends.
WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
If they liked the original "Casper" movie, they probably will.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: PG
For language, crude humor and threatening situations.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
BRENDON RYAN BARRETT plays a kid who believes in ghosts and has no friends, no mother, and a distant, always working father.
STEVE GUTTENBERG plays a poor excuse for a father who puts work ahead of his son. He also misses, forgets, or puts off important plans the two have, and in one scene throws some of his son's belongings into the trash in anger.
CASPER plays the friendly ghost who just wants to know what's going on, and to be friends with everyone.
Any new, straight to video release automatically raises the warning flags in our books, especially when the release is based on a movie or series of movies originally released in the theaters. Usually showcasing a less than stellar cast (especially when compared to the original), a reduced budget, and TV quality writing and directing, the films almost always pale in comparison to the original (s) and are usually pretty bad. "Casper: A Spirited Beginning" easily complies with all of those definitions. Based on "Casper," the 1995 theatrical release starring Bill Pullman and Christina Ricci, this prequel jettisons the "A" list cast and replaces it with actors falling into the "B" and perhaps "C" categories. Whenever you see Steve Guttenberg headlining a feature (or for that matter, any film also featuring Pauly Shore), run for the exits of the theater or video store. This actor, best known for his work in the highly acclaimed "Police Academy" movies, has been in just two hits (and just a supporting character in one of them) and usually isn't the first choice to headline a film. But enough of Guttenberg, we'll leave him alone and return to the release at hand. This film tries to emulate the formula that made the original so successful, so again we get to see a loner child befriend Casper who must put up with the shenanigans of the three intolerable "uncle" ghosts. But instead of seeing more clever stunts & behavior such as that exhibited in the original, we're forced to watch substandard material, which additionally pretty much sums up the entire feature. Even the cameos, which were a delight in the original, fail to impress as big name stars like Clint Eastwood have been replaced by Sherman Hemsley (of TV's "The Jeffersons") and Richard Moll (of TV's "Night Court"). The cast also features other "big" stars as such as Rodney Dangerfield, Lori Loughlin (of TV's "Full House") and the before mentioned Pauly Shore (thankfully used just for his voice). Unlike the original, this one aims for a much younger audience with its exaggerated overacting, sped up film, and general zany quality that will most likely come off as a bit immature for the younger teen crowd. At least the film does try to keep the adults somewhat entertained, but spoofs of "Mission Impossible" (with a character hanging from the ceiling with a drop of sweat about to fall on the floor) and other dialogue spoofs on topics ranging from "Star Wars" to the Budweiser frogs (from the TV commercials) fall flat and/or seem out of place. There is a heavy reliance on the computer generated ghosts and other such ghostly locales and while they look okay, they certainly can't substitute for an intriguing story. The feature suffers from the absence of Christina Ricci and her appeal that she brought to the first "Casper" and no one here takes up the slack. Besides the film not being that good, we're also subjected to a story about a boy whose life is in turmoil where the bullies pick on him, he has no mother, and his father is emotionally and often physically distant. While some films use these sorts of conditions to make a social point or to show character's change, in this film it's not until the very end, when they boy's in danger of being blown up, that the father cares. It comes across as very fake, especially when we're led to believe that everything's just fine after that. Beyond the structural and aesthetic problems, the film also has its sloppy moments, such as when we clearly see a man driving a bulldozer when invisible ghosts are supposed to be the ones controlling it. Films like this are purely made in hopes of wringing some money from the memories and appeal of the original, without any regard to making a good film. And when they're released straight to video (where there are very few critical reviews available), the people responsible are just trying to make a quick buck from the sales and rentals demanded by children who loved the original. Don't fall for it with this film. We give "Casper: A Spirited Beginning" a 1 out of 10.
OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
Beyond not being a very good movie, this video also features a ten-year-old with a bad life. Not only do the local bullies constantly pick on him, but he has no other friends, no mother, and his father pays little or no attention to him. Consequently, the boy hangs out by himself in a dilapidated mansion and finally runs away from home when he's had too much. There's the usual (for this kind of film) slapstick violence, and some other scenes where those bullies push Chris around. Some scenes involving the ghosts may be a little scary to younger kids, especially the opening sequence that includes a "death train" leading to a ghostly training station. There's no profanity, but a great many imitative phrases and just one line of sexual innuendo that younger kids won't understand are heard. Some gun use is present, but no one's hurt by any of it. Since kids who are fans of the original "Casper"movie will probably want to see this one, we suggest that you look through the content before allowing them to do so.
Very young kids may be frightened by early scenes where a ghost train is seen (with a scary looking skull for its front end), along with several menacing looking ghosts, and some ghostly laughter is heard. Similarly, Kibosh's constant angry demeanor and menacing appearance may upset very young kids.
Some may find the ending sequence a little tense as Chris is locked in the mansion that's been rigged to blow up and Tim and Sheila try to stop Bill Case from setting off the explosives.
Phrases: "Dead beat," "Drop dead," "Shut up," "Snot nosed," "If I want your help, I'll beat it out of you," "Nuts" (crazy), "Losers," "Creep," "I stink, therefore I am," "Freak," "Geek," "Dufus," "Weirdo," "Jerk," "Wimp," "Wuss," and "You're a butt."
They call the overweight ghost "Fatso" that may cause kids to call similarly built kids the same name.
There are some occasional farting sounds and comments ("Don't eat beans around the campfire") made about that.
Some kids try to drop a paint balloon on Chris, but instead it hits the principal on the head.
In a montage scene Chris makes dinner. He beats mashed potatoes sending them flying everywhere and then takes a knife and, acting like a ninja, wildly chops up some vegetables. He also takes an iron and puts it on bread (to make what appear to be grilled cheese sandwiches).
Three school bullies grab Chris and lock him in a closet overnight in the deserted mansion.
Sheila erratically drives down the road, through a picket fence, and nearly runs over several people.
The school principal, seen in his underwear because he's just run from a bathroom stall after seeing Casper, grabs a teacher and says, "I need you right now." She, of course, takes this the wrong way and slaps him.
Tim puts his job ahead of Chris and consequently the boy feels that his father likes his job better than his son. Tim doesn't show up for teacher/parent meetings, breaks other promises and is finally the cause for Chris running away from home.
Additionally, there's no mother in the home.
Tim, fed up with Chris needing his attention and always talking about ghosts, accuses his son of having an overactive imagination and then tears down his son's posters, drawings, etc... and throws them away.
There's some slapstick stuff where people knock over others as they try to run away from the ghost and a man is hit by a sign swung by a woman trying to hit a ghost. Later a bully falls down and knocks over many library shelves.
There are also several instances where school bullies push Chris or knock him to the ground (including one where they also throw a girl to the ground).
A bulldozer smashes a car as the ghosts drive it around.
Kibosh often smashes things in his office when angry (which is most of the time) and swings a sword at Snivel.
The school principal, seen in his underwear because he's just run from a bathroom stall after seeing Casper, grabs a teacher and says, "I need you now." She, of course, takes this the wrong way and slaps him.
Bill Case sets off an explosive trying to kill an unseen rodent.
A man tries to rob a store at gunpoint and then fires the gun at and through Casper who stops the robbery.
Bill Case fires his handgun at a mouse he encounters in the mansion (he misses).
Stretch hits Fatso on the head with a stick of dynamite.
Sheila drives through a picket fence and later rams her car into a tree to knock Bill Case from his perch.
Case throws objects at Tim from his tree top perch and finally hits him on the head, knocking him to the ground.