May 02, 1988 12:00 PM

Starting with the title, not much about this movie makes sense. That’s what’s fun about it. What isn’t fun is that after a while the zaniness flies out of director Tim (Pee-Wee ‘s Big Adventure) Burton’s control. A cloyingly cute couple from Connecticut, played by Geena (The Fly) Davis and Alec (Knots Landing) Baldwin, die in a car crash and have to spend the next 125 years haunting their home. Although they’re confronted by Dune-like giant sand worms in the netherworld, they’ve got even bigger problems with the horrible couple that move into their house in this one, Catherine (After Hours) O’Hara, effective as a wife who seems to have a chronic case of PMS, and Jeffrey (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) Jones. Since Davis and Baldwin are new at this ghost thing, they call on Michael (Mr. Mom) Keaton, who plays the title character, a “free-lance bio-exorcist,” to help roust the unwanted houseguests. The frenetic Keaton—he’s like a used-car salesman in purgatory, with a quota to meet—is fascinating. But his character is vaguely sketched by screenwriters Warren (Beverly Hills Cop II) Skaaren and novelist Michael McDowell. His confusing presence adds to the movie’s general chaos. There are, however, a couple of nice touches—like the newspaper, The Afterlife, that “welcomes” people in its obituaries and Robert (Cocoon) Short’s Oscar-worthy makeup effects. They and the likable cast make Beetlejuice sometimes bearable, if rarely easy to swallow. (PG)

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