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

beetlejuice betelgeuse marries lydia winona ryder michael keaton

Nobody says the B-word!

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 Charles’ darkness loving daughter 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 (Michael Keaton) to help, the living and the dead may be in trouble.

Directed by Tim Burton, Beetlejuice is a comedy supernatural movie.  The film received positive reviews and became a blockbuster hit.  The movie received an Academy Award for Best Makeup.

beetlejuice lydia goth girl winona ryder

…and a generation of Goth Girls is born

Beetlejuice was one of those movies that totally hit me.  I saw it once then quickly saw it a second time (despite being a time when it wasn’t easy for me to get to a movie).  The movie (along with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure) helped propel him to a shaping director of the time.  Beetlejuice is a movie that holds up and has lasting power.

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.

beetlejuice catherine ohara banana boat song

I want to talk about “Day-O”

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, and the classic “Banana Boat Song” scene screams Tim Burton…and 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).

beetlejuice waiting room shrunken head geena davis

Damn, girl…can I get your number?

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 (though she has recently finally come into her own on Schitt’s Creek), 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 a stage musical.  There are plans for a Beetlejuice 2 (but to be fair, there have been plans for Beetlejuice 2 since Beetlejuice…with even an idea of Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian).

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @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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