Revisited: Beetlejuice

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Barbara and Adam Maitland decide to spend their vacation decorating their idyllic New England country home. While the young couple are driving back from town, Barbara swerves to avoid a dog wandering the roadway and crashes through a covered bridge, plunging into the river below. They return home and, based on such subtle clues as their lack of reflection in the mirror and their discovery of a Handbook for the Recently Deceased, begin to suspect they might be dead. Adam attempts to leave the house to retrace his steps but finds himself in a strange, otherworldly plane covered in sand and populated by enormous sandworms.

After fleeing back into their home, the Maitlands’ peace is soon disrupted when their house is sold and obnoxious new residents, the Deetzes, arrive from New York City. The new family consists of Charles, a former real estate developer; his second wife Delia, an aspiring sculptor; and his goth daughter Lydia from his first marriage. Under the guidance of interior designer Otho, the Deetzes transform the house into a gaudy piece of pastel-toned modern art. The Maitlands seek help from their afterlife case worker, Juno, who informs them that they must remain in the house for 125 years. If they want the Deetzes out of the house, it is up to them to scare them away. The Maitlands’ attempts at scaring the family away prove utterly ineffective.

Although the Maitlands remain invisible to Charles and Delia, their daughter Lydia can see the ghost couple and befriends them. Against Juno’s advice, the Maitlands contact the miscreant Beetlejuice, a freelance “bio-exorcist” ghost, to scare away the Deetzes. However, Beetlejuice quickly offends the Maitlands with his crude and morbid demeanor, and they reconsider hiring him, though too late to stop him from wreaking havoc on the Deetzes. The small town’s charm and the supernatural events inspire Charles to pitch his boss Maxie Dean on transforming the town into a tourist hot spot, but Maxie wants proof of the ghosts. Using the Handbook for the Recently Deceased, Otho conducts a séance and summons Adam and Barbara, but they begin to decay, Otho having unwittingly performed an exorcism. Horrified, Lydia summons Beetlejuice and agrees to marry him if he saves them. Beetlejuice disposes of Maxie, his wife, and Otho, then prepares a wedding before a ghastly minister. The Maitlands intervene before the ceremony is completed, with Barbara riding the sandworm through the house to devour Beetlejuice.

Finally, the Deetzes and Maitlands agree to live in harmony in the house. Beetlejuice, meanwhile, is seen waiting in the afterlife reception area, where he angers a witch doctor, who shrinks his head

REVIEW:

Earlier this week, I think it may have been yesterday, Michael Keaton announced that he was “in talks” for Beetlejuice 2. This prompted me to dust off Beetlejuice and offer up some of my thoughts. Over the years, it seems as if this film becomes more and more popular, and with good reason.

What is this about?

A young couple who drowned return to their house as poltergeists but must enlist the help of a goofy ghost to put a scare in the rude new owners. Unfortunately, he’s got a diabolical agenda of his own.

What did I like?

Dark can be funny. This is categorized as a dark comedy. It is amazing how much that term has changed over the years, as films like this and to a lesser extent Death Becomes Her, were actually funny. On the other side of things, today’s dark comedies such as Ghost World and Young Adult don’t really conjure up laughs. The laughs in this film are plenty, thanks to sight gags and an outstanding performance from the titular character who was brought to life by Michael Keaton.

Beetlejuice. This film would be nothing if the title character wasn’t memorable. Keaton is over the top and it works to perfection for Beetlejuice. A mixture of maniacal comedian and arrogant, murderous “ghost with the most”. Since taking the lead role in Batman, we haven’t seen Keaton do roles like this, so it is nice to see him back in the days when he would get nuts and let it all hang loose. It is a thing of beauty to see. If the sequel does happen, I hope we get to see this Keaton again.

Afterlife. The way the afterlife is portrayed is not something I look forward to. I hate waiting rooms! However, the imaginative way in which each person was show is impressive. Also, the stop motion effects for the ghostly effects, even Beetlejuice was using his powers to scare away the Deetzes, and leave us not forget about the sandworms!

What didn’t I like?

Beetlejuice. Although this film is far from being a deep character study, I would have liked to have known a little bit more about Beetlejuice, such as what era he died in, why you have to say his name 3 times, his time with Juno, etc. Perhaps the sequel will cover this but for now we can just guess. The only clue we have is a teaser line in which he mentions being around during the Black Plague.

Saturn. So, according to this film, Saturn is a planet in which the afterlife send their outcasts, I guess you would say. When Geena Davis’ character tries to step out of the house, she is transported to the desert world with the sandworms. Also, Beetlejuice mentions he has been there a few times. My issue is, why Saturn? Couldn’t there have been somewhere on Earth or some alternate dimension?

Lydia. Maybe it was just her character, but Winona Ryder came off as wooden and uninteresting to me. That is saying something when you think about how Lydia is supposedly the liaison, if you will, between the film and audience. By all accounts, she should have been the best character in the film, outside of Beetlejuice, but I just wasn’t a fan of her. Perhaps it was just  that she was another teen in a long line of annoying teenagers. Something different and unique would have been to let her character be a little girl, but maybe that’s just my odd idea.

I really had almost forgotten how much I love Beetlejuice. My issues with the film are minor, and it cracks me up every time. Tim Burton has always impressed me with his use of stop-motion in his films and the decision to use Harry Belafonte’s music may have been an odd one, but I don’t think anyone has questioned it since the film’s final release. So, do I recommend this film? Yes, enthusiastically yes! This is most definitely a film that you should see before you die, so check it out ASAP!!!

5 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “Revisited: Beetlejuice”

  1. […] character that could have easily appeared in a little film that would come soon after this one, Beetlejuice. The next Burton moment, if you will, comes in the form of a trippy nightmare that Pee-wee has. It […]

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