Beetlejuice – March ’88

Of course, the most notable thing about Beetlejuice is that it’s the only Tim Burton movie not to cast Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter in the starring roles. (They actually played a gravestone and tree respectively, as it’s written into their contracts to be in every Burton film. Burton also requested that the contracts be signed in blood as he considered ink to be too ‘mainstream’, but still ultimately wanted the cash.)

The star here is undoubtedly Michael Keaton – both amazing and unrecognisable. Having had a crush on him as Batman, I felt a little uneasy after watching this. (It must be what boys feel like after re-watching the 12-year-old Natalie Portman in Leon.) It also makes sense that Keaton made Batman straight after. After snorting thousands of red and yellow Smarties to play hyperactive Beetlejuice, he was clearly crashing and looking for a role that involved standing around looking moody.

The plot’s simple enough. A couple (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin working geek chic) are in a fatal car crash. Now ghosts, their home is bought by a family they despise. Hilarity and haunting ensue as they try and fail to scare the new folks out. Enter Beetlejuice, to shit up all but Winona Ryder, their goth teen. Turns out the Sixth Sense was wrong. Apparently kleptomaniacs can see dead people too.

Hired to purge the living, not the dead, Beetlejuice is the kind of unorthodox exorcist that considers pea soup to be too healthy. He even puts a spin on the priestly black and white with his signature striped suit and Bill Bailey hair. Part of a strong cast, he’s also joined by Catherine O’Hara, the mum from Home Alone and here, Winona’s stepmum. You wouldn’t think anyone could rival Alois Hitler in the Worst Parent Awards but somehow she manages it… again. It’s nice for Macaulay and Winona to have some common ground too – it’ll be a great ice-breaker if they turn up to the same AA meeting.

As well as two cracking musical numbers, there’s plenty of fun to be had in the afterlife. Take the guy who got steamrollered, “I’ve been feeling a little flat”. Or the pygmy with a shrunken head. My advice? If your cause of death follows you round for eternity, never ever do a ‘David Carradine’ asphyxiwank. There’s nothing more embarrassing than meeting St Peter with your thumb up your arse wearing a gimp mask, a noose and leather chaps.

This horror romantic comedy (horromcom?) even hosts a wedding – with a red dress to rival the Biggest, Fattest Gypsy Wedding, and an even more unscrupulous groom. Even the most immoral traveller wouldn’t steal someone’s soul – they draw the line at your car, TV and sense of pride in your community. (Don’t worry, no gypsies will see this review – unless Living TV turn it into a dramatisation starring one or more of the Loose Women.)

Bearing the hallmarks of a dark Burton classic, before he got all brooding, Beetlejuice is one-of-a-kind brilliant entertainment. So watch it, watch it, then watch it again – the man so good they named him thrice.

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