Beetlejuice (1988)

beetlejuice poster 1988 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Fun actors, great visuals

The story often doesn't make much sense

 
Movie Info

Movie Name:  Beetlejuice

Studio:  The Geffen Film Company

Genre(s):  Comedy/Horror

Release Date(s):  March 30, 1988

MPAA Rating:  PG

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Better red than dead…

Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara Maitland (Geena Davis) are a happy young couple living an ideal life in a small Connecticut town. When a tragic accident takes their lives, they find themselves trapped in their home awaiting passage into the afterlife.  Adam and Barbara’s home is purchased by real estate mogul Charles Deetz (Jeffrey Jones), abstract artist Delia (Catherine O’Hara), and the darkness loving Lydia (Winona Ryder), and the Maitlands finds themselves at war with the Deetzs. With Lydia as their ally, Barbara and Adam find scaring the Deetz might be harder than they thought, and when they summon a demonic ghost named Betelgeuse, the living and the dead may be in trouble.

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I think he has a chance!

Directed by Tim Burton, Beetlejuice became a surprise hit. The movie received positive reviews and with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure helped propel Tim Burton to fame as a director.  The movie was award the Academy Award for Best Makeup.

Beetlejuice had a very different origin than what made it to screens. Original the movie was conceived as a true horror film. The story involved the summoning of a demon that was not just fun and games but true horror (a leftover of this is the throwaway line about Barbara’s arm being cold…it was crushed in the accident). The movie smartly changed this idea and became a strange hybrid of comedy with a bit of horror involved.

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I want to go to this dinner party!!!

The story is pretty smart and works well with Tim Burton. While you could argue that Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure sprung from the mind of Paul Rub aka Pee-Wee Herman when it was released, Beetlejuice revealed that Burton was a true visionary. Everything from the strange claymation, to the Danny Elfman music, to the odd “afterlife” world, Tim Burton became a big director (which help land him Batman).

Beetlejuice is mostly a feast for the eyes…though the story if fun, it really doesn’t make much sense. There isn’t much logic behind the movie, the rules of the afterlife don’t really make much sense nor does Beetlejuice. No one can see ghosts (sometimes) but the agent encourages and to shape their faces into scary things…which no one can see!!! Also, no one can apparently say Beetlejuice without making it about ten syllables instead of saying it really fast and sending him away (while everyone else stands around like an idiot like in the end scene).

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So remind me how this is supposed to scare people that can’t see them?

The goofiness is overridden by the fun of the actors. Michael Keaton is great as the Ghost with the Most, despite no one wanting him for the role (allegedly Burton’s dream Beetlejuice would have been Sammy Davis Jr.). Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis channel their Brad and Janet from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I always believe Catherine O’Hara is criminally underrated as one of the best female improv comics and the movie also helped make Winona Ryder a household name. The movie also features some supporting appearances from Robert Goulet and Dick Cavett.

Watching Beetlejuice years later, I still find it a great movie. The movie is worth watching simply for the “Banana Boat” dinner scene. It is the moment I fell in love with Tim Burton, and it makes me sad how he’s lost a lot of his spark. Beetlejuice was followed by a Saturday morning cartoon which ran from 1989 to 1991, and there have constantly been rumors of a sequel (starting immediately with the concept of Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian).

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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