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Beetlejuice is a comedy movie with horror trappings that manages to deal with some dark themes without actually getting too dark itself. The movie starts with married couple Adam and Barbara relaxing and enjoying each other's company in their dream home. They are visited by a realtor who seems unusually determined to sell their home that they obviously don't want to part with. The realtor mentions a family from New York that is interested in the house. Adam needs to go into town for some supplies for a table top model of the town that he is building. He convinces Barbara to go with him. As they are going across a bridge they have to swerve to avoid running over a dog and the couple both die in the resulting crash.

They reappear back in their house as ghosts, along with a copy of a Handbook For the Recently Deceased. They start to learn the rules of their new state of existence, like the fact that they can't leave their house or they end up on an alien landscape patrolled by giant worm creatures. They soon learn that since their death the realtor has sold their house to the family that she had mentioned before. The real estate developer father, pretentious artist mother, and morbid goth daughter do not seem like the kind of people Adam and Barbara want to share their afterlife with.
The couple attempt to get help with removing the new tenants, but find that the afterlife is nothing but a huge and inefficient bureaucracy. After their attempts to scare the family and their New York City friends result in the interlopers not only not being scared off, but plotting to turn the whole town into a supernatural theme resort, the couple consider turning to a bio-exorcist who has been trying to attract their attention. This bio-exorcist goes by the name Betelgeuse (for some reason the movie went with a phonetically spelled version of the name of the character it was named after). The couple are warned off of Beetlejuice (it's just easier to spell it this way, so now I guess I get it) by their afterlife case worker. It seems Beetlejuice was her assistant but didn't like the way things were done and broke out on his own. She tells them Beetlejuice is not to be trusted, but doesn't say exactly how. (Since they are dead they don't really have any possessions to steal and can't be killed again.)
They summon Beetlejuice by saying his name three times, but he proves too repugnant for them and they decide to get rid of him. In the meantime, the daughter Lydia has found the Handbook and befriends Adam and Barbara. She tries to talk to her parents on the ghosts' behalf, but isn't able to get through to them. One of the friends finds the Handbook and figures out a way to use it to summon Adam and Barbara, who begin to rot as they take on physical forms. Lydia is convinced to summon Beetlejuice to help them, and once he shows up we find out what his endgame is. He will save the couple if Lydia agrees to marry him, because if he marries a mortal he will be free to wreak havoc across the world. (He doesn't seem too confined before now, so I'm not really sure what the difference is.) The wedding is finally stopped by Barbara's somehow capturing and riding one of the sandworms and guiding it to swallow Beetlejuice before the ceremony can be completed. The ghosts and the living family learn to live together in harmony.
Despite dealing with ghosts and showing people in various stages of mutilation, this comedy is more mainstream and less dark than you would expect. There are some clever gags related to how different people passed away though. The musical bits are fun, and Adam Baldwin and Geena Davis are very likable as Adam and Barbara. This is the movie that really made Winona Ryder a star, and her character is the only one that accompanied Beetlejuice into his cartoon series (where they were weirdly friends who had adventures together. I guess she got over being mad at almost being forced to marry him).
The character that is the namesake of the movie (and is the one that most audiences really liked I guess) was the character I liked least. He was funny at times, but was also gross and vulgar. He worked well in the movie, but I am happy with his limited screen time as I feel any more would have been too much. His motivations didn't make a lot of sense either, as I mentioned above. In fact at times the whole story seemed hastily slapped together as it went along. Despite this, the movie works as a whole and is a lot of fun. If you don't mind a couple of off color jokes, it makes a great Halloween family film. In the end, that's what Beetlejuice really is, a Hollywood family comedy that tries to look like something edgier. The fact that it's not edgy though, doesn't make it any less enjoyable in the end.


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