Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Short Take: Beetle Juice (*1/2)

Directed by Tim Burton
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, Michael Keaton.
1988--90 min.
Rated PG-13 (scary images, language, mild violence)
Reviewed by The Teen Critic on October 30, 2008.
Note: I'll be short-take reviewing Tim Burton's films today in the spirit of Halloween. Tomorrow, full-length reviews of the first three "Saw" films.

Overrated, overcooked, and nearly interminable, "Beetle Juice" is Tim Burton's first "visual experience" and his worst. Featuring over-the-top performances and a curiously muted and flat screenplay. The film stars Michael Keaton (who went on to play the worst Batman ever) in the title role, an undead romancer, a sort of "fixer" for people who are in need of help. However, when a girl (Winona Ryder) asks him to bring to life the previous residents of the house into which she recently moved. This proves too personal for Betelgeuse (cleverly misspelled in the title, I must add). See, their owners (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) don't like Betelgeuse very much.

I don't like "Beetle Juice" very much. The film looks brilliant, as all Burton films do, but it's an utter bore. The cinematography is beguiling, the set design Oscar-winningly good (no, really, it won the Oscar), and the costumes and makeup among the best in the Burton oeuvre. On the other end of the spectrum, the screenplay confuses strange goings-on to be plot and for over-the-top caricatures to take the place of character development. Also, Keaton is utterly awful in the role of Betelgeuse, stuck with painfully bad one-liners for "believable dialogue." I wanted to like "Beetle Juice" more than I did.

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