Thursday, August 22, 2013

#1,102. Beetlejuice (1988)

Directed By: Tim Burton

Starring: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton

Tag line: "Say it once... Say it twice... But we dare you to say it THREE TIMES"

Trivia: The movie's impressive box-office success created plans for a sequel: Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, which was never made

Beetlejuice, Tim Burton’s 1988 comedy / fantasy, provided audiences with an early glimpse into the director’s macabre sensibilities while at the same time giving us an absolutely bat-shit, crazy ghost guaranteed to tickle our funny bone.

Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) just died, the victims of a freak car accident, and their spirits take up residence in what used to be their beloved home. But just as the two are coming to terms with their new “lives”, the house is sold to Charles Deetz (Jeffrey Jones), who immediately moves in with his wife Delia (Catherine O’Hara) and daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder). 

When all attempts to frighten off the new owners fail, Adam and Barbara turn to Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton) for help. A self-proclaimed "Bio-exorcist", the maniacal Betelgeuse promises to send the Deetz family packing. But as the Maitlands quickly learn, once you've hired Betelgeuse, you can expect him to hang around forever!

Burton’s unique take on the weird and unusual is on full display in Beetlejuice, starting with the look of the film and extending through to its characters; when Adam and Barbara try to scare the Deetzs away, they instead pique the family's curiosity. Before long, Charles, Delia, and their friend Otho, played by Glenn Shadix, are asking the two spirits to perform more “tricks” for them! 
While her parents look upon the ghostly couple as if they were a carnival sideshow, Ryder's Lydia forms a bond with the Maitlands, an often touching relationship that gives Beetlejuice plenty of heart. 

Stealing the show, however, is Michael Keaton as the often insane, occasionally grotesque Betelgeuse, a ghost for hire with a few hundred disgusting tricks up his sleeve. Spending his days trapped inside a scale model of the town Adam had built in the attic, Betelgeuse is called into action whenever someone repeats his name three times (which, as you might guess, happens more than once in the movie, often with hilarious consequences). Keaton, who proved how funny he could be a few years earlier in Night Shift, lets his comedic talents bubble over in this film, giving us a character that’s fairly unhinged, and very unpredictable. His manic performance is definitely the highlight of the movie (as are the two “musical” sequences, which feature a couple of classic tunes by Harry Belafonte).

Beetlejuice offers a unique perspective on the middle-class American family, a theme Burton would return to in films like Edward Scissorhands and Dark Shadows. This, along with Keaton’s extraordinary performance, makes Beetlejuice a movie you won’t want to miss.

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