Beetlejuice Season One Reminds Viewers Why Beetlejuice is The Ghost With The Most

 

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

When it debuted in 1989, the Tim Burton helmed horror comedy Beetlejuice was one of the scariest, funniest, and most original movies of its time.  It wasn’t long after the movie debuted that Burton headed up an animated, kid friendly take on the movie that has turned out to be another of the best children’s cartoons of its time.  Even in only four seasons, this unlikely hit produced so many laughs both for kids and their parents who had likely seen the movie.  It has remained such a fan favorite because of its storylines and its entirely original animation style.  It also is so impressive thanks to voice actor Stephen Ouimette.  His portrayal of the “Ghost with the Most” successfully brought Michael Keaton’s character to the small screen.  His portrayal of Beetlejuice, along with the show’s writing and animation makes this another example of everything that was once right with children’s entertainment in the late 80s and 90s.  This is evident from early on in the series’ first season, which is available now on DVD.

Audiences that grew up with Beetlejuice: The Animated Series will remember this show fondly for a number of reasons.  One of the most notable of those reasons is the show’s writing.  Those that remember the movie on which this show was based remember how everything unfolded.  So they will recall that the animated series is quite different.  But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. And keeping in mind the proposed plot for a long in the works sequel to the original movie, that Lydia and Beetlejuice would be friends in the series actually makes more sense in hindsight.  Having Lydia and Beetlejuice being friends is just one of the positives to the writing behind Beetlejuice: The Animated Series.  The physical comedy and the nonsensical plots add to each episode’s comic element.  For instance, having Beetlejuice taking on a babysitting service just to earn the money to buy Lydia a gift is completely against everything that Beetlejuice stands for.  So it goes without saying that this is a solid first episode to the series.  And the jokes that Beetlejuice pulls on Lydia’s dad, Charles, and her rival, Claire Brewster make for more than enough physical comedy for viewers of any age.  Suffice it to say that the show’s writers offered plenty more for viewers to enjoy whether for the first time or the first time again.  But to discuss all of it would take far too long.  So it would be best to go on to another factor behind the success of Season One.

From the show’s writing, the next sensible point of Beetlejuice: The Animated Series to discuss is its animation. Beetlejuice: The Animated Series had its own identifying mark thanks to its animation.  As a matter of fact, the way that the show’s artists combined actual hand drawn animation with computer based animation was something that no other cartoon at the time was doing at the time.  And it wouldn’t be done again for many years to come.  It can be argued that its animation style was quite the influence behind other cartoons crafted during the late 1990s and early 200s.  A prime example of that influence is Cartoon Network’s short-lived series, Courage the Cowardly Dog.  It’s just one of a handful of cartoons that have followed suit.  And it’s very possible that without the work of the animators behind Beetlejuice: The Animated Series, these later series might not have happened.  Or at least, they might not have been brought to life when they did.

The animation and writing behind Beetlejuice: The Animated Series did so much to make this show stand out from all of the other cartoons from which kids had to choose in its original airing.  And it still does to this day.  There’s one other factor that makes it so enjoyable, even in its debut season.  That last remaining factor is the voice talent of one Stephen Ouimette.  Ouimette was the man that brought Beetlejuice to life on the small screen.  And he did quite the job of it, too.  He expertly translated the character portrayed by Michael Keaton (Batman, Batman Returns, Mr. Mom) onto the small screen, making him just as entertaining as Keaton.  From the personality, right down to the voice itself, Ouimette was showed time and again that he did his research with this character.  There was no better choice for the role, since Keaton was unable to (or simply didn’t want to) voice the “ghost with the most.”  He might have only gotten to give voice to Beetlejuice for four seasons.  But in those four seasons, he helped make Beetlejuice one of the most entertaining and ironically kid friendly characters on television.  And along with the writing and the animation, the whole show proved to be one of the best on television at the time.  It proves even today, to be one of the best even on DVD.  It is available in stores and online and can be ordered direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/217313.

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Les Miserables Not 2012′s Best, But Close To It

Courtesy:  Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Universal Pictures

Adapting classical literature for the big screen is one of Hollywood’s most time honored traditions.  Countless books have been adapted for the silver screen since the industry’s Golden Era.  Just as common for movie studios to do is to adapt stage plays that have themselves been adapted from books.  So as common as this practice is even now in Hollywood’s modern era, it takes a lot to make a movie of this fashion stand out in today’s overly crowded movie market.  Enter the newest big screen adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic story, Les Miserables.

The latest adaptation of Victor Hugo’s timeless story of redemption is one of the best movies of 2012.   It isn’t the year’s best.  But it does come close as it struggles with at least two glaring issues.  Those issues are the movie’s scene transitions and its general cinematography.  Much of the cinematography issue goes hand in hand with the problematic scene transitions.  Though there’s just as much problem with this movie’s shooting style not directly linked to the transitions in question.  Despite having issues with shooting and scene transitions, the movie’s positives far outweigh its negatives.  And those positives are many.

The most obvious problem weighing down this latest adaptation of Les Miserables is its shooting style (I.E. its cinematography).  Director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) makes a valiant attempt to bring out as much of the emotion as possible from each scene with his shooting style.  The problem is that he tried too hard.  Throughout the story’s near three-hour run time, this shooting style is so consistent that it could potentially leave audiences feeling somewhat dizzy and even confused.  The cameras spin, cut, and make every other possible transition so much that it leaves audiences not knowing where they are going to go next.  It happens so much that it would be no surprise if it leaves some audiences so bothered by it that it makes audiences contemplate just walking out because they can’t take feeling the way which they feel.  The issue with the shooting style is just the tip of the iceberg for this movie’s problems.  To make matters worse, the shooting style is at times linked directly to its problematic scene transitions.

Anyone who has seen Les Miserable live on stage knows that while they take time, the scene transitions are smooth enough to keep track of exactly what’s going on in the story.  The case with the latest on-screen adaptation is the polar opposite of the stage play.  The scene transitions in this version happen so fast that viewers almost need a program to keep up with what’s happening.  This is one of the areas in which Hooper obviously struggled to do honor to the legacy established by this timeless classic.  Rather than making smooth transitions, it felt almost as if much of the movie was just a load of scenes tied together with jump cut edits.  Add in that problematic shooting style, and audiences get a work that felt anything but fluid.  Rather it felt like each scene was piecemealed together.  The two factors together made the movie noticeably less enjoyable than it could have been, despite the outstanding performance on the part of both Jackman and co-star Anne Hathaway.

While Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises, Get Smart, The Princess Diaries) isn’t technically a veteran in the acting business, she surprisingly proved herself in the role of Fantine.  Her chops as a singer were the most impressive part of her performance.  The emotion with which she sang made her portrayal fully believable.  There are those who have alleged that she was doing little more than simply hamming it up for the cameras.  But that obviously isn’t the case.  Considering her previous roles, this could finally be the one to catapult her to the upper echelons of the movie industry.  And while he is already in the businesses’ upper echelons, the choice of Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean was common sense considering his current track record both on stage and screen.  He carried the movie on his shoulders.  Watching his moment of redemption at the story’s end will leave any viewer with more than just a tear in his or her eye.  Perhaps the only poor choice in casting this movie was that of Russell Crowe.  Crowe’s portrayal of Inspector Javert worked on the superficial level.  He is old enough that he looked the part.  But his general performance simply was not believable.  Luckily that was about the only poor choice in casting this take on the time honored classic.  That being the case, it is no surprise that this take on Les Miserables has been nominated for a handful of Golden Globes.  And it would be no surprise if it makes the Oscar nod list more than once, too.

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Philip Sayblack can be contacted at psayblack@wnct.com