Directed by: Tim Burton
Writing credits: Michael McDowell, Warren Skaaren, Larry Wilson
Plot: A pair of newly deceased ghosts call upon a troublesome bio-exorcist when an obnoxious family moves into their home and starts changing things in unpleasant ways. But the bio-exorcist himself proves rather difficult to get rid of.
Review: I just watched Beetlejuice for the first time in at least fifteen years, and I was pleased to discover that it holds up fairly well, especially considering the fact that Burton was still a relatively new filmmaker at that point, and this was his first feature film that didn't have a previously created character or franchise attached to it.
One thing that struck me when I watched it this time was just how little the title character is in the film, which is a damn shame. Apparently in my memory I had attributed many more scenes to him, but it's probably just as well, as you tend to appreciate interesting characters more if you're not oversaturated with them, and these kinds of "wacky" characters tend to wear out their welcome pretty quickly anyway. As it stands, Betelgeuse the character is always entertaining and consistently leaves you wanting more. Apparently Michael Keaton has said that this is his favorite movie he's been in, and when you clearly see how much fun he had in this role, it's easy to understand why.
The special effects are a lot sillier now than they were twenty years ago, but given the fact that they look far cheesier than what was possible at the time, I can only imagine that it was Burton's intent to have them look that way. Nevertheless, the cheesiness lended them a new sort of charm to my thirtysomething eyes that my eleven year old self didn't appreciate the same way when I first saw this film in the theater. But given Burton's unique sense of design, I only wish that we had seen more of the bizarre death realms you only get brief glimpses of in the movie.
This was one of Winona Ryder's breakthrough film roles, and she was genuinely cute and endearing here as the teenage goth Lydia. You know, before she ruined herself by getting all crazy and shoplifty. Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O'Hara, Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin all turn in great performances, but none of them can match Michael Keaton, who steals the show in every scene he's in. In fact, my roommate wondered as we watched the movie why Burton decided to offer the role of Batman to Keaton when it seems that his Betelgeuse performance lends itself more to the Joker.
Enjoyable as the film is, I couldn't shake the feeling as I watched it that something felt missing. The film lacks something--what, I don't know, but it always seems to fall just shy of its potential in a lot of ways. They could have given us a bit more direct involvement from Betelgeuse into the story (without overdoing it), for example. Or they could have shown us more of the bizarro dead realms without giving away the whole goose. Whatever this film lacks, Burton found it and put it in his next film, Edward Scissorhands. Still, this film is an 80s classic, and something any Burton enthusiast should enjoy.
I'd heard they originally intended a sequel called Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. It's probably best for everyone that they didn't. Much as I love the character, I can see that going very, very wrong.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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