The Robin Thicke, Mikey Cyrus incident earlier this year caused all manor of controversies. For some, it was the lewd nature of the dancing. For others, it was the age gap between the two performers. For any child of the Eighties or nighties, one question has collectively bugged us all, how did Thicke managed to steal Beetlejuice's suit?
Before master director Tim Burton made his name with his vision of Batman or captured our hearts with Edward Scissorhands. he was the new kid on the block. A quirky animator turned director whose oddball visuals gave audiences a break from the mainstream. In this early work Burton cast comic actor Michael Keaton as an afterlife ghoul with a knack for causing trouble.
Burton received the initial script for the film after the success of Pee Wees Big Adventure. He was drawn to the outsider nature of the story and its title character.
The story, even today, puts a fresh spin of the afterlife. Usually, we follow the living whose new home is inhabited by ghosts where as here the viewpoint is switched. Our sympathies lie with the deceased couple and the audience follow them to the netherworld.
Part of the originality of Beetlejuice is that it brilliantly adds humour to the what 'happens when you die' scenerio. What could be a drab and depressing film is done with humour and warmth. The afterlife, not without its faults, (giant sand-worm anyone) proves to be an oddly lively place.
Like so much of Burton's work the film contrasts two distinct worlds, the living and the dead. With Burton, the world of the dead is portrayed as more interesting and indeed vibrant than the living. The journey into the world of the dead is an adventurous one.
Keaton may be more associated with his later collaboration with Burton, Batman but here we see the actors versatility. Before his brooding turn as Bruce Wayne he was known more for his comedic performances. With Beetlejuice, Keaton is electric as the out of control ghoul. He steals every scene he is in with his larger than life presence and brilliant comic timing. His look as the character is just as accomplished today and a cosplay staple. The film did win the Academy Award for Best Make-Up after all.
The film marks the first time Burton worked with the young Winona Ryder. Already making a name for herself with Lucus Ryder built on her outsider Gothic persona with her turn as Lydia Deetz. Able to see her ghostly inhabitants when others cannot she grows close to the Maitlands. Despite her young age Ryder can command the screen with the cast of experienced actors.
The film is often forgotten in Burtons body of work but this really is some of his best work. Still fresh and funny almost twenty years on. It displays the early talents of the now world renowned director. It also shows what Burton can accomplish on a limited budget, something that would be interesting to see again. The film also still has one of the best dinner sequences put to film.