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.
Happily-married couple Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barbara Maitland (Geena Davis) decide to spend their holiday decorating their idyllic New England home. Returning from a trip to town Barbara swerves to avoid hitting a dog. Their car drives off a bridge into a river and then they find themselves back at their house with no memory of how they returned. Adam attempts to leave the house to retrace their steps, but finds himself in a strange otherworldly dimension. A book entitled Handbook for the Recently Deceased reveals to them their predicament.
Although they are now ghosts, they can remain in their home; if they try to leave, they end up in another dimension, a desert world populated by enormous sandworms. Their peace is soon shattered, however, when their house is sold and the new residents arrive from New York. The Deetzes, consisting of Charles (Jeffrey Jones), aspiring sculptor and Charles' second wife Delia (Catherine O'Hara), stepmother to Charles' Goth daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder) from his first marriage.
They are under the guidance of interior designer Otho (Glenn Shadix), and begin transforming the house into a horrific piece of modern art. The Maitlands seek help from their afterlife case worker, Juno (Sylvia Sidney), who informs them that they must remain in the house for 125 years. If they want the Deetzes out, it is up to them to scare them away. The Maitlands' attempt to haunt their home proves ineffective.
Although the Maitlands remain invisible to Charles and Delia, their daughter Lydia can see Adam and Barbara and becomes their friend. Against the advice of Juno, the Maitlands contact the miscreant Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), a freelance "bio-exorcist", to scare away the Deetzes, but Beetlejuice is more interested in marrying Lydia in order to re-enter the land of the living. It takes the combined efforts of the Maitlands and Lydia to defeat Beetlejuice and banish him to the afterlife. The Deetzes and the Maitlands decide to live together in harmony.
- Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as Adam and Barbara Maitland: A young, married couple, who are killed in a car accident. Adam is a highly-skilled miniature model maker, while Barbara enjoys fixing items around their home. After their death, both seek the help of Beetlejuice, but despise his obnoxious attitude.
- Winona Ryder as Lydia Deetz: Daughter of Charles Deetz (Delia is actually her stepmother), who carries a Goth mentality, often feeling alien to her surroundings. She is the only one of the family, who can see the Maitlands because she is strange and unusual and quickly befriends them.
- Catherine O'Hara as Delia Deetz: Wife of Charles and stepmother to Lydia, as well as an aspiring (but pretentious) sculptor.
- Jeffrey Jones as Charles Deetz: A successful contractor who "only wants to relax and cut out coupons" and was described by his boss as a 'demon' before his nerves went, after which he moves his family to the countryside to recover but has become a doormat for Delia.
- Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice: Juno's former assistant, an obnoxious and perverted "bio-exorcist", who carries a grotesque physical appearance. The title character is a mystery; his age and even how he came to die remain unknown, but he refers to having lived through The Black Plague.
- Glenn Shadix as Otho: An obese friend of Delia. He is an interior designer and former paranormal expert.
- Sylvia Sidney as Juno: In charge of offices during the afterlife stage. She recommends that the Maitlands do not accept the help of Beetlejuice.
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.
The success of the film brought an animated television series called Beetlejuice on ABC. The show lasted on from September 9, 1989 to December 6, 1991, and Tim Burton served as executive producer.
Burton was impressed with Daniel Waters' work on Heathers. In early-1991 Waters was approached to write a Beetlejuice sequel, but ended up working on Batman Returns instead. By August 1993, David Geffen had Pamella Norris writing a sequel. Burton hired Jonathan Gems to write a sequel titled Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian. Warner Bros. approached Kevin Smith to rewrite the script, though Smith turned down the offer in favor of Superman Lives. Smith responded with, "Didn't we say all we needed to say in the first Beetlejuice? Must we go tropical?" Michael Keaton had high enthusiasm for a sequel in January 2005, while in February 2006, Burton claimed a sequel was not in the works anymore.
- Beetlejuice at the Internet Movie Database
- Beetlejuice at AllMovie
- Beetlejuice at Rotten Tomatoes
- Beetlejuice at Wikipedia
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