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Things Only Adults Notice In Casper

Allow us, if you will, to transport you to a different reality. Imagine that rollerblading is life, your keychains have pets attached to them, and Christina Ricci is everything in entertainment. Such is the pop culture world of a kid in the mid-'90s. And among the tapes putting the family VHS player through the ringer is Casper, the successful adaptation about the story of a friendly ghost. The film was a huge success. Domestically, it was one of the top ten highest-grossing films of 1995, and it propelled Christina Ricci's career forward. The sardonic child star cashed in on her peak star power, and it paid off big time.

Of course, Casper's success wasn't just about the right star at the right time. It also features some pretty fantastic writing. The film is jam-packed with references and jokes that sail right over kids' heads. It's one of the first examples of a studio realizing that while captivating child audiences is paramount, it's equally important to entertain their parents. It's a big sell to deliver quiet, happy kids for an hour and a half, plus Dirty Harry references, and as you might expect, the combination creates a much different viewing experience for the adults than the kids. From strange character details to pop culture Easter eggs, here are things only adults notice in Casper.

In Casper, is Kat's dad a fraud?

Casper lays its foundations quickly, and we key in on a lonely ghost channel surfing. Suddenly, an episode of Hard Copy comes on about a ghost psychologist named Dr. James Harvey, played by a smirking Bill Pullman. The show displays the doctor as legitimate, complete with positive customer testimonies. While being interviewed, Harvey gives a heartfelt monologue about helping the dead move on to the afterlife. Given that we've already been watching ghosts terrorize mansion intruders, it seems that he's the hero we need right now. Well, not exactly. More of an accidental hero.

But later, when Casper (Malachi Pearson) reveals himself to Harvey, the psychologist kinda ... freaks out. He screams in horror and takes off running through the mansion with his daughter, Kat (Ricci), over his shoulder, almost knocking her head against the narrow archways. It's obvious that he's never seen a ghost before. But doesn't he make a living helping people with ghost issues? Well, similar to a fortune teller, it's painfully obvious that Harvey has been conning people to fund chasing his own obsessions. Granted, he does process the whole ordeal quickly, and the ghosts and him get all chummy. But his initial reaction is a revelation that makes you think back on the TV testimonials from earlier, with that poor, sweet old lady who believed Harvey had dissipated her hubby into the ether with a smile. We bet she put nothing but love into that meatloaf she paid him with.

Watching Harvey go out in style

There are things you expect to see when you step into your standard psychologist's office. A couch is a big one. Second is either a sweater vest or a cardigan. And Dr. James Harvey opts for the latter in a lovely shade of hunter green. It's a good look when we first meet the "therapist to the dead." Over a thousand miles and several haunts later, it's doubtful that any kids watching are keying in on the adult's wardrobe. But any adult who opts not to smell like a nursing home knows a thing or two about rotating your wardrobe. Apparently, basic self-maintenance doesn't come with a degree in "how dead brains work."

By the halfway point in the film adults will be perplexed at the fact that Harvey is still wearing the same green cardigan. The same one from the TV interview way back when. The same one he wears while traversing the country in his station wagon. He wears it so much that even when he kicks the bucket, his ethereal form bursts onto the screen rocking that same cardigan. Now, we know parents are busy. Having a favorite outfit to lounge in is as normal as it gets. But sliding into the grave with your identity directly attached to that one cardigan you love sounds like its own source of eternal torment.

Casper has a lot of fun with its references

At breakfast, Casper's uncles whoosh in with their wispy tails whipping up the kitchen in the style of military helicopters while the "Ride of The Valkyries" is playing loudly. Stretch leans in and bellows, "I love the smell of fleshies in the morning!" It's a fun moment for any child to smile at, no doubt, and it's probably best they have no idea it's in reference to an iconic moment in Apocalypse Now — a dark, gritty look at the madness that is the Vietnam War. In fact, Casper is packed with references that come rapid-fire in some scenes, such as the mirror scene where we get Clint Eastwood, Rodney Dangerfield, and then the Crypt Keeper. 

Adults watching Casper will also enjoy the slew of clever jokes that writers sprinkled throughout the film. Kudos to them. After all, the weight of parenthood has its perks, and knowing more than the kiddos is a guilty pleasure, like eating ice cream after midnight. The kid-friendly antics throughout Casper are complimented by plenty of adult-based wordplay. Our favorite has to be when Harvey realizes he has to have "the talk" with his daughter. When he begins to lecture on the topic, Kat stops him and says, "You're a little late for that, Dad." She knows about these things already, you goofball. After a thoughtful pause, Harvey responds, "How late?" It's a wonderfully layered joke that will pull a giggle out of the most cynical adult.

