We can say many positive things about this fun
movie, including: great casting, great performances, great effects,
great art direction, and a clever story, that has fun speculating
explanations for why ghosts stick around and generally don't leave
their haunted house, and offers a fascinating, speculative look
at the after life, which involves paper work and a slow working
bureaucracy, employed by people who had killed themselves.
This creative screenplay, by Michael McDowell
& Warren Skaaren, and that is brilliantly directed by Tim
Burton, takes place in a New England small town, where we see
a young couple, Adam and Barbara Maitland, living and working
on their cherished home, trying to live with their apparent inability
to have children. On the way back from the country store where
they purchased items needed for their current wallpapering project
and Adam's hobby of building a diorama of the town, Barbara swerves
to avoid hitting a dog, and their car goes through the covered
bridgeand lands into the river.
The Maitlands find themselves suddenly back in
their house, and slowly realize that they had drowned, but find
that they are unable to leave their house. . However, soon their
troubles go from upsetting to intolerable, when their cherished
home is sold to the living, an obnoxious couple, Charles and Delia
Deitz, and their very unhappy teenage daughter, Lydia. Delia and
her weird decorator friend, Otho, who immediately redecorate and
renovate the Maitland's house into their modern vision of the
There source of hope for help is a manual called
The Book of the Dead and their case worker, Juno.(Sylvia Sidney).
Even when dead, the script imagines that ghosts have to follow
rules set forth by a slow working bureaucracy, and a hard to read
book, that reads like a stereo manual. In such an inefficient
system, what would an unhappy couple do about getting the obnoxious
living, the Deetzes, out of their house? They go to the private
sector, to a shady entrepreneur - Beetlejuice!!
Michael Keaton, as Beetlejuice, is wildly out
of control, and wildly hilarious as the ultimate dead pest. He
has so much fun with a crazy comedy role like this, that it's
easy to see why he didn't want to keep playing Batman forever.
He is " a jangled juggernaut of jokes, jolts and jive."
He hurls one-liners, spins into grotesque, gobbles insects, and
just can't leave the ladies, living or dead, alone."
Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as Adam and Barbara
Maitland, are terrific as the nice, loving young couple who loved
their house to a fault while alive, and were sentenced to their
house for 120 years haunting stint when dead.
Screen veteran, Sylvia Sidney, shines as an overworked
case worker, Juno.
Winona Ryder excels as Lydia Deitz, the very unhappy
teenage daughter at odds with her father and stepmother, who is
the only one who can see the ghostly Mr. & Mrs. Maitland,
and directly talk to them, establishing a relationship with them.
Catherine O'Hara plays the way out, clay artisan,
Mrs. Delia Deitz, who started the trouble with the Maitlands when
she completely remodels their beloved home into a new age type
modern art styled dwelling.
Jeffrey Jones plays stressed out Charles Deitz,
who after finding out about the Maitlands, makes plans to buy
out the small town, and turn it into a ghost /spooky amusement
park, which further alarms the Maitlands.
Glenn Shadix - does a fabulous job playing a very
odd interior decorator, Otho, a close friend to Delia, who also
has had experience with the occult.
The film benefits from a great score by Oingo
Boingo's Danny Elfman, the first of several successful collaborations
between Burton and Elfman. The classic calypso music of Harry
Belafonte also turns up, to great humorous effect, providing the
music for a favorite scene in the movie, where the unhappy pair
try to scare the living out of their house with a "parlor
trick," at the Deitzes' dinner party.
Not much of the script is based on real hauntings,
and the explanations are brilliantly creative thoughts of Michael
McDowel and Warren Skaaron.
Other favorite scenes include: The meetings of
the Maitlands with their social worker, Juno, the scenes introducing
Beetlejuice, Back to the afterlife; funny faces, Otho's disastrous
seance, "It's Showtime," (shows Beetlejuice at his worst),
and the Epilogue (Jump in the Line).