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Why Would Anyone Drink 30 Year Old Beetlejuice? Beetlejuice Retrospective (Minor Spoilers)
Say his name, say his name, say his name
We are approaching the 30th anniversary of the fantasy comedy film Beetlejuice, which came out in 1988, and directed by Tim Burton. If memory serves, the first time I knew anything about Beetlejuice was from the cartoon of the same name that aired in the early 90s. Shortly after I saw the film, which at the time was amazing as it’s interesting to see a live action version of a cartoon you watched. As this is the 30th anniversary of the film I decided to give it another look.
The plot of Beetlejuice follows recently deceased couple Adam and Barbara Maitland as they get use to their new existence in the afterlife. Sometime after their deaths, their home is purchased by the Deetz family.. They are tasked by their otherworldly caseworker, Juno, to scare the Deetzs out of their home. Since the Maitlands are having trouble scaring the Deetzs, they ask help from a ghostly conman named Betelgeuse a.k.a. Beetlejuice. However, Beetlejuice has his own mischievous agenda.
The film has diverse cast of characters, as it feels that no two characters are the same. Geena Davis portrays Barbara Maitland who felt a little stiff in the film. While she doesn’t seem to make that much of an impact she does come through when dealing with Beetlejuice. Barbara’s husband, Adam, is played by Alec Baldwin. He's a calm collected individual who works to find out what happened to him and his wife early on. He also has a big obsession with making a miniature version of the town in the attic. Even though a good chunk of the story revolves around them they really aren’t too interesting. The best parts were when they attempted to scare the Deetzs and their company, which led to large chunks of comedy.
Then there are the Deetzs; Former real estate agent Charles Deetz is portrayed by Jeffrey Jones. Like many other characters in the film he didn't really do too much, he was mostly comic relief, as was his new wife and sculptor, Delia, portrayed by Catherine O'Hara. Their daughter Lydia on the other hand is a whole different story. She’s portrayed by Winona Rider. Lydia is probably the second most interesting character in the film. She’s an antisocial Goth girl who later becomes obsessed with death. Being a youth, she’s the only person who can see the Maitlands and befriends them in the hopes that she can die and join them.
There’s other characters, such as the interior designer later turned exorcist Otho, played by Glenn Shadix and the Maitlands’ caseworker, Juno, portrayed by Sylvia Sidney. By far the most interesting, funniest, and best part of the film is the titular character Beetlejuice, played by Michael Keaton. Beetlejuice is an outlandish character with all kinds of quirks and head scratching moments. Even though it’s assumed that he’s a ghost, he has the appearance of a zombie, eats insects, possesses supernatural powers and abilities such as shape-shifting, perverted towards women, and is quite a swindler. He also takes an interest to Lydia later on, hoping to use her to come into the mortal realm. Keaton portrays Beetlejuice as wild and over the top. He’s always full of energy and wacky shenanigans. He talks in a low deep voice that's very fast and hard to understand.
Despite his antagonistic behavior, Beetlejuice is more of an antihero in the film. Originally the Maitlands seek him out to help them scare the Deetzs out of their home, but since Beetlejuice is…Beetlejuice, they decide to do things on their own. Plus they all learn that they can summon him or get rid of him by saying his name three times. A small spoiler, he does come to the Maitlands’ rescue after Lydia asked him for help. Of course there’s a big catch to that as he didn’t exactly do it for free.
The structure was good, if a little boring at times. As mentioned the film mostly revolves around the Maitlands doing things in the afterlife and attempting to scare the Deetz out of their home. It is heartwarming seeing them interact with Lydia after they’ve befriend her, acting as her surrogate parents. Lydia was also the medium bridging the Maitlands with the Deetz. Once Beetlejuice appears he attempts to trick both the Maitlands and Lydia into summoning him into the real world.
The afterlife is a giant bureaucracy. There’s also certain gates and doorways that transport souls to planet Saturn where gigantic worm-like creatures roam. At the Maitlands’ home, Adam constructed an entire model of the town, including the cemetery. For reasons unknown this is also where Beetlejuice lives. To find him, the Maitlands shrink themselves and go to the cemetery portion of the model and dig up carpet and cardboard to find the grave containing him. After meeting him…they really wish they didn’t.
Eventually the Deetzs discover the ghosts in the house and conduct a ritual to summon them. They intended on using the Maitlands as part of a tourist attraction. This all leads to the big supernatural and rather bizarre climax.
The music, well…it’s not that it’s bad. Sometimes I got tired of hearing the heavy tuba sounds. There’s lots of tuba sounds that appear around the spookier elements of the film. One song I enjoyed was ‘Jump in the Line’ by Harry Belafonte. It’s played twice, an abridged version near the film’s center and the original at the end.
Overall, I deeply enjoy seeing Beetlejuice. It’s a fun entertaining film that will keep you glued. I will say the boring parts are when the film isn’t focused on Beetlejuice, Lydia, or even the Maitlands. While the film was originally going to have a sequel titled Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, it didn’t come to pass. However, it did spin off into a Saturday morning cartoon which centered more on Beetlejuice and Lydia’s adventures together in the netherworld. Speaking of Beetlejuice, my biggest complaint about the film is the lack of him. He actually doesn’t appear that often and I could had used a few more scenes of Keaton in the black and white suit. He was definitely the best part of the film, so after seeing the film as a youth after I’d seen the cartoon I thought ‘where’s the rest of Beetlejuice?’
But it’s a good film. I also loved the dark imagery of the afterlife’s design. It’s what you’d expect from Burton. It usually comes on television around the Halloween season. It’s family friendly and an overall classic film.
© 2018 Staff Oneil