What's up with that weird Haunted Mansion ride?

Being an inventor is almost an integral part of any childhood. Our fresh minds have vivid imaginations, firing on all cylinders and urging us to create. How wonderful would it be to never let that go and then build a mansion on top of it. Well, that's exactly what Casper's dad got to do. Throughout the film, we learn more about Casper's life, and a large part of it has to do with his father, a renowned inventor. His lab is kept underneath the mansion's library via a secret lamp shade lever and a lounge chair, which launches its passenger into a wacky morning routine.

It seems all good and fun to any child looking for more out of their normal breakfast experience. But adults will have trouble seeing any practicality in any aspect of it. Inspector Gadget arms flail around and fling powder and unkempt bow ties at anyone who goes through the Haunted Mansion roller coaster. The entire process can't do much more than make you glad you're headed underground. Getting the ball rolling in the morning is best done with minimal stress factors, which makes it confusing why an inventor would create a scenario where he needs to dodge razor blades each morning. If those blades truly did give him an accurate shave, the man must've been made of steel.

Adults might have questions about Bill Pullman's death

After much hazing from the ghostly trio, the spirits realize they've pushed the doc to his limits. He's fed up with their antics. In response, they all exclaim that it's time for "happy hour," and then they scoop up the mopey doctor and carry him off into the night. The next time we see them, they're in a well-lit bar, singing the hits next to a jukebox. It appears that Harvey is a happy drunk. He professes his love for each of the ghosts and plants a juicy kiss on each of their ectoplasmic lips.

The uncles had planned on killing the doc so he could haunt with them, but the sweet gesture turns them into weeping piles of regret. But that's when Harvey dances about and kicks open the double doors leading out of the bar. The ghosts watch speechless as he back steps right into ... a construction pit? The length of his yelp during the fall makes it clear that the pit is quite deep. Doom lies at the bottom, no doubt. 

And adults undoubtedly get taken out of the film at this point. There's absolutely no reason for such a vast pit to be right outside of a bar. And why would those doors be unlocked if there was? If it was the front door, how do the customers get in and out? This scene raises a lot of questions, and most of them involve whoever regulates construction code in Friendship, Maine.

Can I keep you?

Romance is an ever-changing genre. What's romantic today may be unbearingly cliche next year ... or kinda weird. A climactic moment in Casper occurs when Kat is surprised by a dance with a fully fleshed-out Casper. The human version of him is played by Devon Sawa, and boy, did every middle school girl swoon back in '95. The dancing scene where Casper gets his moment with Kat became the pivotal scene for many a pre-teen. While dancing, he hugs Kat and whispers in her ear, "Can I keep you?" Maybe the romance is all in the tone ... a tone that adults can't hear because to us that's creepy as heck.

Now, he's a ghost, so the creepy vibe kind of makes sense. But you can tell that the line is meant to be romantic, and it comes off more as a reason to file a restraining order. Anyone who's been in a real relationship will see some red flags pop up. Talk about baggage. There are some fun horror elements that run through the film, as cheesy as they may be, but this is one that unintentionally shines through for adults. Being in the possession of a clingy, lonely ghost sounds like one of the outer rings of eternal fire.

The dead wife prank

Kat's dad has been dragging his daughter across the country in search of his dead wife's spirit, and he vows this will be the last go-round, unaware of what awaits them at Whipstaff Manor. When they learn his backstory, the uncles offer to bring his wife's ghost to the mansion. They have him believe they've met her and know where her angel "floats." They trick Harvey into dramatically entering a room, with his eyes full of hope that his life pursuit is about to be fulfilled. He's about to see the woman he loves and misses right in front of him. It's a dream everyone has had, and the ghosts behind him, pushing him forward, hint that the situation could plausibly have a happy ending. 

Turns out, Fatso is dressed in drag and plants a big sloppy kiss on his face before laughing. What a delightful prank! Nope. The full effect of what kind of cruel joke is played will be lost on children in the room. There are sparkly dresses, goofy voices, and laughter, so all in good fun for the little ones. But any empathetic adult will see a terrible prank to play on someone. Good thing it's just a movie with Bill Pullman in a cardigan, so we can feel guilt free for smiling a teensy bit at Lone Starr's naivety.

