The Canterville Ghost (1996)
Neve Screams Wilde
There are those who adore the works of Oscar Wilde and there are those like me who have never read one of his stories, some might call me a heathen for having never read Wilde whilst some might call those who do so elitist snobs. Why do I say that? Well when it comes to the 1996 TV movie "The Canterville Ghost" I have read some who call this an entertaining ghost story which works for young teens whilst others calling it sacrilege to have adapted Wilde's short story in such a way. I am with the first group because "The Canterville Ghost" is an entertaining movie for young teens, maybe not the best ghost story which is aimed as family entertainment but still an entertaining little movie.
After her father heads to England to carry on his research, American Virginia 'Ginny' Otis (Neve Campbell - Scream 3) reluctantly comes over with her mother and younger brothers to live with him in the rather grand Canterville Hall. But no sooner have they entered the building where Mr. & Mrs. Umney (Donald Sinden & Joan Sims) take care of them that strange things start to happen from strange noises to rattling doors till Ginny eventually comes face to face with Sir Simon de Canterville (Patrick Stewart - Gunmen), the resident ghost. Ginny also meets Francis, Duke of Cheshire (Daniel Betts) who together not only work to stop her father from sending her back to America but also help Sir Simon.
Whilst I have never read Oscar Wilde's short story I have watched enough movies to realise that this doesn't stay completely true to the original as it is incredibly sappy, I mean the dialogue is sappy. There is also an excess of scenes which seem to have been designed to pad the story out which unfortunately stick out as they are often quite cheesy and overly melodramatic. But whilst technically "The Canterville Ghost" has issues it is still an entertaining little ghost story for a family with young teenagers as it mixes humour with story and a lot of teen appeal. It probably isn't anything like Oscar Wilde intended and I can understand why Wilde purists would be annoyed but it works for who the target audience is.
Now there are some intentionally contrasting performances going on in "The Canterville Ghost". On one hand you have Neve Campbell as Ginny who is there to appeal to a young audience and that is exactly what she does with her plucky way of confronting Sir Simon. And then there is Patrick Stewart who excels delivering the Shakespearean dialogue of Sir Simon, bellowing out lines whilst dealing with emotional conflict. They are entertaining in very different ways but then you also have the amusement of British stalwarts such as Leslie Phillips, Donald Sinden and Joan Sims.
What this all boils down to is that "The Canterville Ghost" is an entertaining little ghost story for teen audiences. It probably is a terrible version of Wilde's story but for who it is intended, which is young teenagers, it works.
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