NOW IN THEATERS! In 1887, Oscar Wilde penned a humorous short story concerning a cowardly ghost coming face with any Brits’ worst nightmare: A family of American industrialists. Thus do we have Shout! Kids factory’s production of The Canterville Ghost. For 300 years, Sir Simon de Canterville (Stephen Fry at his bombastic best) has kept people from residing in his beloved Canterville Chaise. Along come Hiram and Lucretia Otis (David Harewood and Meera Syal, respectively) and their children Virginia (Emily Carey) and twin boys Kent (Bennett Miller) and Louis (Jakey Schiff). Whereas in the past, Sir Simon was more than up to the task of scaring any would-be resident of his estate, these Americans prove intractable and immovable. In point of fact, Kent and Louis spend a fair amount of time pranking both Sir Simon and their parents’ guests.
This leads to Sir Simon feeling very down, apart from the time he spends growing a friendship with Virginia. She is a modern woman of 1900—very forthright and determined. Virginia initially arranges with Sir Simon to terrorize her family so as to convince them to return to America. When that plan fails, Virginia comes to learn of Sir Simon’s plight. He has been stuck here as a ghost, for he was a coward in life. To achieve his eternity, Simon must deal with Death directly.
At the same time, Virginia meets Henry, the current Duke of Cheshire (Freddie Highmore). There exists great animosity between the House of Cheshire and Sir Simon. What that exactly is and how to redeem Sir Simon from his personal purgatory are mysteries I shall permit the film to reveal to you when witness it, gentle reader.
“…a cowardly ghost coming face with any Brits’ worst nightmare: A family of American industrialists.”
The Canterville Ghost has had many cinematic and televisual adaptations across the decades and generations. It has even been prepared as puppet shows and stage plays. Rarely has a wry short story so fully captured the imagination of Humanity as this one has. I tell you now, this iteration of The Canterville Ghost is a hoot fit for the entire family to watch together.
It has been imbued with the perfect balance of gentle humor and rousing action. There is a fencing duel in the third act that is simply marvelous. Special mention must be made of Miranda Hart’s positively dotty Ghost Catcher. Here, we have a genteel Victorian version of a rookie ghost hunter. I found her scenes vivacious and batty—very fun stuff.
But what of the ghost, I hear you ask? Well, every production of The Canterville Ghost rises and falls on the energy and pizzazz – dare I say razzle-dazzle? Aye, I dare – razzle-dazzle of the actor tasked with portraying the hauntingly and cowardly Sir Simon de Canterville. Well, gentle reader, I’m here to tell you Stephen Fry is positively wonderful as the voice of Sir Simon. The whole film gained greatly from the energy of his presence, and truly, his scene-chewing was epic in scale.
The writers, directors, and animator teams all deserve to give themselves a pat on the back. They were instrumental in crafting this utterly warm and endearing family animation. The 3D animation possessed a likeness of claymation, only smoother and better rendered. I simply cannot wait to watch it again in a movie theater.
As should you. There are so precious few great family entertainments these days you can feel comfortable taking all your children too. Parents and children of all ages seek The Canterville Ghost at your local movie theater. You’ll be very glad you did. That’s a Professor Franz guarantee.