I can’t think of any film I was obsessed with to the level I was obsessed with Beetlejuice. The only film that possibly comes close is Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (which I already discussed). When I was a kid I watched this movie EVERY WEEKEND, I owned every toy, I had it memorized, I even memorized that commercial for the soundtrack. There’s very little to not love about this movie.
Rarely have a seen a movie in which every joke hits, the energy never runs out and can be enjoyed as many times as this film can be. I’ve probably seen this film over 100 times and I still laugh at Michael Keaton’s frantic performance of our titular character.
The film opens with a beautiful pan across a model town finally revealing our main characters Barbara and Adam Maitland. Adam has been working on this model for a while and needs to grab some supplies from his store. On the way home Barbara swerves to avoid hitting a dog and the couple plunge into the water below and drown.
It impresses me that in 5 minutes we are introduced to our main characters and they’re so well written that we’re saddened by their deaths despite how little we know them. We are as annoyed as they are when the Deetz move into their beautiful home and start messing with their lives.
The couple turn to Bio-Exorcist (an undead con man) to haunt their house and force the Deetz to move away. They don’t expect Beetlejuice to be quit as evil and malicious as he turns out to be. He takes great pride in torturing the Deetz in various forms (including an impressive stop motion snake).
Watching this movie reminds me why I still love Tim Burton. While the man has been making some pretty terrible films the last few years, Beetlejuice represents a young director with a real vision for quirk.
It’s also the funniest film he’s ever made. While future films like Edward Scissorhands and Charlie & the Chocolate Factory relied on the weird characters to be the comedy. It’s his films like Beetlejuice (as well as the previously reviewed Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and Ed Wood) that contain well crafted jokes and one liners.
It’s truly one of the finest films of the 80’s and definitely the best film in Tim Burton’s career.