Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Michael Keaton,
Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder
Director: Tim Burton
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 92 Minutes
Release Date: October 7, 2008
Though it wasn’t his first time in a director’s chair, I think Beetlejuice is most often thought of as the film that introduced the world to the wild, wacky and artistic stylings of Tim Burton. And though it wasn’t his first time as a star, I also think it was the movie that really cemented Michael Keaton as a comic legend.
The picture came out when I was in college, and I remember seeing it at a midnight showing with a couple of friends. We were quite enthralled by the strange mix of comedy and spookiness, and very taken with Keaton’s performance as a troublemaking bio-exorcist who comes to the aid of some hapless ghosts when their home gets invaded by the living.
That couple is Barbara and Adam (Davis and Baldwin), who, after an untimely accident, find themselves as spirits trapped in the confines of their home, which has now opened up into a bizarre portal to other worlds. But their main trouble is the purchase of their house by yuppies Charles and Delia (Jones and O’Hara), and Charles’ goth daughter Lydia (Ryder). The newcomers’ icky tastes and total disregard for the home Barbara and Adam set up in their lives is more than a little unnerving.
It should be easy for a pair of ghosts to scare some mentally mediocre homo sapiens from the premises, but neither are very good at utilizing their newfound abilities. One spirit who offers to help is Beetlejuice (Keaton)…say his name three times, and he will unleash his antics and bring all back to normal. Or so he says.
That’s the story in a nutshell, but what it affords Burton is the chance to showcase the style that would define his career: namely, the ability to make the macabre seem endearing and enticing, and frequently funny. Who could ever forget the possession that causes the intruders to sing and dance to Harry Belafonte?
But it’s really Keaton who steals the show with his unleashed fury and humor. This film allowed him to cut loose and bring all of his manic energy bubbling over the top, and his performance has remained a fan favorite for twenty years. His character creation has become something of a modern horror icon, even landing him a starring role in Universal Studio’s live Halloween show year after year.
Both Keaton and Burton would go on to bigger and better things, even together in the first two Batman flicks, but there’s something about Beetlejuice that still feels landmark two decades after the fact. It’s a strange and deliciously weird slice of comedy that makes for a perfect October viewing staple.
Beetlejuice is looking good in high definition. This Blu-ray anniversary edition showcases Burton’s illustrious style with vivid colors and amazing detail. Many shots are visual banquets, and this disc renders them all with stunning clarity. One or two darker shots still show a bit of unavoidable grain and a touch of softness, but overall, this is the best I’ve seen of this movie on home video.
This movie also helped usher in the legendary Danny Elfman as a prime talent in the world of film scoring, and his frantic orchestrations are sounding crisp and dynamic in TrueHD sound. Dialogue is clean and clear, and the frequently wacky proceedings make for a great surround experience all the way!
One extra you get with the Blu-ray edition is a CD sampler of Danny Elfman’s score and Harry Belafonte’s immortal performance. Apart from that, you get a trailer and three episodes from the short-lived “Beetlejuice” animated show.
Say his name three times if you dare, then sit back and let the frantic fun fly. Beetlejuice is the perfect marriage of a comedy star in Michael Keaton and a visual wunderkind in Tim Burton, and it’s better than ever in high definition thanks to the technological magic of Blu-ray!