This big-budget live-action film adaptation could be aptly compared to its title character cute, but insubstantial. The film gives the appearance of having been construed more as a shrewd collusion of the peoples involved than as any artistic exercise Steven Spielberg is there as Executive Producer because the film is cute; the digital effects team appear to be there simply because they can do it; and the commercial tie-in people are in on the act for merchandising opportunities. However, other than said influences conducting their various businesses, the film lacks anything of distinction. It works efficiently for the most part. The effects work is expectedly very good. And Christina Ricci, caught just between being the great young find of the Addams Family films and a breakout indie actress, plays fairly well in a role that is beneath her.
But even before it arrives at its climax, the films slight charms have mostly run out. It is impelled by loud and noisy slapstick, although the pace runs to a halt about two-thirds of the way through (about the time the laboratory is discovered). Throughout, the production design team appear to have bent over backwards to avoid any traditional haunted house look. The cupolas and lanterns seem so over designed, so obviously intended to impress that the effect is absurd. Indeed, the sets seem so cluttered with self-conscious ornamentation they often cramp the action like a set-piece several minutes long with a chair descending to the laboratory that involves passig through an automated shaving, showering and powdering system. Once in the laboratory, the resurrection machine for no apparent reason, other than design flourish, is buried under water and activated by a vast steam power system.
The films most memorable aspect are the amusing cameos when the ghosts possess Bill Pullman, they transform his face in a mirror and he momentarily turns into Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson and the Cryptkeeper from Tales from the Crypt (1989-96). There is also an amusing gag with Dan Aykroyd rushing out of the house in his Ghostbusters (1984) uniform yelling Call somebody else.
A number of direct-to-video Casper movies were subsequently spun out by childrens entertainment specialists Saban Entertainment with Casper: A Spirited Beginning (1997), Casper Meets Wendy (1998) and Caspers Haunted Christmas (2000).
Director Brad Silberling next made the angel romance City of Angels (1998), the childrens fantasy Lemony Snickets An Unfortunate Series of Events (2004) and the remake of the tv series Land of the Lost (2009).