“Beetlejuice” has the makings of a cult movie: unorthodox creativity, crazy story, unusual mix of genres. But it was a decent hit, making nearly 5x the budget. And the reviews were mostly positive. People liked it then, and people really love it now, as we’ll see below.
But what does “Beetejuice” have that makes it timeless? It has the 3 Count! But what is the 3 Count?
It’s the difference-maker between a forgettable film and a film that is rewatchable and recommendable for more people.
It’s also the same three features that make pro wrestling ultrapopular and megaprofitable. Yes, really! I call them the 3 Count!
Using pro wrestling terminology, I’ll review “Beetlejuice” for its 3 Count, and other pro wrestling concepts, to explain why “Beetlejuice” is a classic that will be timeless for… ETERNITY! And SPOILER ALERT!
The “Beetlejuice” is loose!
Let’s look at the trailer’s Butts in Seats Gimmick, the marketing hook that’s supposed to make people say, “I’ve got to see that!”
The Butts in Seats Gimmick
Like trailer-voice guy says, Beetlejuice is “guaranteed to put some ‘life’ in your afterlife.” The Butts in Seats Gimmick is wild-and-wacky Beetlejuice himself, a non-living, non-breathing, but real-life cartoon gimmick. Like a PG-rated, undead Bugs Bunny.
The movie has an invasion angle. When a couple of ghosts can’t get the new, living residents out of their home, they tag in “Beetlejuice” to end the conflict by making the pestering people powder for good. The film’s appeal is geared towards fans of spooks and laughs, which is why its depiction of the afterlife is less doom-and-gloom and more WCW’s Dungeon of Doom.
Now, let’s look at the movie’s 3 Count.
The 3 Count
1. Babyfaces vs Heels
Babyfaces vs heels (good guys vs bad guys) is one of the most basic ingredients for emotional investment in any story. And “Beetlejuice” has babyfaces vs heels. Let’s look at the babyfaces first.
Barbara and Adam Maitland, the green ghost tag team.
They’re a cute, likeable, deeply-in-love couple who share almost all their onscreen time together.
Plus, they fire-up (like babyfaces should) and try to scare the Deetzes away themselves. But the “horrible, ghoulish, desperate creatures” gimmick doesn’t fit them, so it doesn’t work. They sell their frustration from that and all the other heat from the heels, which creates empathy for them within us.
Luckily, they have an ally to help them out.
Lydia Deetz, the goth girl.
Lydia is the daughter of Delia and Charles. Lydia, herself, is “strange and unusual” because she wants to be dead (but in a harmless way only this movie can pull off). Lydia likes the Maitlands more than her own parents because the Maitlands are nice and dead, and Lydia’s parents are annoying.
By the way, Lydia’s favorite wrestler is the Undertaker.
Lydia’s big, babyface move is agreeing to marry the weirdo Beetlejuice late in the movie so he will tag in and save the Maitlands’ “lives.” So, Lydia is kind and selfless. You can’t judge a book by its cover, folks!
Now, let’s meet the heels!
Beetlejuice, the ghost with the most, babe.
Normally, heel wrestlers get heat by being lying, cheating, thieves. Well, Beetlejuice is a dangerous, gross, horny, insulting, loud, obscene, rude, scuzzy, ugly, violent, troublemaker. So, yeah, he’s a heel.
But, damn, his over-the-top personality makes him fun to watch! I’ll talk about him more in the Top Talent section below, but let’s take a look at the other heels.
Delia and Charles Deetz, and Otho, their interior decorator.
As the new owners of the Maitlands’ house, it’s the Deetz’ right to move in and have Otho decorate it. Then why are they heels? Because they’re judgmental, clueless, abrasive, and money-hungry.
And they’re always arguing with each other! About how to decorate the house, how much alone-time Charles can have, and anything else. That’s a testament to their unlikability (despite them all being humorous characters).
So far, “Beetlejuice” has the basic ingredients of a pro wrestling match. Babyfaces vs heels fighting over a prize they both want.
We’re 1 for 3 in the 3 Count.
Now, let’s look for Top Talent in “Beetlejuice.” Top Talent wrestlers stand out from everyone else for their charisma, quotability, distinctive appearance, fun-to-imitate qualities, and huge drawing power at the box office. So, does “Beetlejuice” have any characters with Top Talent qualities?
2. Top Talent
Virtually everyone stands out in “Beetlejuice,” and the movie’s marks love to emulate their favorite characters to this day. When a movie has so many memorable characters, only someone as unique and special as Beetlejuice can break out from the pack.
The guy with his name on the marquee! Everything about him is different than all other movie characters. That’s perfect for Top Talent.
He’s got an easy-to-identify-and-cosplay signature look with the black-and-white suit (even though he has more attire changes than Kane).
Because he’s as quotable as Ric Flair (and brags just as much), he’s got wrestling-t-shirt-ready quotes for days.
Even the sound of his voice, his mannerisms, and his luchador-level energy are unparalleled.
What’s really amazing about Beetlejuice is he gets over in his slim 17.5 minutes of screen time! But how? He does exactly what wrestling commentator Jim Ross advises young wrestlers should do: maximize your minutes. By making the most of what little screen time Beetlejuice has, he keeps getting over with new generations and becomes timeless.
So far, “Beetlejuice” is 2 for 3 of the 3 Count!
