Vibrant to the point of being overly flashy, warm and giving, with a sharp sense of humor, this supernatural comedy is considered one of Tim Burton’s greatest works. It captures the essence of the 1980s, both in its absurd visuals and its commentary on the culture of commercialization during the Reagan era. The star-studded cast includes Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as the Maitlands, a timid couple without children whose peaceful life is abruptly ended by a tragic accident. As they return home, it takes them some time to realize that they are actually dead, despite the evidence from the Handbook for the Recently Deceased and the bizarre, colorful world outside their front door.
The Maitlands face a fate worse than their recent deaths as their beloved home is sold to the Deetzes, a wealthy family from New York. The Deetzes, with the help of their unpleasant interior designer Otho, begin to give the house a gaudy postmodern makeover. The Maitlands’ attempts to scare the new owners away are unsuccessful, as they are too kind and the Deetzes see the presence of ghosts as a business opportunity. Enter Betelgeuse, a bio-exorcist who is undead and played by Michael Keaton with energetic and vulgar charm, similar to a combination of Robin Williams, Jack Nicholson, and Krusty the Clown.
Beetlejuice’s appeal lies in its execution, despite almost derailing at times. The film is filled with clever humor and imaginative visuals, particularly in its depiction of the afterlife as a dark bureaucracy. The living world is just as eccentric, with its striking interiors and costumes (although, for me, the only flaw is that the house looks better after the remodel). Director Tim Burton’s unique style, inspired by Dr. Seuss and gothic elements, was fresh and grounded in reality.