Starring: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Michael Keaton
Director: Tim Burton
Running Time: 92 mins
Beetlejuice is an American film about a recently deceased couple who find themselves locked in their own house as ghosts, watching an obnoxious new family move in right before them, leading them to contact Betelgeuse, a bio-exorcist that promises to remove them.
This is a pretty fun film. Playing well on the tropes of haunted house movies, there are a lot of laughs to be had here, whilst its premise provides for some intrigue as well. With strong direction from Tim Burton, and a few very enjoyable central performances, I had a great time with Beetlejuice.
If there’s one thing that really works about this film, it’s the comedy. Unlike his more gloomy modern style, Tim Burton was always brilliant at getting some great laughs and entertainment out of some fantasy/horror premises in his earlier films, and that’s exactly what Beetlejuice does so well.
Not only does it poke fun at the endless stereotypes and clichés of the genre, but the story that develops throughout the movie also allows for some great laughs. Above all, the hilarious interplay between the two ghosts and the new family in their house is great fun to watch, and thanks to the strong sense of humour that Burton brings to the movie, not to mention the lead performances, there’s never a point where the film falls into the trap of taking its plot too seriously, rather taking it in a comedic stride and making the whole movie more fun to watch.
When it comes to those lead performances, I was pretty impressed too. In some of their earliest roles, a young Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin are great as the confused humans now presented with the afterlife, and bring fantastic humour to the whole situation. Meanwhile, Michael Keaton is fantastically manic as Betelgeuse, and deliberately infuriating, Winona Ryder is a hilariously excessively goth teenager, and Catherine O’Hara does a great job as the ghosts’ adversary with a confident and lively performance.
As well as those on-screen performances, Tim Burton does an excellent job behind the camera. As I said, the film’s focus on poking fun at horror/fantasy tropes is great fun to watch, but a lot of the success of that comes from Burton’s directing. Mixing the visually glib haunted house and underworld settings with a bright and manic depiction of the afterlife, it’s immediately clear how much fun he has with this premise, and that makes it in turn even easier for you to sit back and enjoy the movie even more.
On the whole, I had a lot of fun with Beetlejuice, but for one small issue. Although I said the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, that doesn’t always save it from falling into some storytelling tropes. Now, whilst the premise is very inventive and fun, and the film’s main purpose is laughs and not intrigue, there are times when the plot’s deliberate following of the genre formula doesn’t quite work out, and it’s not always funny enough to justify what occasionally (particularly in the final act) isn’t such an interesting or entertaining case of events.
That said, I’d still recommend Beetlejuice, simply because it’s got a great sense of humour throughout that should have you laughing on a pretty consistent basis. What’s more is that its performances are generally fantastic, and Tim Burton’s lively direction adds great energy to the movie, so that’s why I’m giving this a 7.4 overall.