Favorite Scene Theatre: Beetlejuice (1988)

Next to the brilliant ED WOOD (1994), my favorite Tim Burton film remains BEETLJUICE, a manic rollercoaster ride about a cute ghostly couple trying to rid their home of the living by invoking the gross spirit of the titular character, played with reckless abandon by Michael Keaton. This movie is all kinds of wonderful, from Danny Elfman’s fantastic circus-score to a plethora of terrific actors including Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Catherine O’Hara, Winona Ryder, and Jeffrey Jones. But as in NIGHT SHIFT, this is Keaton’s spookshow all the way, turning in what I think is one of the greatest comedic personas of the decade and beyond. He is so fully subsumed in the role that he simply becomes Beetlejuice. Here’s a great moment from his toy graveyard debut and both Davis and Baldwin provide expert support. I particularly like the way the scene veers from Burton’s quick edit effects to a handheld verite style, all capturing the many bizarro facets of Michael Keaton’s best film performance. It’s Showtime!

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5 Responses to “Favorite Scene Theatre: Beetlejuice (1988)”

  1. “Well… I attended Juilliard… I’m a graduate of the Harvard business school. I travel quite extensively. I lived through the Black Plague and had a pretty good time during that. I’ve seen the EXORCIST ABOUT A HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SEVEN TIMES, AND IT KEEPS GETTING FUNNIER EVERY SINGLE TIME I SEE IT… NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT YOU’RE TALKING TO A DEAD GUY…”

    So many insanely quotable bits of dialogue in this film. I think that one of the things that works so well in this film is that Keaton doesn’t get a lion’s share of the screen time but he makes the most of the time he does get and dominates those scenes so well that it seems like he’s in it more than he is.

    I also love that Baldwin plays such a square. Would he play someone like that now? And this film may have started my cinematic crush on Winona Ryder.

    • And I turn on the tube late last and BEETLEJUICE pops up on the Disney Channel of all things. Glad a new generation can be corrupted by Michael Keaton, who as you say, is quotable with every single line. My favorite:

      “And that is why I won’t do two shows a night. Won’t do it.”

      Keaton is so demonically possessed by his grandstanding character that he even makes a show of tap dancing around Geena Davis’s chattering teeth. Great moment.

      This shows you how versatile Baldwin is, going from his Jersey Boy in WORKING GIRL to this LL Bean model.

  2. Fantastic scene. Love the whole cast in this. BEETLEJUICE managed to scared the crap of 10 year daughter when I showed it to her two years ago. She says she now ready to watch it again. It’s on the docket for next week, along with SLEEPY HOLLOW.

  3. saw it yesterday. amazing. it s not aging at all. sandworws are awesome. so much creativity in the sfx. so much imagination in the depiction of how boring the afterlife can be… a superb movie, in all aspects…

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