Over thirty years ago, the world was introduced to the gothic stylings of director Tim Burton through one of his most beloved films. Although he showed how zany he could be with his debut, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, it was Beetlejuice where we got the first glimpse of the director who would eventually bring us inventive classics such as Batman, Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood. In 1988, Beetlejuice debuted to immense critical and commercial success, eventually becoming the 10th highest grossing film of the year. In addition to being a cult favorite ever since, the film has inspired an animated television show, video games, and even a Tony-nominated Broadway musical. Beetlejuice is a film that delivered in originality in a way that simply was not being done very often at that time. This film is fantastic, and it has thankfully been given a much-desired 4K upgrade from the good folks over at Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
For those who need a refresher, Beetlejuice tells the story of a happy Connecticut couple, Barbara and Adam Maitland (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin), who are in the midst of decorating their country home when they are involved in a terrible car crash that leaves no survivors. When the couple appear in their house, they soon realize that they have perished and are confined to live in their old house as ghosts. With only a book entitled “Handbook for the Recently Deceased” in tow, the two attempt to figure out everything they should know about being dead. While they are figuring things out, their house is sold to the Deetz family, which includes Charles (Jeffrey Jones), a wealthy former real estate developer; his wife Delia (Catherine O’Hara), a sculptor; and his goth teenage daughter Lydia (Winona Ryder), from his first marriage. While the Maitlands grow fond of Lydia, they still feel they must get the Deetz clan out of their house. With the netherworld bureaucracy unable to help them, they reluctantly turn to the much-maligned Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) to help in his capacity as a “bio-exorcist”. Basically, they need someone who can be scary as hell to get the house back from this human infestation.
The marriage of actor and character has rarely been so magnificently paired as Michael Keaton with Beetlejuice. While he has definitely had some funny performances prior to this role, Beetlejuice is his crowning comedic achievement. Keaton disappears completely in this role that is so wonderfully bizarre that you will be cackling at every little joke and aside. This character makes such an impact when he is on screen that you barely realize that he is not present for the majority of the runtime. Burton and company wisely chose to use this character sparingly for maximum impact. Thankfully, the rest of the cast is up to providing characters that are incredibly compelling. Davis and Baldwin are equally hilarious and heartbreaking in their roles as a couple trying to navigate the realities of being dead and what that truly means. Catherine O’Hara is fantastically over-the-top in the way that only she can make enjoyable. And, even after a career of wonderful roles, Winona Ryder might be best appreciated for her role as Lydia. Ryder is just so well suited to this gleefully morose character with heart. This is a murder’s row of talent if I have ever seen one, and they all bring their A game to the film.
Beetlejuice is a film that seemingly has it all within the span of a 90-minute runtime. Burton delivers laughs and thrills in equal measure. The whimsy that he brings to this project is one of the reasons why the world fell in love with his style. The idea of these characters, the bureaucratic netherworld, the sandworms and everything else probably seemed interesting on paper, but only Burton could bring these elements to life with such inventive gusto. The production design present in this film is some of the most impressive I have seen, and every scene seems to be bursting with attention to detail. Even with his gothic aesthetic, Burton still allows his world to shine with color in a truly beautiful way. There may be an element of nostalgia talking, but Beetlejuice nonetheless remains a perfectly paced, impeccably acted, comedic journey through the lens of one of the most visually daring directors of the modern era. In terms of pure unbridled joy, it does not get much better than this.
Beetlejuice comes to 4K UHD Blu-Ray in a 2160p presentation in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio that looks as spectacular as any catalog title I have seen on the format. The most noticeable aspect of this presentation is the lovely retention of the natural film grain that should be present on a release such as this. Equally as impressive is the impeccable HDR10 color enhancement that seems like it was tailor made for this film. The movie is filled with bright colors that pop off the screen, from the signs around Beetlejuice’s grave to the eye popping green glow of the netherworld offices. Detail and clarity are also amazingly strong with subtle details easily discernable in the background set design. Skin tones are nice and natural throughout with an incredible amount of detail. There is no visible blooming with the white levels, and black levels are dark and deep. The range of color alone makes this one a nice disc to show off the format. This disc is a substantial upgrade from the old Blu-Ray disc.
This 4K UHD Blu-Ray disc comes with a very active Dolby Atmos soundtrack that gives an impressive amount of life to the world. The movie is very dialogue heavy, even during the supernatural scenes, and clarity is never an issue. The track makes good use of all of the surround speakers, with spooky flourishes and varied locations adding a lot of subtle activity. The positioning of the sounds is never an issue, and the track delivers on the low end of the spectrum. The movie has an iconic, joyous score from Danny Elfman that really fills the room throughout the movie. This is a very pleasing sounding experience from start to finish.
- Beetlejuice Cartoon Episodes: Selected episodes from the Beetlejuice animated series are included here in standard definition. The following are included on the disc:
- A-Ha!: In an unexpected bit of corporate synergy, this episode finds Beetlejuice taking on the “Sherlock Homely” persona. Both Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies arrive on 4K UHD the same day as Beetlejuice.
- Skeletons in the Closet: Beetlejuice digs into the literal skeletons in his closet in the Netherworld.
- Spooky Boo-Tique: Beetlejuice turns into an entrepreneur when Lydia begins a venture as a fashion designer.
- Music-Only Track: This disc gives you the option to listen to Danny Elfman’s iconic score without all the pesky dialogue.
- Theatrical Trailer: The minute-and-a-half long trailer gives a quick look into the plot that perfectly sells the movie.
Beetlejuice is a stone cold classic, and I will fight anyone who dares to assert otherwise. Keaton is otherworldly amazing in the title role, and the rest of the cast are just as fantastic. This movie is peak Tim Burton before he would start to lose his way later in his career. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has provided a brand new 4K UHD Blu-Ray disc that sports a truly stunning A/V presentation. Fans of the film should not hesitate for a second to upgrade this one. Essential
Beetlejuice will be available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on September 1, 2020.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.