Now, let’s look at how well the storytelling technique of pro wrestling, called Ring Psychology, can be applied to “Beetlejuice.”
3. Ring Psychology
Act 1: Entrances
The ring: The house.
Babyfaces’ entrance: The Maitlands enter all cute and cuddly. Then they die!
Heels’ entrance: Charles, Delia, Otho and their moving crew barge in and tear up the house like Nexus tore up the ring in 2011.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THIS IS A HOUSE OF HORRORS MATCH! (NOT THIS ONE!) THE MATCH ENDS WHEN ONE FAMILY HAS TAKEN CONTROL OF THE HOUSE. THIS MATCH IS SET FOR AN 88 MINUTE TIME LIMIT!
Act 2: Ring the Bell!
“Beetlejuice” has great Ring Psychology! But before I get too far into it, let me address one small problem. The inconsistent use of its own rules.
Wrestling matches have rules. But fans will forgive some fudging of the rules as long as the story of the match is entertaining. The same is true for “Beetlejuice.”
For example, the Maitlands say Beetlejuice’s name three times to conjure him according to the rules. But then they still have to un-bury the dead man from his grave like a reverse Buried Alive Match?
But without the scene written the way it is, we wouldn’t have the awesome graveyard scene we got with those great characters! More people care about characters than rules, which is why “Beetlejuice” is so damn over. So, let’s move on!
Every scene sets up or pays off the back-and-forth trade in momentum between the good guys and the bad guys through well-placed hopespots, highspots, cutoff and Heat. For example:
The Maitlands meet Beetlejuice, the guy who says he can get the Deetzes to powder from the house!
Cutoff and Get Heat
But he’s just the worst! Adam and Barbara powder from him.
But Adam gets an idea how to scare the Deetzes, and the Maitland’s pull a haunted-dinner-scene table spot. It really makes you “Stand Back!“
Cutoff and Get Heat
But the Maitlands aren’t scared! In fact, they want to meet the Maitlands. Then Otho steals the Handbook for the Recently Deceased. Then Beetlejuice attacks the Deetzes, which nobody wants!
All the scenes move the story forward, shift the momentum, and stay true to the characters. They lead to a huge finish in the Go-Home .
Act 3: The Go-Home
The final act of a wrestling match has the biggest spots and highest intensity. The Ring Psychology in “Beetlejuice” builds the intensity to the point that it’s a high-stakes, final act. Even the dead people are in danger of death!
Cutoff and Get Heat
In a severe scene unlike the fun ones we’re used to, Otho and the Deetzes get heat on the Maitlands by using a move I’ll call The Botched Séance. Adam and Barbara’s “bodies” start to crumble. By now, we know it’s possible for dead peoples’ souls to go to the Lost Souls Room, which is death for the dead. Well, if that’s true, then how does the Undertaker, “the Dead Man,” keep coming back after losing Buried Alive matches?
Fire-up and Comeback
Lydia makes a deal with Beetlejuice to marry him if he saves the Maitlands. Beetlejuice tags in and cleans house, saving the Maitlands, getting rid of the guests, and sending Otho running! Hooray!
But they’re not done yet! Now, the Maitlands must repay the favor to Lydia and stop her wedding to Beetlejuice by saying his name three times and sending him back to where he came from. They bump-and-feed, trying again and again to say his name, but he stops them time and time again with his supernatural power.
Finally, just before the ceremony is complete, Barbara rides in on a Sandworm that guzzles Beetlejuice and saves Lydia. Barbara and the Sandworm interrupt the evil wedding, like Steve Austin saving Stephanie McMahon from marrying the Undertaker.
The Sandworm slams through the floor and disappears. Hooray! The babyfaces go over! And the Maitlands and Deetzes decide to make an alliance and share the house as one, big family. Hooray!
The Ring Psychology is top-notch: great momentum-switching, pacing, conflict between likable and unlikable characters, selling, heat, and escalating intensity.
Now, I still need to pick the Most Over Gimmick of the Movie, which is the thing that resonates with viewers the most. It could be a line, scene, swerve ending, or whatever.
The problem with picking the Most Over Gimmick for “Beetlejuice” is the same problem with many great movies. There are too many options!
Is it Beetlejuice himself? Or the graveyard scene? The waiting room scene? Or the dinner scene? It might even be Danny Elfman’s unmistakable score. (That is a hell of an entrance song for Beetlejuice when “It’s Showtime.”)
I can’t even pick one! And having too many choices for the most popular thing from a movie is another credit to the movie being timeless!
That’s 3 for 3 of the 3 Count! Let’s finish off this review.
The Blow Off
Yes, “Beetlejuice” has the 3 Count.
It’s a film that every generation has enjoyed since its release in 1988. Not many movies blend a lighthearted tone with macabre content successfully: death, hauntings, afterlife, suicide, possessions.
In wrestling, old fan-favorites can make a comeback and the fans will be there for it. The same is true for “Beetlejuice.”
Between the new documentary and buzz about the sequel, there’s still a lot of love for this strange, little movie that came out over 30 years ago.
So, due to it’s 3 Count and legacy “Beetlejuice” is a Hall of Famer!
By the way, there was a wrestler whose gimmick was based on Beetlejuice called “The Juicer.” You can watch a match with the Juicer below. Hopefully, the video has been taken down and has been cast into the Lost Souls Room by the time you’re reading this.