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A Retro Review: “Beetlejuice” is a Crude Yet Fun Adventure

By: Andrea Arteaga

“Beetlejuice,” a film directed by Tim Burton (“Alice in Wonderland”), was released to the public on March 30th, 1988. It was released with a PG rating (this would be quite different by today's standards). The film main characters' Barbara Maitland (Geena Davis) and Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin) die in a car crash and then become ghosts trapped in their own house. When the Deetz family (Lydia, Charles, and Delia) buy their house, they want to scare them away, and they enlist the help of “Beetlejuice” (Michael Keaton). Lydia (Winona Ryder) is the only one who can see the ghosts of Barbara and Adam because she is strange and unusual. This causes Adam and Barbara to create a bond with Lydia, taking her under their wings and treating her like their own daughter. When Lydia tries to tell her father Charles (Jeffrey Jones) and Delia (Catherine O'Hara) about the ghosts, they tell her she is crazy, and chaos ensues as the Maitlands try to scare them out of the house.

Michael Keaton does a wonderful job embodying the ghost. His portrayal of this character is funny and enjoyable from the way he changes his voice for this character to his comedic delivery. Michael Keaton overall brings a layer of fun to his performance and seems like he is having the time of his life in this film. In addition, Geena Davis's portrayal of Barbara Maitland conveys well the extent to which Barbara and Adam want a child of their own. This is best shown through their regrets of not spending their lives to the fullest and taking Lydia and almost treating her as if she is their own.

Catherine O'Hara (Delia) does an excellent job portraying her character as zany and creative. O'Hara has perfect comedic timing in Day-O (the banana boat song). In addition to this Jeffery Jones (Charles) does an excellent job playing his character by embodying how he just wants to relax, and his family is not letting him. Winona Ryder (Lydia) gives an enjoyable performance as a strange and dejected teen.

I would say that overall, there is great acting in this movie.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is when Barbara and Adam go to the Netherworld and get hit with the shocking realization that they cannot have their house to themselves and must scare the new family out of their house. But there are some uncomfortable moments in the film where I would caution viewers who do not like the idea of people getting married against their will. Also, sexual references would make this unsuitable for children. I would recommend ages 13 and older.

By today's standard the rating would land more towards a PG-13 or R rating since Beetlejuice for vulgar language and Beetlejuice's inappropriate behavior towards Barbara.

In retrospect, we can see the cultural relevance the film holds. While it is brilliantly funny, some may say that from today's perspective the effects are severely outdated. An animated series was made after the movie's success. We know that today they are currently working on “Beetlejuice 2.” Most of the creative team is back for it like Lydia (Winona Ryder who is now known for “Stranger Things”) and Michael Keaton (who most recently appeared in “Spiderman Homecoming” as the Vulture). Also, it spawned a musical adaptation which I went to see.

There are some differences between the musical adaptation and the film. The musical focuses on Lydia’s feelings after her mother dies and how she calls on Beetlejuice to help her and instead of the Maitlands dying in a car crash, they die by falling through an unstable floorboard. Also, Beetlejuice has more of a role in the musical adaptation as in the movie he only appeared for 30 minutes. He is present for the whole run time of the musical. One more difference to note is that Lydia and her father Charles go to the Netherworld. All aspects besides the ones mentioned above are the same in the musical adaptation.

I would give this movie 5 stars out of 5 stars since it is one of the best Halloween horror movies I have seen, and it is not too scary.

Beetlejuice (1988)


1h 32m

Directed By: Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland Live Action)

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