The movie is pure Tim Burton steeped in the 80s. Stop motion and puppet monsters, great make-up effects, and sets that would make a fun-house designer drool. The great cast was supremely 80s: Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis as the haunters of the home they lived in before a surprisingly funny car accident; Catherine O’Hara (the mom from Home Alone), Jeffery Jones (the villainous principal from Ferris Bueler’s Day Off), and Winona Ryder are the family of haunt-ees that move in and weirdo-80s-up what was a quiet New England country home.
Baldwin and Davis have to navigate the bureaucracy of being dead to defeat the money-grubbing real estate plans of the living. And Winona Ryder dresses like a widow in the 50s. Its the most 80s thing ever to 80s.
Michael Keaton (Mr Mom, and *shudder* Batman) is Beetlejuice, spelled Betelgeuse (like Ford Prefect’s home). Keaton’s character is manic, crude, and dangerous, played as comedic. And the living and dead have to learn to work together to remove the problematic and uncontrollable Betelgeuse from their shared residence. Only Tim Burton could make a feel-good family movie from the plot of an exorcist movie.
The cartoon from 1989 was quite different. Beetlejuice was still manic, but they had him being the live-in ghost, friends with Lydia (Winona Ryder’s character), and it was mostly slapstick featuring puns, improbable scenarios, and teen angst about lame parents (the second most 80s thing ever to 80s).
So what would a sequel be like? Tim Burton still uses stop motion animation, like we saw in Frankenweenie. He still does trippy children’s stories, like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And he still enjoys the macabre and bizarre, Dark Shaddows. Michael Keaton, the original production company The Geffen Company, and Tim Burton’s current favourite writer Seth Grahame-Smith are all supposed to be on board. Will we see the requisite Burton cast? What would it be like to pit Michael Keaton opposite Johnny Depp? Would that be weird physical comedy overload? Will we see other actors from the original cast return? Catherine O’Hara has worked on several Burton projects like Nightmare before Christmas and recently Frankenweenie with Winona Ryder.
And let’s not forget that Betelguese was a villain. Will they keep him the villain? Will they redevelop the character? 1988 was 25 years ago and what was funny, edgy, and even socially acceptable has changed. What will Beteguese of the 21st century look like?