Batman must battle former district attorney Harvey Dent, who is now Two-Face and Edward Nygma, The Riddler with help from an amorous psychologist and a young circus acrobat who becomes his sidekick, Robin.
Adam and Barbara are a normal couple...who happen to be dead. They have given their precious time to decorate their house and make it their own, but unfortunately a family is moving in, and not quietly. Adam and Barbara try to scare them out, but end up becoming the main attraction to the money making family. They call upon Beetlejuice to help, but Beetlejuice has more in mind than just helping. Written by
According to Dick Cavett, Tim Burton tried to film the scene where shrimp jump off the plates and attack the dinner party by positioning stage hands beneath the table and throwing them. Cavett suggested placing the shrimp on their faces, filming them as they fell off, then running the film in reverse, which Burton did. See more »
When Adam and Barbara first get to their house after dying, we can see their reflection in a mirror in a hallway to the left of them. A couple shots after that we see that they are not supposed to have reflections. See more »
[to Lydia, about the owner of the finger he pulled out of a wedding ring]
I'm tellin' ya, honey, she meant nothin' to me. Nothin' at all!
See more »
When the Geffen Company logo appears, it is accompanied by a ghoulish version of the Banana Boat song (sung by the film's composer Danny Elfman). See more »
When I recently reviewed his 'Big Fish' on this board, I stated that Tim Burton is generally at his best directing quirky, offbeat films such as 'Edward Scissorhands', 'Ed Wood' or 'Big Fish' itself, and less entertaining when he moves into the mainstream. Having since then seen 'Beetlejuice' for the first time, I realize that there are exceptions to that general rule. 'Beetlejuice', a black comedy about the afterlife, is hardly mainstream Hollywood fare, but I also found it far from entertaining.
The central characters, Adam and Barbara Maitland, are a nice-but-wet young couple, who live just outside an idyllic small New England town in one of those huge, rambling weather boarded mansions that looks as though it has been taken straight from an Edward Hopper painting. After they are killed in a road accident, they return to their house as ghosts. The view of life after death in this film is an unusual one, which has little in common with Christian eschatology or with traditional ghost stories. The dead are compelled to return to the house where they lived during their lifetimes; if they attempt to go outside they find themselves in a desert landscape populated by monstrous worms. (This imagery was presumably derived from Frank Herbert's science-fiction novel 'Dune' and the film that was made from it a few years before 'Beetlejuice'). They can, however, contact other departed spirits who can help them cope with the trials of the afterlife by, for example, leaving them a copy of the 'Handbook for the Recently Deceased'.
The Maitlands' main trial takes the form of Charles and Delia Deitz, the pretentious yuppie couple who buy their house. Irritated beyond endurance by this tasteless pair, the Maitlands, attempt to scare them away, but their efforts prove ineffectual because the only member of the family who can see them is their daughter Lydia who, far from being frightened by Adam and Barbara, takes a liking to them and befriends them.
Like another reviewer, I was struck by the thematic similarity to Oscar Wilde's 'The Canterville Ghost', which deals with the attempts of a ghost to frighten away an American family living in his ancestral home. (In that story too the only person to befriend the ghost is the young daughter of the newcomers). Wilde's story, although it has moments of pathos, is also a satire directed against both the traditionalism and snobbery of the British aristocracy (represented by the ghost) and the materialism and brashness of the American nouveaux-riches. 'Beetlejuice' also contains some satirical material, chiefly at the expense of the pretentiously bohemian Deitzes, who redecorate the Maitlands' house in a garish modernistic style and fill it with Delia's abstract sculptures. (It is never explained why a couple with such radically contemporary tastes would actually want to buy a Victorian mansion in the first place). Modern art, however, is a notoriously difficult subject to satirize, largely because it is impossible for the satirist to come up with a concept which is more extreme and exaggerated than the artists' own ideas. Delia's sculptures might look like pretentious tat, but one can see aesthetically similar items in established museums or in galleries bearing price-tags marked in thousands of pounds. Lydia, a follower of the then-fashionable 'Goth' cult, claims that she can see ghosts because she is 'strange and unusual'. The film loses the chance to make the point that the Goth movement, like most teenage cults from the Teddy Boys to grunge, was not so much strange and unusual as an alternative way to be conformist.
Satire, however, is largely abandoned when the title character enters. Despairing of their own ability to scare away the intruders, the Maitlands engage the services of Betelgeuse, a 'bio-exorcist' who specializes in helping ghosts rid their properties of the unwanted living. (Although the film is called 'Beetlejuice' the name of the character is spelt 'Betelgeuse'; I can only presume that the producers wanted to change the spelling to something more user-friendly and failed to realize that we actually see the name written down several times in the film).
From this point on the film becomes an ever-more frantic slapstick comedy as Betelgeuse makes increasingly manic attempts to get rid of the Deitzes. Betelgeuse is played (in bizarre makeup) by Michael Keaton, in one of the most frenetic, over-the-top pieces of acting in the modern cinema. (Even some of Jim Carrey's efforts look restrained by comparison). The other characters fade into the background, and any attempt at a plot degenerates into a series of stunts and gimmicky special effects. The film certainly shows evidence of Tim Burton's vivid visual imagination, but he seems unable bring any discipline to his talents. 'Beetlejuice' is an inventive but disappointing film, even when viewed as a pure comedy, and lacking the wisdom and philosophical insight that Burton was able to bring to 'Edward Scissorhands' or 'Big Fish'. 4/10
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