From Academic Kids

Cover of 1997 DVD release of Beetlejuice

Beetlejuice is a film, directed by Tim Burton and first released in the USA on March 30, 1988 by Warner Bros.. It features two recently deceased ghosts, Adam Maitland (Alec Baldwin) and his wife Barbara (Geena Davis), who seek the help of an obnoxious bio-exorcist, Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton), to remove the Deitz family — yuppies who recently moved from the city and now occupy their old house. The Deitz family consists of Charles (Jeffrey Jones), his second wife Delia (Catherine O'Hara), and moody goth teenage daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder).

The name of the film is the phonetic pronunciation of the lead character's name Betelgeuse who shares his name with a large red star in the constellation of Orion. Repeating this name three times is all that is required to summon him and also makes him leave. Adam and Barbara are not his only victims, as scams are his specialty. He used to be an assistant to Juno (Sylvia Sidney), the Maitlands' case worker, before getting into trouble. Beetlejuice is rude, vulgar, eats insects, and loves to terrify people.

A typically dark and humorous Tim Burton film, most of Keaton's lines were apparently improvised on set. Notable guest appearances include Robert Goulet and Dick Cavett (Delia's art agent). Songs from Harry Belafonte are featured quite heavily in the movie, especially in one scene where Delia starts belting out "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)"—in Belafonte's voice, thanks to some spectral trickery; at a dinner she and Charles are hosting. The movie paints the picture of hell as stuffy and bureaucratic rather than Dantean, with waiting rooms, oceans of red tape, and required reading (The "Handbook for the Recently Deceased"). People who commit suicide, for example, are bored civil servants (the receptionist Adam and Barbara meet slit her wrists) rather than trees, as in the Inferno. Adam and Barbara are trapped in their house. The world outside is a parched nightmare of sand dunes and a sandworm (Betelgeuse calls this place Saturn). Lydia is the only living character who sees the couple, and is tapped to help them deal with both her obnoxious parents and with the crass and impetuous Beetlejuice.

An animated television series loosely based on the film also called Beetlejuice ran on ABC from September 1989 to December 1991, featuring the voices of Stephen Ouimette, Alyson Court, and Tara Strong. Lydia and Beetlejuice are friends, and she frequently visits him at home in the Netherworld. Many of the jokes revolve around toilet humor and visual puns. Beetlejuice had a cast of wacky neighbors including Jacques, a French skeleton fitness buff; Ginger, a tap-dancing spider; The Monster Across the Street, a boisterous Texas redneck; and a nasty clown named Scuzzo who is his arch-nemesis.

A sequel to the movie has been in the works for over fifteen years, without any results, although Michael Keaton has expressed interest in reprising his role. Tim Burton, however is not interested.

Afterlife & Bureaucracy

Beetlejuice seems to be inspired by Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialist novel Les jeux sont faits (1952), in which death as meaningless bureaucracy is prominently featured. Another, although not as extreme example is the 2004 TV series Dead Like Me, in which the characters need to work as grim reapers before they can leave limbo. Also, in the LucasArts adventure game Grim Fandango, people who commit crimes in life are forced to work off their time at the nightmarishly bureaucratic "Department of Death." All these are examples of Bangsian fantasy.

Beetlejuice the Entertainer/Actor

Beetlejuice is also the name of a recurring guest on the Howard Stern show who has also appeared in several movies and music videos. He suffers from microcephaly, an abnormally small head and brain. In his case, this is accompanied by mental retardation and small stature (4' 3"), though he does not have the disproportionate limb size associated with dwarfism.

Microcephalics, also known as "pinheads" (offensive) have been featured in movies as early as 1932 (Freaks).

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