Warner Bros. brings Tim Burton’s second feature, Beetlejuice, to 4K UHD Blu-ray with a new (and long overdue) new 4K transfer with Dolby Atmos audio. Unfortunately, that is all that is new in this release.
The Production: 4/5
Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) are a young couple enjoying their staycation in their New England home. After going into town for some art supplies, they are killed in a tragic car accident (in a Volvo, no less). Shortly after they arrive home, they realize they are dead and an annoying family from New York have taken possession of their home. The father, Charles Deetze (Jeffrey Jones), is looking for a replace to relax from the hustle and bustle of the big city, yet his wife, Delia (Catherine O’Hara), a would-be artist, wants to tear down the old house and modernize it with the help of her interior decorator friend Otho (Glenn Shadix). Charles’ goth daughter, Lydia (Winona Ryder), is right at home in the old house, spider webs and all. Desperate to get the Deetzes out of their house, the Maitlands try, without much luck, to scare the new owners by having them believe the house is haunted. However, they are largely ignored by the adults in the house, with only Lydia being able to see them. Desperate for help, they unwisely seek the assistance of Betelgeuse (Michael Keaton), a crazed spirit who claims to specialize in bio-exorcism, but in reality is only looking out for himself.
Beetlejuice was director Tim Burton’s second film following his debut with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, and was an instant success, largely because audiences really hadn’t seen anything like it before. Michael Keaton as the title character steals the show, improvising most of his dialogue, yet only appearing tin the film for less than 15 minutes total. Burton and Keaton would reteam the following year with Batman, and it is easy to see why fans of the caped crusader feared this team taking on the famed comic book character at first, with Keaton’s performance all over the map (but in a good, manic way) and Burton going for the laughs more often than not. Rumors of a sequel have materialized several times over the years, and the film was adapted into a Broadway musical (not to mention a long-running stage show at Universal Studios).
3D Rating: NA
It is fairly well-known that Warner has been milking the same Blu-ray disc with its now soft-looking transfer since 2008, re-releasing the same disc with new packaging and nothing else multiple times. I’m happy to say that Warner’s new 4K scan, appearing here in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio for the first time, is a sight to behold. The HEVC-encoded 2160p transfer includes HDR10 high dynamic range, which heightens the viewing experience even more. This is a highly detailed image, revealing intimate textures like the faux stone-like walls of the house, rotting flesh on Betelgeuse’s face, etc. Colors are more vivid and exaggerated, while gradients have a distinct clarity that was missing on the now 12-year old Blu-ray. Contrast is exceptional, with deep blacks and bright whites that still contain noticeable detail within.
Beetlejuice also gets a nice audio upgrade to Dolby Atmos that really helps bring the film to life without being gimmicky. While still a fairly front-heavy presentation, with dialogue clear and understandable from the center channel most of the time, sounds move more fluidly and seamlessly from front to rear, while Danny Elfman’s score sounds more immersive thanks to the added height channels.
Special Features: 2/5
Unfortunately, there are no special features on the UHD disc and Warner has provided the same 2008 Blu-ray with the same rather lackluster “features.”
Three Episodes of “Beetlejuice” Animated TV Series (480i, 12:15 each): A-Ha!, Skeletons in the Closet and Spooky Boo-Tique.
Music-Only Track: Listen to only Danny Elfman’s score and Harry Belafonte’s tunes in Dolby Digital 5.1.
Theatrical Trailer (480i; 1:27)
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy (in UHD where available) on Movies Anywhere. A second insert contains a code for a survey to complete online about the release (which was unavailable at the time of this review).
Warner earns high marks for the updated and upgraded video transfer and new Dolby Atmos mix, but demerits for the lack of any new extras.