Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Beetlejuice (1988)

Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton

Summary: The Maitlands (Baldwin and Davis), a recently deceased rural couple, try to drive out the new occupants of their home. When they are unsuccessful, they call on a rogue poltergeist (Keaton) for help.

My take: Beetlejuice the movie would have been better without Beetlejuice the character. The premise - young couple dies and learns about life after death - could have been great for a lighthearted romantic comedy, and that seems to be the aim of the movie until about one-third of the way in, when Keaton appears as Beetlejuice. Then the movie turns dark, campy, and uncomfortable. The character is perverted, bloodthirsty, and later shows himself to be an aspiring pedophile, because apparently he hadn't alienated the audience enough. Also, the Maitlands don't need another opponent - they're already trying to get the new occupants of the house to leave. His appearance takes the movie in an entirely different and very unwelcome direction.
   That said, this movie has some of the best sight gags I've ever seen. The waiting room for the recently dead waiting for counseling is absolutely brilliant, from the charred smoker who is trying to quit to the man dressed as a big-game hunter with a shrunken head. The giant Beetlejuice-snake is still creepy, even if stop-motion is outdated in 2010... sorry, what? It was outdated in 1988, too? Oh.

Final Say: The special effects are nothing compared to today's CGI and some of the acting is over-the-top, but the movie is still reasonably entertaining. If you can take the overall datedness of the movie, it's worth seeing at least once just so you can say you did. Tim Burton fans will probably love it more than people who are indifferent to his directing style.


Top 5 Scenes to Look for:
1. The dinner party when the dead Maitlands force the live guests to sing and dance to "The Banana Boat Song".
2. The Maitlands visit their counselor, Juno, who is trying to get a dead football team settled. "I'm not your coach! He survived."
3. A sandworm swallows Beetlejuice. Very satisfying.
4. The beginning credits panning over Adam Maitland's model town.
5. Lydia (Ryder) becomes a normal child who goes to school, rides a bike, and dances to "Jump the Line" in mid-air.

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