Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Annie McEnroe, Maurice Page, Hugo Stanger, Catherine O'Hara, Winona Ryder
Michael McDowell (and story), Warren Skaaren, Larry Wilson (story)
Say it once... Say it twice... But we dare you to say it THREE TIMES!
What's a couple of stay-at-home ghosts to do when their beloved home is taken over by trendy yuppies? They call on Beetlejuice, the afterlife's freelance bio-exorcist to scare off the family - and everyone gets more than she, he or it bargains for! Tim Burton guides this PG-rated comedy monsterpiece whose stars include Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, and Winona Ryder. And Michael Keaton is Beetlejuice, the ghost with the most who flings one-liners, spins into grotesque forms, gobbles insects, and who just can't leave the ladies (living or dead) alone. Ghoul love it!
$8 million on -unknown- screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Runtime: 92 min.
Release Date: 9/16/2008
• Isolated Music Track
• Three Beetlejuice Cartoon Episodes
PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
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Beetlejuice: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (1988)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 9, 2008)
Back at the start of 1988, Michael Keaton's career had taken more than a slight downturn. Whatever spark he exhibited during his promising start in films like Night Shift and Mr. Mom seemed completely doused by the time he appeared in low-brow dreck such as Johnny Dangerously and Gung Ho. After only a few films, he seemed doomed to suffer the fate of a comedic journeyman: year after year of mediocre comic piffle.
However, the events of 1988 were to alter that path, at least briefly. Keaton starred in two films that year - Beetlejuice and Clean and Sober. While the two films featured extremely divergent subject matter, they coalesced in one respect: the near unanimous praise for Keaton's work in both pictures. Via this one year and one National Society of Film Critics award as best actor - which was given to him as a result of his work in both movies - Keaton made it to "A"-list status with his starring role in mega-hit Batman. It seems extremely unlikely that he could have obtained that plum part as the Dark Knight had he not made such positive impressions with his 1988 output.
Of course, this comeback didn’t last very long. After Batman, Keaton did well with Batman Returns and some nice cameos in Out of Sight and Jackie Brown. White Noise? Yikes!
Of the two Keaton flicks in question, I find Beetlejuice to be the far more compelling film. 1988 proved who the real creative force behind 1985's Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was. I loved and continue to adore Pee-Wee. Although many snobbishly dismiss it as piffle, few films have ever approached its level of creativity, wit, and manic energy; it easily remains one of the five funniest films ever made. I had always assumed that this was because of Pee-Wee himself; I figured it had to be Paul Reubens' show, right?
How wrong I was! Within a few months of each other, we saw the follow-up efforts from both Reubens and Burton. As already discussed, Beetlejuice was a delight and it performed well at the box office. Big Top Pee-Wee, on the other hand, was an absolute disaster. I saw that thing opening night, and not only did it fail to reignite the sparks caused by Pee-Wee, it couldn't even muster any giggles. I didn't laugh once during the entire - mercifully brief - enterprise. In fact, I think the on-screen antics only provoked me to smile once or twice. Most of the time, I sat gape-jawed in horror at the putrid "comedy" shown before me.
Clearly, Burton was the real auteur behind the brilliant extravaganza that was Pee-Wee, though it took his subsequent films to establish that fact even more clearly. While most view Beetlejuice as superior to Pee-Wee, clearly I disagree. The former tries harder to be more of a coherent film - as magnificent as it was, Pee-Wee essentially amounted to a series of loosely connected gags - but it simply lacked the bizarre creativity of the earlier effort.
Nonetheless, Beetlejuice was and remains a thoroughly entertaining little romp through the afterlife. Keaton's work in the film has been justifiably praised. Without his brash performance as the title character, the movie still would have worked well but it would have lacked the spark that took it to another level. Keaton pulls out all the stops in a necessarily over the top tour de force.
Through an amazingly successful job of casting, the film also features a shockingly high percentage of actors who went on to varying degrees of fame and fortune. Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, Alex Baldwin - all these actors were nearly unknowns when Beetlejuice was released. Only Davis had achieved any significant success with her minor role in 1982’s Tootsie. Interestingly, 1988 was a great year for her, as well as for Keaton: she earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for that year's Accidental Tourist.
