Beetlejuice (review by Doug Smith)

“Beetlejuice” is one of the first prerecorded movies I’ve ever owned. Sure, I’d had a VCR and had been recording stuff off of TV before and my parents had bought me cartoons on tape, but “Beetlejuice” is the first actual motion picture I ever had my grubby little paws on. I was about 10 at the time and I think I watched it almost every night after school for three months. I still have most of it memorized. Much to my parents’ dismay, I would blurt out my favorite line, “NICE FUCKING MODEL!” and subsequently grab my crotch and go, “Honk honk!” In fact, I still do that, which probably explains why I haven’t been able to hold down a job.
Anyway, packed with Harry Belafonte music, this movie is about a couple that dies and comes back as a couple of ghosts, only to find out that a yuppie family has moved into their house. So, they hire Beetlejuice, a bio-exorcist, in order to remove the living. They have second thoughts after meeting him, though.
Michael Keaton is the crotch-grabbing, bug-eating, phlegm spitting title character. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis play Adam and Barbara Maitland, a down-home country couple who haven’t even heard of “Night of the Living Dead.” Winona Ryder plays Lydia Deitz, the manic-depressive goth-girl daughter of the yuppie couple. And Jeffrey Jones and Catherine O’Hara play the girl’s parents.
The movie opens with my second favorite musical score ever, right next to the first two Batman movies. We see the Maitlands on vacation, which they’ve decided to spend at home. Barbara is working on some remodeling and Adam is working on his scale model of the town they live in. They exchange “Happy Vacation” gifts … Adam gives Barbara wallpaper and Barbara gives Adam “Manchurian Tongue Oil,” or something. That’s what it sounds like. They start to actually enjoy themselves, but pretty soon the phone rings and one of their obnoxious relatives stops by. The relative, Jane, informs them that she’s had an offer of $260,000 for their house from some guy in New York. Both Barb and Adam adamantly refuse.
A little later, Adam has to run down to the hardware store, which they apparently own, for some supplies for his village. So they head to town, get their stuff and talk to an old barber who talks about some guy who has “hair down to his goddamn shoulders.” They head back home, but as their going over a bridge, they swerve to miss a dog and, well, the rest is, and they are, history.
They eventually find their way back to their home, but neither can figure out how they got there and Barbara’s fingers start on fire. Adam goes back to retrace their steps, but ends up on what appears to be a different planet and a Claymation worm thing is burrowing around. Barbara pulls him back into the house just in time and tells him he’s been gone for two hours, even though it seems like it’s only been a minute or two to him. Barbara shows him that they have no reflections and they realize that maybe, just maybe, they didn’t survive the crash. And then they see “The Handbook for the Recently Deceased” lying on their coffee table and that pretty much seals it.
A couple days later they’re awakened by a family moving into their house. Enter the yuppies; Delia, Charles and Lydia Deitz. Delia, who obviously wears the pants, basically wants to tear the whole house down and start over from scratch. Adam and Barbara obviously don’t want that, so they try to scare them. Barbara rips her face off and Adam removes his head. Unfortunately, the Deitz’s can’t see them.
Barb and Adam go back up to their attic, which is their only place of solitude because the Deitz’s don’t have a key. Until good ol’ relative Jane gives Lydia a skeleton key. She tries to get in, but they manage to keep her out. Adam decides to try something it said in the handbook. “In times of emergency, draw a door and knock three times.” So he does and a door to the after world opens up. Once there, they find out that the afterlife is one big office building, complete with a waiting area and a receptionist. They eventually get called to see their caseworker and they enter a door that leads right back to their own house … three months later. All their furniture is gone and everything has changed.
Their caseworker appears and basically tells them to get the Deitz’s out themselves. They ask about that “Beetle” guy because they’ve been getting little flyers and seeing TV commercials from him. The caseworker explains that they don’t want his help.
The caseworker leaves, pretty much without telling them anything, but Adam has a dose of inspiration. That night, he and Barb take some of Delia’s $300 designer sheets, cut holes in them and moan through the hallways. Charles thinks it’s Lydia, and Delia had just taken Valium, so they don’t have much luck. Pretty soon Lydia comes out in the hallway and starts snapping Polaroid’s, thinking it’s her parents engaged in some weird sex act. She grabs one of the pictures and notices the sheets don’t have feet. Introductions are made and the Maitland’s take Lydia up to the attic and explain the situation.
The next day, Lydia tries convincing her parents that there are ghosts in the house, but they don’t believe her. Barb and Adam think it’s hopeless, so they say “Beetlejuice” three times and, voila, they’re in Adam’s model of the village and have to dig up the ghost with the most.
I’m going to cut this review short, because I’m really not doing the movie enough justice, nor am I writing with my usual sarcasm. Hey, give me a break; I’m trying to quit smoking. (Even though I’ve had about five while I’ve been typing this.) Anyway, the only complaint I have with this movie is that there simply wasn’t enough of the title character. I hope beyond hope that Hollywood eventually gets with it and makes a sequel WITH Michael Keaton returning as Beetlejuice AND Tim Burton directing. I give this movie four and a half yaks.