"Das kleine Gespenst" / "The Little Ghost" is a new fantasy movie primarily for children. Adaptations from famous German children books have been pretty common in recent years and this one here is one of many success stories. It's directed by Alain Gsponer, who finally has another film at the theater four years after "Lila Lila" starring Daniel Brühl. As pretty much all German kids films these days, you'll also find some big names from German cinema in the cast: Uwe Ochsenknecht playing two characters from different centuries in funny manner, Herbert Knaup as a clockmaker and Anna Thalbach voicing the ghost. The interesting thing about the latter is that she is the daughter of famous German actress Katharina Thalbach, who did the voice work for another German kids movie "Der Mondmann" not too long ago and you can certainly see some parallels. Besides that, there's one boy as the lead character, a couple more child actors as his friends/foes and his parents etc. who are all solidly portrayed even if the actors aren't really that known to audiences.
The story is about a ghost who wakes up every day at midnight and spooks around for a whole hour until he gets to sleep for 23 hours again. This wake-sleep mechanism is controlled by a clock and the little ghost would like to know which clock, so he can change it and finally see daylight. Quite a coincidence, the local clockmakers are working on a clock that isn't going exactly as it should. So they fix it , correct the time again and everything seems fine. Problem is the clock is exactly the one for the ghost and the consequence is that he wakes up at 12 o'clock during lunchtime from that day on. Initially happy, he explores daylight. Soon he's struck by a sunbeam and turns all black. it seems he always has the color of the time he's sleeping. Not much later, however, the little ghost misses his best friend (an owl voiced by the actor who also voiced Bud Spencer in many many films) and wants to return things to normal again. He's helped by a couple school kids who spotted him.
This film has a whole lot of scenes that young audiences will love, mostly those including the little ghost and how he uses his superpowers. However, I'm considerably older than that and had a nice time as well. Easily my favorite scene was when the town's mayor was looking for the ghost for what he described as a "mysterious black creature" and at the same time the mailman, obviously with African origins, brings a couple letters and he hears the conversation and says something like "Don't look at me. It's not me." It's kinda politically incorrect, but I really smiled for minutes over that scene. It was just so hilarious. I think it was also included in the trailer, but I kinda forgot about this. Other scenes I loved were when the ghost spots the parade and obviously thinks the swedes are attacking again just like centuries ago, the incompetent firefighters, the guy who played the nephew of Knaup's character (he has quite some comedic talent) or also the scene where they are working the hands of the clock and the ghost falls all of a sudden into deep sleep as it's passed 1 o'clock. What I didn't like that much was the whole stolen watch subplot, but it wasn't that bad either. I just felt it added nothing to the story. The first half of the film had the focus mostly on the ghost (admittedly the ghosts laughing really started to annoy me at some point, but I'm positive kids will love it), the second half more on the little boy and his friends.
I can't say how good or close this film is to the book, but I enjoyed it for the most part. It's a joy to see how strong in quantity and quality German children films are these days. I'm not an expert on foreign children films, although I have seen some from Belgian, Hungary and the Czech Republic recently too and they were good, but I'd be surprised if anything equals Germany in that regard. It's a pity that Otfried Preußler, the writer of "The Little Ghost" and lots of other famous German children literature, died early this year at 89 and didn't live to watch this movie. I think he may have enjoyed it just like I did. I recommend it to everybody who's young or young at heart.
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