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Beetlejuice (1988)

June 16, 2009

8/10 Demonic Shrimp Cocktails

I’ve seen this movie two or three other times in my life and never really got what all the fuss was about. Always thought it was too dark, too strange, and not that funny either. But then again, I also loved The Nightmare Before Christmas, which is arguably all those things maxed out. I was a confused child.

So when my good buddy Fred turned this on last night, I figured, “Sure, why not?” And this time it was great. Weird how that happens.

Beetlejuice is about a husband and a wife who die in a car crash then turn into ghosts who have to scare the new owners out of their dream house, only they suck at it and eventually turn to Beetlejuice – a freelance “bio-exorcist” who scares the shit out of people like it’s noboby’s business – to do the job for them.

Great idea for a movie and it’s arguably Tim Burton at the most accessible height of his strange vision. Just one of many examples why Burton is one of the most original directors and storytellers out there.

While I’m on the subject, I’m a big fan of Tim Burton. Planet of the Apes aside, he’s got one hell of a resume’ and is always putting out really good stuff that most film makers wouldn’t even go near. And that’s what’s great about him, that he can take scripts and movies that would otherwise be entirely disturbing, nightmarish experiences and turn them into something almost dreamlike that people embrace and connect with. Go watch his take on Sweeney Todd, takes a lot of talent to make people laugh at folks getting their throats slit for two hours.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be talking about Beetlejuice. All those things I said about what makes Burton great, they’re all here in this movie.

The special effects don’t hold up all that well, but the makeup is great, the writing is good, and the cast is good, too, featuring every middle-aged actor who hit it big in the late-’80s/early-’90s and was never heard from again (an unrecognizably-young Alec Baldwin being the only one who made it out alive).

But Michael Keaton, the freakin’ king of the ’80s, really brings it all together as Beetejuice himself. What could have potentially been an entirely unlikeable character, even though he’s more or less the villain of the story anyway, ends up being a major selling point of the movie thanks to Keaton’s insano, mile-a-minute, hilarious performance that quickly turns him into the best character on-screen even though it takes him about an hour to finally show up.

As a result, my one complaint with the movie is that there’s just not enough Beetlejuice. Who cares about Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as lame-ass ghosts. When you call a movie Beetlejuice, you should probably make it a point to show more Beetlejuice. He’s the ghost with the most, baby.

That aside, it’s still a fun movie, it’s got a great, morbid sense of humor, it’s got great music (that might be a nostalgia thing from watching the Beetlejuice cartoon as a kid). And come on, it’s Tim Burton. So go watch Beetlejuice, then go watch some other Burton movies, and remember the Keaton.

Never forget the Keaton.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2013 9:15 am

    I have always loved this movie! And I totally agree…I wish there was more of Beetlejuice in the film. Keaton’s best role ever, in my opinion.

    • March 11, 2013 3:43 pm

      Haha. Every movie could use more Keaton, and there’s an easy case to be made for this being his best role, too. Glad you dug it, man!

  2. Heidi Eckl permalink
    August 22, 2013 10:22 am

    I just read this (way late, I know) and I agree completely with your review. But I had to comment on the Beetlejuice cartoon. I can’t believe you watched that! I watched and LOVED it as a kid, yet nobody remembers it/watched it! I don’t really remember much of it, but one episode in particular is embedded in my mind. Something to do with Lydia opening a fashion boutique. Their slogan was “shop til you freak at the Spooky Boutiqe”. Hehe! I love it! Good work!

    • August 22, 2013 12:58 pm

      Haha. Man, it’s been forever since I wrote this and last saw this. Glad you dug it and glad I’m not the only one out there who remembers the show! Can’t say I remember that episode (or any episode for that matter), but I know I watched it and it was glorious at the time. Way to be part of such an elite, awesome club.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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