DVD Review: ‘Beetlejuice: The Complete Series’: It’s DVD time!

BeetlejuiceFans have long awaited the arrival of Beetlejuice: The Complete Series. Indeed, for many this animated 1989-1992 TV spinoff is even more beloved than the 1988 film with Michael Keaton.

You can’t get more of it than this: all 94 supernatural adventures of ghostly Neitherworld prankster Beetlejuice and his human friend, goth girl  Lydia. They’re due in a 12-disc set Tuesday, May 28, from Shout! Factory.

For some, nostalgic appeal will be enough. For others, the flat, 2D animation will seem crude and cost-challenged compared to today’s routine CG wonders. But for anyone, the cheeky comedy should have merrily manic moments.

The series even won a 1990 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program. And keep in mind that the film’s director, Tim Burton, was one of the series’ executive producers, and the music is by the movie’s Danny Elfman.

The humor can be wonderfully warped, as in a Season 4 episode when Beetlejuice plays crudely crass host of a TV game show (Krusty-style, a la The Simpsons) for which he recruits historical figures such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Elvis Presley. Soon he has them warring among each other to spike the show’s up-to-the-second ratings via violence.

Much of such bizarre, zany madness is infectious, even if the animation is dated by today’s standards.  Technique aside, the concepts of such leaner animation still can have a kick and often are amusingly grotesque in a subversively trippy way.

Indeed, Beetlejuice is the kind of show where something different seems to happen almost each second. The dialogue also can be weirdly witty, with clever wordplay and cutting social commentary.

That’s not to say the series is sophisticated, and for some it may be an acquired taste. For me, it’s too frantic too often, but that’s by design. Yet Beetlejuice still has warped charms, and its lively lunacy is animated in more ways than one.

— Bruce Westbrook

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