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Review: Casper’s Scare School, The Busy Body With No Body

Casper's Scare SchoolLet’s face it, monsters are cool.  Even when they’re scary.  Sometimes especially when they’re scary. So where does that leave Casper the Friendly Ghost, who is perhaps the least threatening monster in all of existence?  Casper is a highly recognizable and enduring character who has been interpreted in many different mediums throughout his 70 plus year existence.  His latest incarnation, Casper’s Scare School, is a CGI-animated Cartoon Network show which brings said friendly ghost to a school filled with a melting pot of young monsters, all educated in the arts of scare.

A school that teaches monsters to be scary is not unlike Aaahh!!! Real Monsters or Monsters University.  The difference here is that there’s a well known character at the center of it, and he’s a ghost that would rather make a new friend out of a stranger than scare the pants off him.  Filling out the main cast is Thatch, a bullying vampire; Mantha, a cool zombie girl; and Ra, a dorky mummy.  The rest of the student body is loaded with other monsters, like airheaded valley girl skeletons, a French-accented hunchback, and a human fly.  Even the faculty boasts a dragon, a crystal ball, and others.  With big heads and wide eyes, monster designs lean more towards the cute than the horrifying, but that’s Casper for you.  The students are mostly fun to look at, knowing what monsters they are inspired from.  Ra’s design may be the only one that’s too simple.  He looks more like a normal human wrapped up in rags than an actual mummified corpse .

Casper's Scare SchoolAs evidenced by the appearance of the characters and the setting itself,  the show has a light, comedic tone.  Even though the purpose of the school is to teach the students to scare “fleshies”, as humans are called, the students only go to the human world in a couple episodes.  And even then, the scares are less terror-inducing trauma than they are amusing funhouse scares.  Casper’s human friend is more of a minor character while the monsters are the main cast.   Thatch is the most threatening student who doesn’t hide his mean side, but even he’s not exactly dangerous (no more or less harmful than the brooding vampire bad boy archetype that’s so popular these days, actually).  So while there’s not a lot of bite and horror from the monsters, the comedy is solid.  The monsters are familiar enough that you don’t have to explain what they are, and they’re all given humorous slants.  The werewolf, for instance, is the center of many a dog joke.

Casper’s not the only supernatural kid on the block anymore, but he still manages to be the friendliest.  And the nosiest.  Casper doesn’t like scaring people, so his main function at scare school seems to be getting into everyone’s business.  His main goal in (after)life is to help his friends overcome their issues whether they want his help or not.  Although this is a logical path to take with the character, it doesn’t exactly make him the most interesting character on the show.  The monster with the problem can’t take center stage with a meddling ghost constantly hovering around him.  Casper’s attempts to help blow up in his face, and often it seems like he should just mind his own business.  At least his heart’s in the right place, metaphorically speaking.  There are a couple episodes that manage to stand out.  In “Bully For You”, Casper takes Thatch down a peg by getting the students to make him act nicer, but then Casper himself becomes the bully by pressuring everyone else to be nice.  It’s a fun reversal.  Ditto for “Accidental Hero” where Casper’s scare attempts make everyone wonder if he’s just acting nice and is actually the scariest student.  In terms of literal reversal, there’s “Opposite Day”, where Wolfie’s science experiment switches everyone’s personality to their opposite and only Casper remains unchanged thanks to his ghost immunity.  He teams up with the least likely students to set everything straight.

Casper's Scare SchoolThe rest of the episodes in this single disc 12-episode collection are fairly formulaic.  One of Casper’s friends gets in over their head, Casper lends a hand, and everyone learns a lesson.  Not heavy on the plot, but good gags abound, and it is entertaining to watch.  In this set there’s “Fang Decay”, where Thatch suffers toothache; “Scare Day”, where Casper helps Mantha be scary despite a zombie stigma; “Disarmed And Dangerous”, where Mantha has to replace an arm; “Frankenleftovers”, where Casper creates a Frankenstein creature out of vegetables; “The Ra-Minator”, where Casper possesses Ra to make him athletic; “Weekend At Bunny’s”, where Casper tries to protect a cute bunny on school grounds; “Grimly Day”, where the kids are evaluated out in the field; “Rich Kid Ra” where Ra reveals he’s rich and becomes popular; and “Dragon Quest”, where Casper helps his dragon teacher Mr. Burns battle a knight.  Not as stand out as the others, but nothing atrocious either.

While the formula is there, the show doesn’t feel repetitive.  If anything, the major failing is not using the scare school to its fullest extent.  It’d be nice to see a variety of classes.  This school should be like Hogwarts tailored to a variety of monster individuals.  Instead, the goal in many of the episodes is to win some kind of scare award.  That’s all well and good, but it’d be nice to see more of what they’re being taught.

If you’re going to update Casper for a new generation, there are worse ideas than to put him in a scare school with other monsters and new characters.  Plus there’s some old characters, like his uncles, but it’d be fun if Wendy or Hot Stuff the Little Devil showed up.  In any case, the show’s got a lot going for it.  Although there’s this room called the Answertorium in the library that can answer any question.  I don’t know what to make of that.

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