Tim Burton caught audiences' attention with Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985), but Beetlejuice established him as film's prominent imaginer of skewed fairytale worlds. Even after several subsequent collaborations with composer Danny Elfman and a couple of this film's stars (Winona Ryder, Michael Keaton), Beetlejuice still exists as the prototypical Burton film, if not actually his best. A veritable wellspring of imagination, the film removes ghosts from the horror realm and puts them in the slapstick world of Keaton's wisecracking title character, a con artist who specializes in expunging the living from the homes of the dead. Keaton's performance is spotty and over-the-top, but Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis are nicely understated as the mild-mannered spirits doomed to haunt their bucolic mansion (an architectural creation that's trademark Burton), even though they're more interested in peace and privacy than acting ghoulish. The film also features such hammy icons as Dick Cavett and Robert Goulet, giving a good preview of Burton's knack for oddball casting. The effects are first-rate for their time, and include such wonderful oddities as a snake creature that slithers through the dunes of an afterworld purgatory, and a dead waiting room occupant with a head shrunk to the size of a prune. The film is notable for providing Ryder her breakout role, and it represents one of the only times Jeffrey Jones hasn't played a weaselly villain.
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Thanks to the carelessness of a cute little dog, newlyweds Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin are killed in a freak auto accident. Upon arriving in the outer offices of Heaven, the couple finds that, thanks to a century's worth of bureaucratic red tape, they're on a long celestial waiting list. Before they can earn their wings, Davis and Baldwin must occupy their old house as ghosts for the next fifty years. Alas, the house is now owned by insufferable yuppies Catherine O'Hara and Jeffrey Jones. Horrified at the prospect of sharing space with these obnoxious interlopers, Davis and Baldwin do their best to scare O'Hara and Jones away, but their house-haunting skills are pathetic at best. In desperation, the ghostly couple engage the services of a veteran scaremeister: a yellow-haired, snaggle-toothed, profane, flatulent "gonzo" spirit named Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton). The problem: Beetlejuice cannot be trusted-especially when he falls in love with O'Hara and Jones' gloomy, black-clad teenaged daughter Winona Ryder. Beetlejuice producer David Geffen, director Tim Burton, and composer Danny Elfman were also involved in an animated TV-series spin-off.
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|Source:||Warner Home Video|