• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #119: Beetlejuice


The Ghost with the Most

Beetlejuice is a strange film, but then it's a Tim Burton film, so what else would you expect? Michael Keaton is at the peak of his weird, subversive self as the titular mischievous pervert (though Burton originally wanted Rat Packer Sammy Davis, Jr. for the part), a fast-talking, libidinous ghoul bent on causing trouble and marrying Winona Ryder. Burton cuts loose in the role, and the resulting mess is both funny and confusing. The movie drags when he's not onscreen, despite the presence of talents like Alec Baldwin, Geena Davis, and Ryder at her pixie-charm peak, and it's hard to imagine that he appears in less than 18 minutes of the 93 minute production.

I've always been partial to characters who will do and say anything, whether that comes from courage, charm, social maladjustment, or simply not giving a damn what anyone thinks. Keaton's Beetlejuice can lay claim to the last three of these, and his grumbling, sodden optimism is as endearing as it is creepy. He inhabits a world of dented mysticism and an afterlife as soulless as what comes before, and his ennui is well-earned. But when his name is spoken three times, and he's freed to wreak his havoc on the living, he lights up with bizarre enthusiasm. Hey, when it's showtime, it's showtime.

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