Beetlejuice is a 1988 comedy horror film directed by Tim Burton. The film stars Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Jeffrey Jones and Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice. The plot revolves around a recently deceased couple who seek the help of obnoxious "bio-exorcist" Beetlejuice in order to remove the new owners of their quaint New England house, a family of metropolitan yuppies from New York City.
After the success of Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Burton was sent scripts and became disheartened by their lack of imagination and originality. With only one million out of Beetlejuice's budget of $13 million given over to visual effects work, it was Burton's intention to make them similar to the B movies he grew up with as a child. Beetlejuice was a financial and critical success, garnering an animated television series and an unproduced sequel titled Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian.
Barbara and Adam Maitland decide to spend their vacation decorating their idyllic Connecticut country home. As the two are driving home from a trip to town, Barbara swerves to avoid a dog and the car plunges into a river. After they return home, Adam decides to retrace their steps as they cannot recall how they got home. Upon stepping outside, he is taken to a desert world with monstrous sandworms (later identified as Saturn) before being pulled back in by Barbara. Even though he had been gone for less than a minute, Barbara claims he had been gone for two hours. She and Adam notice that they now lack reflections and they discover a Handbook for the Recently Deceased and realize they did not survive the crash.
The house is sold and the new owners, the Deetz family, arrive from New York City. Charles Deetz is a former real estate developer; his wife Delia, a sculptor; and his goth daughter Lydia, from his first marriage, is an aspiring photographer. Under the guidance of interior designer Otho, Delia begins to transform the house into a posh modern art piece. Consulting the Handbook, the Maitlands travel to a netherworld waiting room populated by other distressed souls, where they discover that the afterlife is structured according to a complex bureaucracy involving vouchers and the usual overworked caseworkers. The Maitlands' own caseworker, Juno, informs them that they must remain in the house for 125 years. If they want the Deetzes out of the house, it is up to them to scare them away. Barbara's and Adam's attempts at scaring the family prove counterproductive, despite their ability to shape-shift into monsters.
While the Maitlands are away seeing Juno, Lydia discovers the handbook and reads it. Although Adam and Barbara remain invisible to Charles and Delia, Lydia can see the ghost couple and befriends them. Against Juno's advice, the Maitlands contact the miscreant Betelgeuse, Juno's former assistant and now freelance "bio-exorcist" ghost, to scare away the Deetzes. However, Betelgeuse quickly offends the Maitlands with his crude and morbid demeanor; and they reconsider hiring him, though too late to stop him from wreaking havoc on the Deetzes. The small town's charm and the supernatural events inspire Charles to pitch his boss Maxie Dean on transforming the town into a tourist hot spot, but Maxie wants proof of the ghosts. Using the Handbook for the Recently Deceased, Otho conducts what he thinks is a séance and summons Adam and Barbara, but they begin to decay, as Otho had unwittingly performed an exorcism instead. Horrified, Lydia begrudgingly summons Betelgeuse for help; but he agrees to help her only on the condition that she marry him, enabling him to freely cause chaos in the mortal world. Betelgeuse saves the Maitlands and disposes of Maxie, his wife, and Otho, then prepares a wedding before a ghastly minister. The Maitlands intervene before the ceremony is completed, with Barbara riding a sandworm through the house to devour Betelgeuse.
Finally, the Deetzes and Maitlands agree to live in harmony within the house. Adam, Barbara, and Lydia are seen in a remodeled part of the house dancing to Harry Belafonte's "Jump in the Line" (with Lydia floating in the air) to celebrate Lydia getting an "A" on her math test. Meanwhile, Betelgeuse is stuck in the afterlife waiting room; there, he attempts to cut in front of a witch doctor, who shrinks his head in retaliation. Being Betelgeuse, however, he remains upbeat: "This could be a good look for me".
