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Since the film debut of "Casper the Friendly Ghost" in 1945, the Casper franchise, which has been trying to put a happy spin on the paranormal, has received a mixed bag of reviews. There's no doubt the wide-eyed little ghost is endearing, but his heyday may have ended with his series in Harvey Comics. In this direct-to-video animated movie, the haunted world of spooks meets the happy spirit of Christmas--a faulty premise to begin with. The plot gets even more absurd when Kibosh, supreme ruler of all ghosts, declares that Casper's "scare quota" is way down. To avoid serious repercussions, Casper must scare at least one person before Christmas Day, or he will be banished to the dark side. Talk about a merry holiday tale! To force the fear factor, Kibosh catapults Casper and the Ghostly Trio to Chrismassachusetts, where they must find an unsuspecting victim to scare. Kindhearted Casper doesn't have the nerve to scare anyone, so the Ghostly Trio secretly hires Casper's look-alike cousin, Spooky, to do the job. There are some redeeming moments of humor, such as when Spooky mistakenly calls himself "Casper, the Frenzied Ghost," and country singer Randy Travis does his best to add his musical charms to the score, but overall, Scrooge would be more welcome under the mistletoe than these bunch of ghouls are. Teens may discover a few laughs (if the video can keep their attention), but mildly scary scenes, thematic elements, and irreverent language suggest parental guidance for the younger set. (Ages 5 and older.) --Lynn Gibson
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