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BEETLEJUICE. Directed by Tim Burton; written by Michael McDowell and Warren Skaaren; produced by Michael Bender, Larry Wilson and Richard Hashimoto for Geffen. Starring Michael Keaton, Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O'Hara and Winona Ryder. Rated PG (some silly sexual humor, a little raunchy language).


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If you like being grossed out—imaginatively, but innocently—then you shouldn't miss Beetlejuice. Character development, a reasonable storyline and profound truths may be non-existent here. But the 8-year-olds in the audience will be yelling "Gross!" and "Sick!" and laughing hysterically almost all the way through.

The plot is bizarre in the extreme. The central characters are a pair of likeable ghosts who find their pleasant hereafter spoiled by a family of artsy New Yorkers. This latter family, alive but looking as spooky as any ghosts I know, turn a charming New England country home into a museum of up-scale bad taste in nothing flat.

Searching for help, the deceased couple (Baldwin and Davis) wander through an afterlife bureaucracy only to find a less-than-helpful "caseworker" (surely Sylvia Sydney's strangest role). Desperate, they turn to maverick demon/ghost Beetlejuice (Keaton) to expel the obnoxious—but very well-played and hilarious—Dietz family (Jones, O'Hara and Ryder).

Keaton has always been most successful playing weirdos instead of ordinary people, and as Beetlejuice, he gets the chance to be as weird as he could possibly want. He takes full advantage of the opportunity, and he is terribly funny.

The special effects in the movie, especially all the "dead" people in the afterlife scenes, might prove too gross and frightening for younger children (not to mention their parents). And, surprisingly for a PG-rated movie, (for no good reason that I can see, either) the "F-word" occurs once in the dialogue. Otherwise, though, it's good, gross fun for all concerned.

April 13, 1988

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