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Halloween DVDs 2008

It's cutting it close to the wire, but October saw the release of some really good Halloween DVDs for the whole family, all of which should end up as fun year round.

Beetlejuice 20th Anniversary Edition: Fresh off of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Tim Burton helmed this supernatural comedy, ostensibly about "the ghost with the most." Michael Keaton takes the title role, riffing wildly and tapping so much manic energy that it's almost tragic he decided that what he really wanted to be was a serious action hero/leading man.

Yes, that career strategy didn't work for Keaton in the long run, but Beetlejuice certainly does. Yet he isn't really the protagonist, popping up relatively late in the film. Instead, Beetlejuice deals with a recently dead husband and wife, The Maitlands (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis). Straight-laced and kind of boring in life, the couple would like their afterlife to continue in much the same way.

In a reversal from the standard ghost story, they'd like to have their house's new living occupants exorcised, as they're gauche, loud and boorish. The Maitlands have trouble being sufficiently scary, however, as their hearts just aren't in it. Enter that ghost with the most, an insane poltergeist determined to terrorize the living beyond what the afterlife authorities deem reasonable.

Along the way, the ghosts get discovered by the new owners' sensitive daughter Lydia (a very young Winona Ryder), who takes a central role in the Maitlands' life as a sort of foster daughter, and becomes the lead in the animated series this movie spawned.

Three episodes of the series are included on this DVD release, serving as the majority of the extras. Burton doesn't come back for commentary, nor are there any behind-the-scenes videos, which could have been interesting, considering Burton's then preference for live in-camera effects as much as possible.

And trivia? Oddly enough, Burton wanted Sammy Davis, Jr. for the role of Beetlejuice, but had to settle for a small role for other Vegas lounge lizard Robert Goulet instead.

For such an influential - and let's face it, near brilliant - comedy, Warner Home Video hasn't done much to celebrate its twentieth anniversary, except convince us we want the cartoon released in its entirety.

If you think the live-action film is too much for your younger kids, they'll definitely still get hooked on the animated show, in which Lydia spends a lot of time on the other side, where things are goofy and ghouly, but mostly just fun.

Beetlejuice (20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

More DVDs for Halloween...

Derek McCaw


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