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With BEETLEJUICE director Tim Burton delivers a delightfully odd, and oddly entertaining comedy.
"In This House... If You've Seen One Ghost... You Haven't Seen Them All"
We can say many positive things about this fun movie, including: great casting, great performances, great effects, great art direction, and a clever story, that has fun speculating explanations for why ghosts stick around and generally don't leave their haunted house, and offers a fascinating, speculative look at the after life, which involves paper work and a slow working bureaucracy, employed by people who had killed themselves.
This creative screenplay, by Michael McDowell & Warren Skaaren, and that is brilliantly directed by Tim Burton, takes place in a New England small town, where we see a young couple, Adam and Barbara Maitland, living and working on their cherished home, trying to live with their apparent inability to have children. On the way back from the country store where they purchased items needed for their current wallpapering project and Adam's hobby of building a diorama of the town, Barbara swerves to avoid hitting a dog, and their car goes through the covered bridgeand lands into the river.
The Maitlands find themselves suddenly back in their house, and slowly realize that they had drowned, but find that they are unable to leave their house. . However, soon their troubles go from upsetting to intolerable, when their cherished home is sold to the living, an obnoxious couple, Charles and Delia Deitz, and their very unhappy teenage daughter, Lydia. Delia and her weird decorator friend, Otho, who immediately redecorate and renovate the Maitland's house into their modern vision of the perfect house.
There source of hope for help is a manual called The Book of the Dead and their case worker, Juno.(Sylvia Sidney). Even when dead, the script imagines that ghosts have to follow rules set forth by a slow working bureaucracy, and a hard to read book, that reads like a stereo manual. In such an inefficient system, what would an unhappy couple do about getting the obnoxious living, the Deetzes, out of their house? They go to the private sector, to a shady entrepreneur - Beetlejuice!!
Michael Keaton, as Beetlejuice, is wildly out of control, and wildly hilarious as the ultimate dead pest. He has so much fun with a crazy comedy role like this, that it's easy to see why he didn't want to keep playing Batman forever. He is " a jangled juggernaut of jokes, jolts and jive." He hurls one-liners, spins into grotesque, gobbles insects, and just can't leave the ladies, living or dead, alone."
Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as Adam and Barbara Maitland, are terrific as the nice, loving young couple who loved their house to a fault while alive, and were sentenced to their house for 120 years haunting stint when dead.
Screen veteran, Sylvia Sidney, shines as an overworked case worker, Juno.
Winona Ryder excels as Lydia Deitz, the very unhappy teenage daughter at odds with her father and stepmother, who is the only one who can see the ghostly Mr. & Mrs. Maitland, and directly talk to them, establishing a relationship with them.
Catherine O'Hara plays the way out, clay artisan, Mrs. Delia Deitz, who started the trouble with the Maitlands when she completely remodels their beloved home into a new age type modern art styled dwelling.
Jeffrey Jones plays stressed out Charles Deitz, who after finding out about the Maitlands, makes plans to buy out the small town, and turn it into a ghost /spooky amusement park, which further alarms the Maitlands.
Glenn Shadix - does a fabulous job playing a very odd interior decorator, Otho, a close friend to Delia, who also has had experience with the occult.
The film benefits from a great score by Oingo Boingo's Danny Elfman, the first of several successful collaborations between Burton and Elfman. The classic calypso music of Harry Belafonte also turns up, to great humorous effect, providing the music for a favorite scene in the movie, where the unhappy pair try to scare the living out of their house with a "parlor trick," at the Deitzes' dinner party.
Not much of the script is based on real hauntings, and the explanations are brilliantly creative thoughts of Michael McDowel and Warren Skaaron.
Other favorite scenes include: The meetings of the Maitlands with their social worker, Juno, the scenes introducing Beetlejuice, Back to the afterlife; funny faces, Otho's disastrous seance, "It's Showtime," (shows Beetlejuice at his worst), and the Epilogue (Jump in the Line).