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Face-Off: Beetlejuice vs. Edward Scissorhands

10.18.2012by: Paul Huffman
In last weeks Face Off, we celebrated the release of Ben Affleck's Argo by putting together a match between the mans other two directorial efforts in Gone Baby Gone vs. The Town. Both films were given equal amounts of love, but our readers ultimately agreed with my two cents of Gone Baby Gone taking the cake.

This week, in keeping with the spirit of the season we've decided to pit two films against each other that capture Tim Burton's best years in match between Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. Both capture Burton's out there sensibility, and came out at a time when audiences weren't tired of his shtick. But as usual, only one gem can walk out of this Face Off with a victory, so lets discuss which film deserves it.
Story
When a kind act of swerving in a car to miss a dog results in the death of a married couple, they find themselves acclimating to the wonderful world of the afterlife. But this does not mean they are ready to leave their life behind, and when a new family moves into their house, they enlist the help of freelance ghost Beetlejuice to scare away the unwanted intruders. When a concept warrants its own spin-off animated series that was awesome in its own right, you know you have yourself a winner. Burton's concept for Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian however, is another story.
A simple Frankenstein meets Beauty and the Beast story, a young woman falls in love with a strange creation who strays from his castle. Much to the dismay of the overly curious surrounding suburbanites. This story isn't as unique as what was presented in Beetlejuice, it had a bit of a been there done that formula, but presentation...and in this backdrop, is everything. It had its own special Burton twist to it, and that immersed me in the recycled plot as it needed to.
Cast/Performances
Well, needless to say this Michael Keaton's show. The man had a blast with his role, and I wish we could have seen more if it, albeit having nothing to do with a tropical setting. I've always been a fan of Winona Ryder, very talented actress and this film was no exception. Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis showed their shock of their new situation beautifully. The rest of the supporting cast ( a few of which are Burton faithfuls) brought their A game.
Of all the outlandish characters Johnny Depp has provided for Burton, this I think was his masterpiece. He captured naivety, innocence, purity, and curiosity perfectly. It was truly heartbreaking seeing the reactions in his performances to the things that ended up happening to him when shit the fan. Winona Ryder churned out another great performance as the female with a heart of gold who falls in love with that innocence, and the supporting cast who have to portray curiosity of a different sort nail their roles as well. Of course, we have to mention the great Vincent Price in what turned out to be his last role.
Design
A blend of stop-motion, puppetry, blue screens, replacement animation, and brilliant makeup design the look of this film was something Burton sought out to make purposefully distinct. Drawing inspiration from the B films that Burton loved in his youth, the stylish director and his production designer Bo Welch set out to give the film a tone that looked "cheap and purposefully fake looking". Well sir, you succeeded. He brought Beetlejuice and the world he inhabited to life in a way that only Burton could envision.
The clean cut 50's area suburbia caught my imagination when I saw this film as a kid, contrast that with the world that Scissorhands inhabited and you have another hit out the park for Burton and Bo Welch who reunited for this film. Not only was the costume design for our hero brilliant and fitting, but the madness didn't stop there. The costume design for the "normal" citizens of this suburban town had me flinching more than Edward's get up did. I see what you did there Welch. A dark story, set in a world where everything was seemingly perfect. It was brilliantly done.
Overall
Darkly humorous shenanigans ensue, and what else could you want from a tale like this? It was twisted in a lighthearted sort of way, I can't help but think a modern filmmaker today would come along and set a character like Beetlejuice in a "modern realistic world" and keep any twisted humor out of the proceedings. The approach this film took, was the only way it could have worked in my opinion. Burton was perfect for the task, and he brought together a team that helped make this bad boy a classic. Now say his name three times, bitches.
Edward Scissorhands had heart, and heart is something I greatly appreciate in my movie going experience. Especially when it presents a bittersweet conclusion that you can't help but think it being the only way this could go. Sure, the story and theme is something that has been done countless times, it comes from a classic formula. But there's a reason it is classic. And when it pulls from elements that the director had to deal with in his life growing up, you can't help but feel that passion. Beautifully shot, beautifully acted...it is one of Tim Burton's crowning jewels.
Edward Scissorhands
So there you have it folks, you just read an article from somebody that loves the entertainment value of Beetlejuice as much as anybody. But to echo last weeks Face Off, Edward Scissorhands had that same entertainment value, albeit somewhat less twisted, and packed it with as much heart as it could muster along the way. It made you feel something for all the characters involved, and if you can do that as a filmmaker...well the sky is the limit.

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which Tim Burton film is your favourite?
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