Really, the most prominent actors in the film other than Keaton were Catherine O'Hara and Jeffrey Jones, and one wouldn't exactly call them superstars. O'Hara was - and still is - best know for her consistently superlative work on the late, much lamented SCTV, though she also starred in 1990’s megahit Home Alone. Jones appeared in supporting roles in popular films like Amadeus and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
No matter what their previous or future successes may have been, all the actors acquitted themselves well. To a degree, Keaton overshadowed all of them, of course, but that seemed virtually inevitable; most of his scenes were written so that the rest of the cast essentially acted as straight men for him. Nonetheless, all the other members of this amazing cast do terrifically well. I seriously doubt that the magnificent Catherine O'Hara could ever be less then delightful - though she couldn't save the first two Home Alone movies - and Winona Ryder played her role as Goth teen Lydia with a nice balance of spunk and misery. Jeffrey Jones supplies his usual level of low-key goofiness as well.
Actually, although it may seem otherwise, Keaton's really a supporting player in Beetlejuice. The film's mainly about the recently deceased Maitlands (Davis and Baldwin) and their difficult adjustment to the afterlife. Both Baldwin and Davis play their roles as the only normal people in the film with charm and fine comedic timing.
As an aside, here's a fun Internet variation of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: while writing this review, I checked on all the actors' filmographies through IMDB. I think it's fascinating to see just how many times members of the cast crossed each others' paths in the future. For example, Glenn Shadix appeared with Winona Ryder in 1989's Heathers and with Keaton in 1996's Multiplicity, as well as performing a voice for 1993's Burton-produced Nightmare Before Christmas along with Catherine O'Hara. Well, I think it's fun!
The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C
Beetlejuice appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The transfer presented the film in a very fine manner.
Sharpness usually remained nicely crisp and accurate, as the movie offered very few examples of soft or fuzzy images. Some wide shots lacked great delineation, but most of the film seemed well-defined. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge enhancement seemed absent. Source flaws also failed to create concerns. I thought the flick could be a bit too grainy, but no specks, marks or other defects caused distractions.
Colors seemed successful. The film tended toward a somewhat extravagant palette, with hues that varied from natural to ghoulish. The transfer pulled them off well and made them look good. Black levels generally seemed to be deep and rich, and shadow detail looked nicely opaque but not overly thick. Since much of the film took place within gloomy interiors, these factors became especially important. Only the grain and the light softness knocked the transfer down to a “B+”, as it looked quite good.
Beetlejuice boasted a remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and it provided a nicely involving and active presence. Danny Elfman’s score emanated boldly from the various channels, and it added a great deal to the presentation. Some good ambience also appeared in the various speakers; the elements showed solid localization and they meshed together well.
In addition, audio quality appeared strong, as the score continued to shine. Elfman’s music provided clean, robust tones that displayed fine dynamics. Dialogue was slightly stiff at times, but for the most part speech sounded reasonably natural and distinct, and I heard no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects were also clear and accurate, and they showed no signs of distortion. Ultimately, this soundtrack may not compete with more recent fare, but it worked very well for its age.
How did the picture and sound of this 2008 “Deluxe Edition” compare to those of the original 1997 DVD? Although both offered virtually identical audio, the 2008 disc provided radically improved visuals. I thought the 1997 disc suffered from a surfeit of problems that affected every aspect of the transfer. The new presentation was substantially cleaner, brighter and tighter; it offered a night and day improvement.
Beetlejuice contains a minor array of supplements. We get the film’s theatrical trailer as well as one for Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. We also find an option to watch the film with a music only soundtrack. The latter offers Elfman’s score with solid Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, which makes it a special treat for fans of movie music.
Both of those elements appeared on the old DVD. For exclusive content, we locate three Beetlejuice Cartoon Episodes. The disc features “A-Ha!”, “Skeletons in the Closet” and “Spooky Boo-Tique”. Each one lasts 12 minutes, 14 seconds. Ignoring the events of the movie, the Maitlands are nowhere to be found, but Lydia is best pals with Beetlejuice and we follow their adventures. Despite the macabre settings, this is pretty typical Saturday morning wackiness. It’s not terrible, but it’s not particularly amusing either.
As a film, Beetlejuice doesn’t compete with the best work from Tim Burton, but that statement relates more strongly to the high quality of his other films, for Beetlejuice remains a funny and effective flick. The DVD presents very good picture and audio but doesn’t come with many interesting supplements.
The absence of new movie-related extras like an audio commentary really disappoints, but at least the Deluxe Edition provides substantial picture improvements when compared to its 1997 predecessor. The DE is the one to get for fans who don’t own the old disc, and those who already have that platter should upgrade as well. No, its supplements won’t entice them, but the visual improvements are enough to make it worth the double-dip.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6666 Stars
| Number of Votes: 18