Release Date: January 27th, 1996
Main Cast: Neve Campbell, Sir Patrick Stewart, Joan Sims, Donald Sinden, Cherie Lunghi, Edward Wiley, Leslie Phillips
Rating: PG, for some mildly scary moments
Synopsis (Provided by IMDB):
When a teenaged girl moves to England, with her brothers and parents into the ancient Canterville Hall, she's not at all happy. Especially as there's a ghost and a mysterious re-appearing bloodstain on the hearth. She campaigns to go back home, and her dad, believing the ghost's pranks are Ginny's, is ready to send her back. But then Ginny actually meets the elusive 16th-century Sir Simon de Canterville (not to mention the cute teenaged duke next door), and she sets her hand to the task of freeing Sir Simon from his curse.
For a made for TV movie (and especially one made in the 1990s) the production values on this are really good. I assume that has something to do with Sir Patrick Stewart producing it (and I'm going to make a judgement leap, funding it) and starring in the title role, as Sir Simon de Canterville, the ghost of Canterville. The movie starts out with Ginny, her Mom & her brothers, Washington and Adam, travelling to England to join her Dad who is preparing the house they'll be living in for their arrival. It's supposedly haunted, but he is a rationally minded scientist and doesn't believe in ghosts. So when the ghost starts trying to scare the Otis family out of the house, Dad thinks Ginny is behind it and wants to send her home. At first she wanted to leave, but now she's started to like it there and is making friends (maybe more) with the young Duke next door. Can she get the ghost to help her convince her Dad that he's real? And what's all this about a prophecy?
The acting was pretty good for a TV movie. I think Neve Campbell made a pretty convincing disgruntled teenager, upset at moving to another country. The little brothers were amusing and not overly obnoxious, as little brothers who enjoy pranks tend to be in movies sometimes. The parents were probably the weakest characterizations, with the Mom seeming good-natured, but empty headed and the Dad just seeming like a complete asshole. He treated Ginny like a stranger he barely tolerated, and didn't show the slightest bit of doubt she was the one behind the mischief. The way he talked to her/treated her seemed overly harsh for a family film. Really out of place and unsettling. I did like the romance between the young Duke next door, Francis, and Ginny. It was all very sweet, young love type stuff. They share a couple kisses, but nothing inappropriate for younger viewers. Sir Patrick Stewart as the ghost, Sir Simon, gave a really wonderful portrayal of a man who once made a grievous mistake that ended in tragedy and has spent hundreds of years as a lonely ghost. His gradual shift from vengeful, angry ghost to sad & lonely man who can't move on was really believable and makes you, as a viewer, empathize with him. I did feel like they drove the whole prophecy thing into the ground. It's much more subtle in the original story by Oscar Wilde. There was some humor in this, like the original satire it was based on. But it did take itself a lot more seriously - sometimes it was good, sometimes it was bad.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film. It inspired me to read the short novella by Oscar Wilde, which I hadn't even known anything about before seeing this. Didn't really scare me all that much, not necessarily a Halloween movie like what I was looking for. This one was more of a sad, romantic tale and can definitely be viewed for a family movie night. I'd recommend this one! :)
RECOMMENDATION: Rent it from the library, borrow it, or stream from Netflix (if available)