Sunday, October 9, 2011

Say it once, say it twice, third time's a charm...

Sometimes, you just have to sit back and watch "Beetlejuice." Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis were on the upward slope of their careers, Tim Burton hadn't directed "Batman" yet and Michael Keaton was still best known as a comedic actor.

1988 sure seems like a long damn time ago, doesn't it?

I bet even Winona Ryder wishes it was still 1988, or at least 1992. What was the last thing you saw her in? If you said "Star Trek," good for you. If you saw "Star Trek" and didn't see Ryder, she was Spock's mom!!!

But I digress. 

There's a lot to love about the ghost with the most (even though he's only on screen for about 18 minutes). "Beetlejuice" was Burton's first commercial success and is probably the first film many viewers saw of his. It set the thematic tones we would come to expect (and for some, grow tired of) from Burton. The black and white color scheme (watch for Jack Skellington's face), the cast of quirky beyond belief characters and the knowledge that "normalcy" is relative all get put on the screen in this picture.

As for the title character, can we just go ahead and agree that Keaton as Beetlejuice is the horror-comedy equivalent of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter? Have two characters ever impacted their respective films more with such brief screen time? I'm going to go ahead and say no. I'm not saying Keaton's performance is as epic as Hopkins'. I am saying that it takes a special actor to accept such a lynchpin role, knowing they wouldn't have much time to get their message across.

"Beetlejuice" is a film that puts every dollar spent right on the screen. None of the primary cast could be accused of phoning it in (although Dick Cavett and Robert Goulet seem D.O.A. in their brief roles). The special effects aren't groundbreaking, but they are fun and interesting.

And then there is the music. Yes, everybody remembers the party scene with people dancing to the "Banana Boat" song. It'll get stuck in your head if you aren't careful. The real aural treat, however, is Danny Elfman's score. He mixes in Harry Belefonte's classic Calypso song, but also begins to establish his unique (and now often imitated) style. One could use the "Beetlejuice" score as background music to a Halloween party and have a great time.

And that really is the best way to watch "Beetlejuice." Dress up, have a party, enjoy the show.

Threat level: RED. Yes. I love this movie and if you haven't seen it, there is something wrong with you.

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