I wrote this whole thing and then went to write something else thinking I had already sent it out. But guess what! I didn't send it out! So I have to rewrite it! Grumble grumble... Let's get right into it and discuss...
The 355th review
The movie stars Bill Pullman as James Harvey, as a ghost psychiatrist. He is hired by a wretched lady whose father just passed and left her a big, haunted estate. She believes there's treasure in it but, like I mentioned, it's haunted. So she hires James after getting tipped off by Casper to try and help the ghosts move on. Meanwhile Casper wants them to come because he's lonely and the uncles he lives with; Stretch, Stinkie and Fatso are big jerks to him. Stretch is the leader, the meanest and he can stretch. The others... well their personalities are in their names. So James brings his daughter, Cat, played by Christina Ricci, all the way to Maine to deal with the ghosts.
As I type that, I realize there are a lot of subplots. You have the treasure hunt by the antagonist, you have James' grief over the loss of his wife (starting to sound like Silent Hill 2 up in here,) there's Cat trying to fit in at a new school/dealing with bullies, Casper's plot to get a friend/come back to life and James' sessions and budding friendship with the three uncle ghosts.
There are a lot of different things going on in this movie but it's still easy to follow. It's a kid's film but there are enough things and jokes in it that older audiences will appreciate. I saw this in theaters many years ago with my mom and sisters and I didn't get a lot of the jokes back then that I do now. Although I don't find the sight gags as funny as I did back then. Plus, at that age, I didn't understand how great the cameos were either. This movie managed to get Mel Gibson, Clint Eastwood, The Crypt Keeper, Rodney Dangerfield and Dan Akroyd reprising his role as Ray Stanz from Ghostbusters. Akroyd later said his appearance was Ghostbusters canon, so that means after this movie, it would be around 16 years before we saw anything Ghostbusters on the big screen again.
Another thing about it is that it gets pretty dark for a kid's movie. At one point, the main baddie calls in a Catholic Priest to bless the house to get the ghosts out. "Piece of cake, piece of crumb cake," he tells her. He goes into the house and then comes out with his head twisted backwards before walking off screen. They play it for laughs, but there's no coming back from that injury. This is the first kid's movie I can remember seeing where a priest gets straight up murdered. Then two other characters die in abrupt ways and they're both surprisingly light hearted about it. It's weird.
There are minor quibbles and things that are clearly not for my age group that didn't appeal to me. But still, I like it. It's got a great setting. The haunted house is big and awesome. For you 90's kids out there, you may recognize it from the Backstreet Boys music video for "Everybody." The characters are fun too, and the acting is surprising good for this type of thing. Any time James or Cat are interacting with the ghosts, in real life they're acting for tennis balls to let them know where they're supposed to be looking. Despite the silliness of the movie, they really give it their all and don't seem to be mocking the film through their performance. My favorite character though is the evil lady. She hilariously chews the scenery every time she's on screen. Every time you see her the movie makes a point to show you how horrible she is and it never stops being funny.
In a later interview, Christina Ricci would call this movie really dumb and point to the fact that Cat falls in love with a ghost. I can see her point, but then again, pop star Ke$ha claims she had sex with a ghost, so what do we know?