Can Casper leave the mansion?

The first scare we see in Casper is two kids trying to prove their mettle by venturing into the haunted mansion to get photographic evidence of their endeavor. After Casper reveals himself, the kids run off into the night. More people continue to arrive at the mansion, lastly a construction crew of brawny men that all run for their lives once they see ghosts. But Casper himself seems to be unable to pass the front gates. That's typical ghost behavior for sure. Anyone with bare minimum ghost knowledge knows they have to stay by their haunt ... or something. Plus, why else would Casper hang around for decades while his uncles treat him like crap?

But the answer appears to be more complex when we discover that Casper can leave the house. He travels through the phone wires to Carrigan's (Cathy Moriarty) hotel room in order to possess her TV. If he can leave the house then, why did he need to bring Kat to the mansion? If he could leave, then he could just go to wherever Kat is at that moment. The friendly ghost has to have some deep running psychological issues that are forcing him to hang around. He explains that his dad was his unfinished business. But since his dad is dead and gone, we're left wondering what else is keeping him there. What secrets are you keeping from us, Casper?

Hosting a party has few perks

Hosting is an essential part of being a fully formed adult. It's an opportunity to cater to those you care about while showing off the nifty glassware you just bought. There's a lot to set up and prepare for. Unless your friends are on the shortlist for ordainment to sainthood, you most show up with a six-pack and ask where the food is at. Being the host is both a burden and a gift ... but not when you have a mansion, apparently.

When Kat's class loses their location for the Halloween dance, everyone agrees that her place is the obvious choice. It's a spooky mansion perched atop the hillside with a haunting history. As hosts go, Kat does the absolute minimum. So much so that her and Casper forget the party is even taking place until the doorbell rings. Nothing to worry about, though. In 1995 Maine, the entire party will all show up at the exact same time. They'll bring a DJ, and they'll set everything up for you. That way, you can focus on resurrecting your dead father before dramatically entering from the top of the stairway in your nasty, old, dead-woman's dress.

Adults who've had party guests know that the best you can usually hope for is a potato salad that your friend swears is "a family recipe." But us grownups know the truth. Every family's potato salad recipe was on the back of a Miracle Whip jar for a decade. Cynicism is unavoidable sometimes.

Will Casper be 12 forever?

It turns out that Casper's dad was quite the brilliant inventor. Yep, the one from the haunted-mansion, roller-coaster morning routine. So brilliant that he'd discovered a way to resurrect the dead. Don't ask why he didn't use it on his son. No explanation is given in that regard. Maybe he got the machine up and running but croaked just before cranking up the juice. Either way, Casper has an opportunity to step out of ghost form and into flesh and bone. Too bad Kat's dad is a clumsy drunk.

Casper gives the resurrection to Kat's dad, who's brought back into human form. As a reward, an angel shows up and brings Casper to life until 10 PM. The angel's response to his Cinderella joke is, "Cinderella wasn't 12 years old." Sheesh, lady, how many birthdays before the guy doesn't need a curfew, 50? It looks like it's been at least that. All the newspaper articles and old toys make it appear that way. Also, it's a lame reward for such a noble sacrifice. Casper had the opportunity to not be a ghost and come back to life. He gave that up! And your reward for him is just a taste that ends in a bedtime curfew based on how old he was when he died? Any adult watching will agree that you should always have your lawyer present for deals like this.

Adults might wonder about the whole 'becoming a ghost' process

There's a lot to the world of Casper that the writers aren't telling us. Like, what kind of wacky family names their kids Fatso, Stinky, and Stretch and possesses enough pride to etch the names into their beds' headboards. Or how much does a Dan Akroyd Ghostbusters cameo cost? Our biggest question to the writers is how does the whole "becoming a ghost thing" work? As far as the movie shows, haunting your old house comes standard with death. All you need is some unfinished business, which has to be hard when you don't have any memory of your life before death. Purgatory sounds real if it means being trapped in a prison where all you have to do is finish that ship in a bottle you started, but you can't quite remember where you are.

First, Carrigan kicks the bucket and turns into a ghost. Then Harvey dies and turns into a ghost, as well. So does everyone in this reality just automatically become a ghost until they say "I'm good" out loud? If you're a kid, that makes perfect sense. Adults will be left wanting more explanation. Perhaps it's the mansion itself? In which case, Casper may have lured Kat there with malicious intentions. Loneliness can change a man. Here's to the innocence of the '90s movie audiences.