After a recent Beetlejuice viewing, two things stood out. First, what a truly weird film. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to coach the actors through the “Day-O” scene.
Second: Tim Burton used to be great. The movie’s chockablock with B-movie effects, a love letter to the low-budget cinema of the 60s and 70s. The almost Lynchian dichotomy between quaint, straitlaced Americana as “alive” and personal eccentricity as “dead” (or “undead”) dovetails nicely in the final scene: a teenager in a private school uniform levitates giddily while possessed objects play backup in a cheesy musical number.
I’ve said before Tim Burton’s become a bad cover band, impressing his predictable fingerprints all over recycled cultural treasures. Planet of the Apes, Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are all formulaic exercises of the Burton aesthetic. Wes Anderson gets a lot of flack for being indulgent; he’s got nothing on Burton.
Burton, in a word, is Weezer. If the Blue Album is Batman and Beetlejuice, and Pinkerton is Edward Scissorhands, then both Rivers Cuomo and Tim Burton have creatively stagnated in an absurdly lucrative way. The money’s rolling in, but the songs and the films are getting worse. If I said Weezer’s next single is called “Facebook Love,” you wouldn’t bat an eye. You could probably hum the melody with fair accuracy, without even hearing the song. Same goes for Burton. He’s reached such self-parody that seeing his movies is almost unnecessary.