Movie: "Beetlejuice"
Year: 1988
Rated: PG
Genre: Comedy
Directed by: Tim Burton
Writing credits: Michael McDowell, Warren Skaaren, Larry Wilson

Reviewer: Protoclown
Posted: 2/3/2009

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.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeHalf
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Last of the Time Lords
Feb 4th, 2009, 01:37 PM
I loved this film when I was little. The cartoon series was also pretty freaking sweet, and much darker than most of the stuff on TV at the time.

And yeah, I can see how that sequel would have been a pretty bad idea.
As u wish...
Feb 4th, 2009, 05:34 PM
This was probably the first "DARK" comedy i has ever seen. It was disturbing and entertaining at the same time. im torn about a sequel...would love to have seen it, but glad they didnt.
Feb 4th, 2009, 05:53 PM
I know what you mean about the "something missing". Maybe it's that now a days it feels more family friendly and it's just not as creepy as it once was.
Leo Getz
Feb 4th, 2009, 08:03 PM
There was an existing sequel to Christmas Vacation where cousin Eddy goes to a tropical island. I'm sure you know of this, but I just had to point it out...
Feb 4th, 2009, 09:04 PM
All the "afterworld" scenes make this movie. Personal fave : the shrunken head guy.
Forum Virgin
Feb 5th, 2009, 02:17 AM
From what I understand, the original script had alot less Betelgeuse (one or two scenes, I think) and was called "Meet the Maitlands". When Keaton proved popular in the role, they beefed it up for him. As for sequels, I know that it was one that's been tossed around for a while (along with Goonies). And Mr. m0nk3y, I've seen Christmas Vacation 2 and thought it was pretty funny, anything with Randy Quaid gets a good vote from me.
The stealer of Pies
Feb 5th, 2009, 12:53 PM
When I was a really little girl (at least 5 if not younger) this movie was my most favorite thing ever. and I watched that cartoon every day. Heck, I made my relatives call me "beetlejuice" instead. and one christmas, they gave me a beetlejuice toy where he's in that carousal form from the end of the movie with the giant mallot hands and it was the greatest thing ever.
Feb 5th, 2009, 05:02 PM
I've gotta disagree with the final score on this one. Should be a full 5/5. That feeling of "something missing" has been mis-interpreted and I can understand why as it rarely ever happens with a popular film. What is missing is more movie! In other words the film is so engaging you are left wanting more, which is the exact way a good film is supposed to make you feel.
Feb 6th, 2009, 08:47 PM
Great movie. I've read up on "Goes Hawaiian" before. It sounded not so promising.
Sympathizes with the foo'
Feb 7th, 2009, 03:31 AM
SunnyD: Oh, shit yes! I thought I was the only one who remembered the Beetlejuice toy line!
Feb 7th, 2009, 04:40 AM
This is still one of my favorite movies. Unfortunately, the only toys I could ever find when I was little were Shrunken-Head Beetlejuice and Adam Maitland. Who the hell would pick a decapitated Alec Baldwin figure over a guy with a shrunken, spinning head? Wait a minute, decapitating Alec Baldwin sounds pretty good all of a sudden...
Feb 7th, 2009, 02:42 PM
Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian would be hilarious. In a bad way.
Vigilante All-Star
Feb 8th, 2009, 07:03 PM
I remember there were a couple Beetlejuice video games as well...one based on the movie, another based on the cartoon. The former sucked, never played the latter...

I still need to buy this damn movie though...
Feb 9th, 2009, 04:00 AM
Oh man!! I loved this so much when I was young (and now as well!). I, too, had a shrunken head Betelgeuse, and watched the awesome cartoon show. And I have a vague memory of singing "Beetle-juice is gonna get you!" to my little brother?
4 Eyes, No Brain.
Oct 17th, 2010, 03:05 PM
I absolutely love this film, I pretty much love most Tim Burton stuff.
Oct 17th, 2010, 09:25 PM
Good thing about the animated series was that (SHOCK) Tim Burton wrote several episodes!