- Michael Keaton as Betelgeuse (pronounced "Beetlejuice")
- Alec Baldwin as Adam Maitland
- Geena Davis as Barbara Maitland
- Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz
- Catherine O'Hara as Delia Deetz
- Jeffrey Jones as Charles Deetz
- Annie McEnroe as Jane Butterfield
- Glenn Shadix as Otho
- Sylvia Sidney as Juno
- Robert Goulet as Maxie Dean
- Maree Cheatham as Sarah Dean
- Dick Cavett as Bernard
- Susan Kellermann as Grace
- Adelle Lutz as Beryl
- Simmy Bow as Janitor
- Carmen Filpi as Messenger
- Patrice Martinez as Receptionist
- Tony Cox as Preacher
- Jack Angel as the voice of the Preacher
- Cindy Daly as the Three-Fingered Typist
- Rachel Mittelman as Little Jane
- Douglas Turner as Char Man
The financial success of Pee-wee's Big Adventure meant that Tim Burton was now considered a "bankable" director, and Burton began working on a script for Batman with Sam Hamm. While Warner Bros. was willing to pay for the script's development, they were less willing to green-light Batman. Meanwhile, Burton had begun reading through the scripts that had been sent his way, and was becoming disheartened by their lack of imagination and originality, one of them being Hot to Trot. David Geffen handed Burton the script for Beetlejuice, written by Michael McDowell (who wrote the script of The Jar, an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents directed by Burton).
Larry Wilson was brought on board to continue rewrite work with McDowell, though Burton replaced McDowell and Wilson with Warren Skaaren due to creative differences. Burton's original choice for Beetlejuice was Sammy Davis Jr, but Geffen suggested Michael Keaton. Burton was unfamiliar with Keaton's work but was quickly convinced. Burton cast Winona Ryder upon seeing her in Lucas. Catherine O'Hara quickly signed on while Burton claimed it took a lot of time to convince other cast members to sign as "they didn't know what to think of the weird script".
Beetlejuice's budget was $13 million, with just one million given over to visual effects work. Considering the scale and scope of the effects, which included stop-motion, replacement animation, make-up effects, puppetry and blue screen, it was always Burton's intentions to make them similar to the B movies Burton grew up with as a child. Burton had wanted to hire Anton Furst as production designer after being impressed with his work on The Company of Wolves and Full Metal Jacket, though Furst was committed on High Spirits (a choice he later regretted). Burton hired Bo Welch, his future collaborator on Edward Scissorhands and Batman Returns. The test screenings were met with positive feedback and prompted Burton to film an epilogue featuring Beetlejuice foolishly angering a witch doctor. Warner Bros. disliked the title Beetlejuice and wanted to call the film House Ghosts. As a joke, Burton suggested the name Scared Sheetless and was horrified when the studio actually considered using it.
Beetlejuice opened theatrically in the United States on April 1, 1988, earning $8,030,897 in its opening weekend. The film eventually grossed $73,707,461 in North America. Beetlejuice was a financial success recouping its $13 million budget five times and was the tenth-highest grossing film of 1988. Based on 39 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Beetlejuice received an average 82% overall approval rating. By comparison, Metacritic received an average score of 67 from the 13 reviews collected.
Pauline Kael referred to the film as a "comedy classic", while Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader gave a highly positive review. Rosenbaum felt Beetlejuice carried originality and creativity, that didn't exist in other films. Roger Ebert called it anti-climactic, explaining "the story, which seemed so original, turns into a sitcom fueled by lots of special effects and weird sets and props, and the inspiration is gone." Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it "a farce for our time" and wished Keaton could have received more screen time. MaryAnn Johanson was impressed with the casting, production design and jokes. Desson Howe of the Washington Post felt Beetlejuice had "the perfect balance of bizarreness, comedy and horror".
At the 61st Academy Awards, Beetlejuice won the Academy Award for Makeup, while The British Academy of Film and Television Arts nominated the film with BAFTA Award for Best Visual Effects and Makeup at the 43rd British Academy Film Awards. Beetlejuice won Best Horror Film and Best Make-up at The Saturn Awards. The film received more nominations with Direction, Writing, Music and Special Effects. Beetlejuice was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Beetlejuice was #88 in the American Film Institute's list of AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs.
- Beetlejuice at the Internet Movie Database
- Beetlejuice at AllMovie
- Beetlejuice at Rotten Tomatoes
- Beetlejuice at Wikipedia
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