Beetle Juice (1988)
Beetle Juice, Beetlejuice, Betelgeuse
I'll eat anything you want me to eat. I'll swallow anything you want me to swallow. But, come on down and I'll... chew on a dog! Arroooo! - Betelgeuse
It's hard to deny that director Tim Burton is the master of the strange, peculiar and bizarre turning his hand to almost any sort of story and giving it a Burton-esque makeover with much success. It is testament to Tim Burton's vivid imagination and penchant for the comically quirky that one of his earlier movies "Beetle Juice" still remains such a favourite for many all these years later. Although it is also the wonderful performance from Michael Keaton as the desperate bio-exorcist Beetle Juice which makes it still such a wonderfully weird and entertaining movie.
Following a car accident Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin - Malice) discover that they have died returning as ghosts to their New England Home where they are trapped. Still unsure of what has happened they except their new ghostly life stuck in their house till their peace is shattered when a family from New York, the Deetz's, move in and start renovating their beautiful home. Unsure of how to rid themselves of the humans, the Maitland's are forced to call on the services of Beetle Juice (Michael Keaton - Jack Frost), a devious bio-exorcist.
One of the nicest parts of "Beetle Juice" is that it takes quite a traditional storyline of a haunted house where usually the residents are scared of the spooky goings on and switches it around. So instead we have the couple of newly departeds more frightened of the houses new living residents and being naive need to seek out advice on how to exorcise the annoying family. It's this switch on the traditional which makes "Beetle Juice" more than just a quirky rehash of something gone before.
But it is also that it is pure good fun. There is little which is in the least bit serious, yet it never feels like a shallow movie, with laughs a plenty around every single corner. From the set up where we are introduced to the overly twee Adam and Barbara Maitland with their corny sugar coated existence, everything is played for laughs and it works beautifully. Even when it gets through to the haunting aspect of the movie, it is all done to make you laugh with the possession scene around the dining table where the new residents sing "Day-O" being one of the most memorable, so much so that the song has almost become synonymous with "Beetle Juice"
Of course there is also the Tim Burton trademark bizarre aspect to "Beetle Juice" and it's his vivid imagination as he takes us on a journey into the land of the recently departed which also helps to make it such a memorable movie. With the use of traditional stop motion techniques, special effects, make up and wonderful sets from the offices for the newly dead through to the land outside of the family home, everything borders on the truly bizarre but in doing so is quirkily entertaining. But it is also Burton's wonderful balance which allows him to make "Beetle Juice" funny whilst also using the element of surprise to deliver just the right number of frights.
Plus it is impossible to ignore the huge contribution of Michael Keaton with one of his most exuberant performances as the funny yet creepy Beetle Juice. Beetle Juice is such a wonderful character with Keaton delivering over the top laugh after laugh as the despicable and decaying bio-exorcist with such a devious side that it is very much a villainous character in the tradition of the pantomime where you just love to boo him. Alongside Keaton is a young Winona Ryder who in just her third movie plays the gothic Lydia Deetz to perfection, delivering that stereotypical dark side but still likeable.
Aside from Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder there are good performances around with Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin doing a perfect job of playing the twee Adam and Barbara Maitland who are naive to aspects of being ghosts. Plus there are further nice performances from the likes of Jeffrey Hones and Catherine O'Hara as Lydia's very stereotypical parents Charles and Deelia Deetz.
What this all boils down to is that "Beetle Juice" despite being over 20 years old is still a wonderfully imaginative movie combining humour with a few shocks and the inspired mind of Tim Burton to make a memorable escapade into the life of the dead. It's quirky from start to finish delivering a constant stream of laughs and with a hugely exuberant performance as the devious Beetle Juice will capture your attention through out.
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