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 its director’s macabre sensibilities, while at the same time giving them an absolutely bat-shit, crazy ghost, one guaranteed to tickle their funny bone.

Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) have just died, the victims of a freak car accident, and their spirits take up residence in what had been their beloved home. But as the two are coming to terms with their new “lives” as ghosts, their 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 frghten off their new "house guests" fail, Adam and Barbara turn to Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton), an over-excited “bio-exorcist”, for help. But as they’ll soon learn, once the erratic Betelgeuse is on the job, he intends 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 Deetzes away, they instead pique their curiosity, leading Charles, Delia, and family friend Otho, played by Glenn Shadix, to ask the two spirits to perform more “tricks” for them). Despite the fact her parents look upon the ghostly couple as if they were a carnival sideshow, Lydia forms a bond with the Maitlands, an often touching relationship that gives Beetlejuice its backbone. Stealing the show, however, is Michael Keaton as the often insane, occasionally gross Betelgeuse, a ghost for hire with a few hundred disgusting tricks up his sleeve. Spending his days trapped inside the scale model of the town that Adam built in the attic, Betelgeuse is called into action whenever someone repeats his name three times, which happens more than once in the movie (and always with hilarious consequences). Keaton lets his comedic side bubble over in this film, giving us a character that’s fairly unhinged, and very unpredictable. His manic performance is definitely a 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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