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Dinner and a Movie: ‘Beetlejuice’

Enjoy the cult classic with cocktail-style shrimp and Mediterranean orzo and a bloody martini


spinner image single table setting reminiscent of beetlejuice dinner scene with cocktail-style shrimp and orzo dish, glass of bloody 'tini, plate of lemon slices, glass of white wine and bottle of wine in ice bucket
Photos by Noah Fecks

Welcome to our Dinner and a Movie series, where we feature nostalgic essays on some of our favorite films from the '80s and '90s, and share recipes inspired from movie moments.

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Beetlejuice is a symphony, executed brilliantly by brilliant actors. It’s garish and hilarious, despite its dalliance with the macabre, a film that is by turns funny and suspenseful, and even a little morose. Tim Burton’s 1988 sleeper hit introduces us to the exceptionally rural Adam and Barbara Maitland (played by Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis), loving their country lives in their country home in fictional Winter River, Connecticut. But a quick car ride into the city for an errand ends in them plummeting off a bridge. At first we’re tricked — they’re back in the house! Everything is fine! But not seeing their reflection and finding a mysterious (and very sus) book, Handbook of the Recently Deceased, leads our sappy duo to finally accept their newfound un-livingness. They’re ghosts and there’s nothing they can do about it.

'Beetlejuice' Recipes

Enjoy these delightful delicacies inspired by the iconic movie:

Cocktail-Style Shrimp and Mediterranean Orzo

Bloody 'Tini

spinner image cocktail-style shrimp and mediterranean orzo on a black plate beside a glass of bloody martini

OK, fine. This is fine! They’ll just live out their days in their bucolic home. But a car arrives carrying cloying city folk Charles, Delia and Lydia Deetz (impeccably played by Jeffrey Jones, Catherine O’Hara and Winona Ryder), along with a very hands-on interior designer, and with them big plans to turn the charming and rustic home the Maitlands had recently bought into a postmodern rigid spector. It’s too much for Adam and Babs, and to pile it on, they find they have no ghost scaring abilities. Even worse? Bureaucracy also exists in the afterlife, and their caseworker tells them they are stuck in their house for 125 years.

Drastic times call for drastic measures, and they ask the outgoing and disgusting Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton in one of his favorite roles), who has a reputation for exterminating the living by scaring them to death, to help them out. Good plan.

What follows is a loose lesson on villains and heroes. Who is the real hero here, anyway? Is it the crusty Beetlejuice, who leaps to life on-screen by spitting into his own coat and spinning his head in circles? The attractive young dead couple, desperate to have their home emptied of the annoying city folk? The delightfully Goth daughter, Lydia — Ryder in black, pointy, hair-sprayed bangs — who wishes she, too, could die, so that she could commiserate with those who understand her best? Or are we all here just trying to do our best with what we’re given?

spinner image Beetlejuice movie poster with Michael Keaton as the lead character sitting on a house holding Alec Baldwin's head, and Geena Davis in a bridal gown and a headless Alec Baldwin in a tux on either side of him
Warner Brothers/Courtesy Everett Collection

Where to Watch Beetlejuice?

There are many websites and apps you can use to find out where to watch films, including:

We want the house back, the couple nestled in their suburban bed, the plot restored to pre-Delia times. But if beating out death is not feasible — not in real life, for certain, and not in the storyline of Beetlejuice, either, no matter what the story’s titular villain promises — at least allow us the momentary joy of watching the cocktail shrimp, possessed by ghosts, get their revenge on the dinner guests. At the end of the uproariously funny scene, musically guided by “Day O (The Banana Boat Song),” by Harry Belafonte, the wrathful appetizers get their raw-bar revenge, grabbing and wrapping around the guests’ faces. This will definitely get them to leave.

But of course, in the end, Delia is not scared by her spectral encounter. To the contrary: She sees it as art nouveau, as a performative offering that may, in fact, make her rich. Ghosts in the shrimp? Totally OK. And in the film’s denouement, the family concludes that ghosts are actually better for us all, that the supernatural and natural are inextricably linked. Let us live together, hand in hand, living and undead, in harmony.

A calypso tune comes on once again in the closing scene. This time, it’s “Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora),” composed by Lord Kitchener in 1952 and made famous in 1961 by our musical genius from earlier in the film, Harry Belafonte. Ryder’s Lydia rises in the air as the rocking chair keeps the beat. The Winter River house looks much as it did in the film’s opening scene: historic, maybe a little dated. Comfy. Well loved. The Deetzes dance. All the spirits join in. Couldn’t you go for a celebratory shrimp cocktail and a drink right about now? Maybe we all could.

 

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