Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beetlejuice (1988) "The ghost with the most"

“It obviously doesn't do any good to pull your heads off in front of people if they can't see you.” -Juno

It’s always nice when movies provide life…or, uh, death lessons. Even though I doubt this was Tim Burton’s goal when he directed this movie, I’d have to say his primary goal, of creating a lasting, entertaining film, was achieved. The film begins by following a nice couple in a small town. The viewer is creatively drawn in by scanning a realistic model of their quaint town, until Burton rather quickly offs the couple. So, okay, it’s another ghost movie. For someone like me, who does not like scary movies at all, it’s a good one. It is creepy while still having funny moments. As Adam and Barbara (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) learn the ropes of being dead, a new family moves into their home and turns everything upside down for the ghastly pair. Well that’s just freakin annoying, isn’t it? So, obviously they try to scare them away, but such a nice couple can’t suddenly become frightening, so that is where Betelgeuse, Betelgeuse, Bete…(yea I won’t do it), comes in on his white horse to save the day, right? Yea right! He is an evil dead guy with intentions that follow suit, and yet I can’t totally hate him. When he starts terrorizing the family, he has to go! Then the family and the ghosts live, or exist, I guess, together happily ever after. Yea, I love happy endings, no matter how haunted they are!

“Barb, honey... we're dead. I don't think we have very much to worry about anymore.” -Adam

Except your acting, of course. Alec and Geena did not seem to be very committed in their acting jobs. They, along with Winona Ryder (playing Lydia, the girl in the family who could see them and befriended them), appeared pretty flat, unemotional, and monotone. On the other hand, some of the other actors did a much better job portraying their characters. Michael Keaton (Betelgeuse, I can say it now, it’s been long enough), reminded me of a desperate used car salesman in his over-the-top performance as the frantic bio-exorcist. Catherine O’Hara (Delia) was perfect for the uptight, selfish, neurotic mother and Jeffery Jones (Charles, her husband) obviously needed some immediate stress relief. Finally, Glenn Shadix (Otho) did a good job as the arrogant and frankly full of crap counterpart of Delia. Even with some mediocre acting, I would watch the movie again and again. I think this says something about the artistic aspect of the movie and the scenes. I especially enjoy the scene at the dinner table when the possessed diners sing Day-O, the end scene when Lydia dances to Jump In the Line while floating in the air (even though if I was floating, with an awesome song playing, and dead football players dancing behind me, I would be a lot more into it), and any scene with the afterlife offices and waiting room (they were visually amazing!).

All of the small, creepy details were obviously thought through and much appreciated. For example, the case worker, Juno, died because her throat was slit and whenever she smokes, the smoke comes out of her neck. And Betelgeuse’s makeup, yuck! It was not overly done, but still got the point across. Not to mention the model that Adam built. I like that the movie seemed to revolve around this unifying element and kept coming back to it.
I was truly impressed that I really was not constantly reminded that this was a movie form the 80’s (except for a couple of hair-dos). Several of the other films I have watched are so obviously 80’s that it would be impossible to miss (I am not saying that is a bad thing, though). I think this helps make this movie timeless and anyone who looks for a little comedy with their horror or vice versa will enjoy it. All in all, I walked away from watching this movie wanting my own pair of friendly ghosts and with a new appreciation for Tim Burton’s work.

1 comment:

Vladigogo said...

This film definitely set up the Burton look that would define his later flicks.