A recently deceased couple has to deal with an unbearable family that has just moved into their home. The couple looks toward a poltergeist to get rid of the family from the house.
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements and language
Fun Fact: Even though he plays the title character, Michael Keaton only has seventeen and a half minutes of screen time.
Beetlejuice is an interesting film coming from director Tim Burton. The film was released in 1988 which was the beginning of Burton’s career. Burton had previous success with Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and working on Beetlejuice was going to put him in the right direction as far as his career was going. The interesting thing about this film is that it has a well-known cast and many performers would become Burton collaborators in the coming years. Michael Keaton who was known for his comedic roles at the time, signed on to play the title character.
This film is the classic Tim Burton style that we all have known to love through his films. The set designs are fantastic, and it takes us to a different reality. Everything about it is unique with the different colors and special effect work. The special effects are the classic stop motion action that had been huge over the years at that point. Remember CGI was not really a thing at that point and would not be for a few more years. The stop motion work really takes us to a different world in both the living and the dead. When the ghost is featured along with other creatures, it still holds up. It gives the film its unique style that makes it stand out. If the effect work were not like it was, I do not think it would hold up as well as it does. Unique movies need unique production qualities to them. Another department that needs high praise is the makeup work. The makeup on Keaton makes his standout like no other. He looks like something from a different world. There is a scene with Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis that has amazing makeup work to it as well.
The script has a nice blend of many genres that make it what it is. While the focus is comedy it also has fantasy and horror elements to it. With this material we get another classic Burton theme and that is the outsider. The two-lead ghost’s played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis just want to have their home back and are not willing to accept that they are dead yet. You could say that they do not fit in the human world so to speak. Winona Ryder portrays the daughter of the family that moves into the home. Ryder has a gothic look to her, and her parents portrayed by Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O’Hara are your typical suburban residents. All of the performers do an excellent job with the material at hand. They deliver the comedic lines on time and all have a great chemistry with other. The shining star of the film though is Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice. He has an amazing look to him, and Keaton had quite a bit of freedom in this role. He ad-libbed around 90% of his lines for this film. Even though he does not have much screen time, Keaton delivers nonstop laughs.
With a unique movie we have to have some unique cinematography. At the beginning of the film when the credits are rolling, we get an aerial view of the neighborhood that the story is taking place. It gives a creative presence from a bird’s eye view that we do not really get to see as much. There are a few scenes that require life size and shrunken characters. The camera work is just at the right focus that makes the scenes look realistic. It feels like the shrunken character is really that size compared to the life size character.
Overall, Beetlejuice is one creative film from a creative director. In one of the few original ideas that Burton has offered, Beetlejuice is one of his better films. It has his classic style with the production designs and the outsider looking for acceptance. All of the cast has a great chemistry and it truly looks like they are having fun with the material. All of them are able to deliver the comedic lines right and there is quite a bit of scenes that are flat out funny. The film also gives us horror and fantasy elements that gives something for everyone that are into those types of films. Throw in fantastic production design and special effects, you have yourself a film that is unique and creative that stands out even over thirty years later.
Wife’s Verdict: Hit as in its hilarious and she can keep watching it over again.