A Little Late to be Neurotic

Michael Keaton doesn’t pop from his grave until some 40-minutes into Beetlejuice, and up to the final act, the movie resists the wackiest and goofiest post-death comedy. There’s a snake and unwilling dancing, but Beetlejuice spends time being a domestic tug-of-war, a battle between rural and city living (or not living, in this case).

One look at Beetlejuice’s Connecticut town and memories of Frank Capra or Normal Rockwell bubble to the surface. It’s so… plain. Simple. Pure. Total Americana. Time whisks that away as people die, storefronts lose their place to megastores, and homes lose their small town luxury. That’s happening in Beetlejuice when New Yorkers immigrate to a farm house, using gaudy paint and instantly dated design to cover up a classical past.

Beetlejuice thrives – or continues to – in pop culture thanks to Keaton’s performance

The conflict in Beetlejuice isn’t between purgatory dwellers and the modern family – it’s more a call to preservation, to keep America as it was. Tim Burton idolizes this life (Edward Scissorhands, among others), if wishing for a comfortable space to be himself – a somewhere outsiders, eccentrics, and oddballs can call home. For that, he casts Lydia (Winona Ryder), dressing in black, adoring the occult, contemplating suicide. Lydia’s reward for acing a math test? Dancing to Harry Belafonte while lifted by supernatural powers. Most kids then wanted pizza and ice cream, set to Cyndi Lauper.

Everything ends happily. The studio system lets Burton be Burton, if not totally so. Bonding the two families, utterly incompatible otherwise, is a freeing acceptance of being what they are. The stuffy Delia (Catherine O’Hara) learns not to care about status, Charles (Jeffrey Jones) drops plans to sell the town as a tourist attraction. Adam (Alec Baldwin) and Barb (Geena Davis) understand their fate, realizing incremental changes are inevitable, and bridging divides is easier than fighting them.

In Adam’s/Barb’s attic, Adam built a miniature town replica. Behind the opening credits, the camera pans over the real thing, almost invisibly transitioning to the models. It’s seamless, a literal “model city” for the country. It’s only a matter of recognizing differences, even when so far apart as to live in purgatory and Earth.

Beetlejuice thrives – or continues to – in pop culture thanks to Keaton’s performance. He’s embodying an adult cartoon character, brash and intolerable, creepy too, but more for his perversions than snake transformations. It’s hard not to remember a character like this, so loud and forceful. Beetlejuice preaches cooperation with all kinds, if to a fault Beetlejuice himself willingly steps over. He’s not a typical people-eating movie monster. His fault is wanting to divide rather than bring people together, offering no middle ground. That’s unacceptable.

Video

Stellar work from Warner here. Substantial resolution increase over the HD presentations bring remarkable detail. Dazzling textural qualities appear in close to handle facial texture, and give the town a total visual makeover from afar. Wide shots capture the 1920s, maybe ‘30s era construction, the wood and chipping paint totally visible. Even interiors drizzle those small touches, giving set design due credit.

Marvelous grain reproduction leaves no digital remnants behind. Beetlejuice’s natural-looking film stock never once loses its authentic veneer. Any damage and dirt was removed during mastering.

Haunting lights let the deep color enhancements fly. Stellar saturation abounds, this while keeping flesh tones on point. Spooky green lighting covers the cast often, properly glowing thanks to HDR. All light sources twinkle, from small ones hovering in the attic set to a brilliant blacklight background as Adam and Barb visit their caseworker the second time. Highlights excel, and shadows produce both vivid depth and firm shadow details.

Audio

Brought into the Dolby Atmos era, Beetlejuice slightly extends the soundstage a few times. Heights engage where appropriate, as when unwanted guests are slammed through a ceiling. Pleasing discrete effects travel through surrounds, a bit more active than prior 5.1 tracks, if to no great change. The score widens out, splitting the fronts, then traveling into rears.

No fidelity complaints, with everything from dialog to sound effects superbly clear. Low-end joins where possible, notable as Beetlejuice first appears, bringing a deep rumble along with the earthquake-like effect.

Extras

Three episodes of the cartoon series (in awful SD quality) and a trailer. That’s it.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Beetlejuice
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Movie

A film bridging American generations, Tim Burton uses Beetlejuice to preserve small rural living and… not living.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 57 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: