In 1990, Tim Burton hired Jonathan Gems (Mars Attacks!) to write a sequel to the lovable freak-show that was 1988’s Beetlejuice. Burton ultimately chose to make Batman Returns, and thank God for that; Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian would likely have been a step backwards for Burton after the creative triumph of Edward Scissorhands. At times, the script is so bad, it reads like a parody of bad sequels.
Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian was to reunite most of the major players from the original film, with two crucial exceptions: Barbara and Adam Maitland, played respectively by Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin. The original film began with Barbara and Adam dying in a car accident and their deaths gave the original film a poignancy and weight that’s nowhere to be found in the sequel. The Maitlands were also relatable straight-arrows and since we can’t share in their exasperation over spending time with the annoying Deetz family, nor relate to their shock over any of the madcap supernatural events, Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian flat lines. It also doesn’t help that the film is a virtual re-write of the first movie with a Hawaiian setting and a bigger ending.
You might recall that at the end of the original film, the perverted demon Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) is banished after the Maitland ghosts decide to share their house with the Deetz family, having grown fond of their young psychic daughter, Lydia (Winona Ryder). The sequel finds Beetlejuice back in the afterlife, shacked up with a sexy burn victim he isn’t attracted to and working in a supernatural supermarket. He’s still dejected and bitter over his failure at the end of the first film, and longs to be married to Lydia so that he can become mortal.
Meanwhile, the now college-aged Lydia is visiting a Hawaiian tropical island, Kanooka, where her eternally obnoxious parents are planning to open a fancy hotel, “The Deetz Paradise.” A group of local beatnicks are upset that the hotel will ruin the island’s environment but their complaints to Deetz fall on deaf ears. In addition to the beatnicks, a band of ancient Hawaiian ghosts are none to pleased about the hotel; they try to recruit Beetlejuice to frighten away Deetz and his developers, but he declines because his license to scare has been revoked.
Lydia begins to hang out with the beatnicks and quickly falls in love with one of them, a handsome surfer named Kimo. A local holy man, Mr. Maui, also teaches Lydia to use her psychic abilities to conjure tidal waves in the ocean, helping endear her to her surfer buddies.
Matters are complicated when the beatnicks kidnap Lydia’s dad in an effort to convince him to cancel the hotel’s opening. Kimo and his friends are arrested and Lydia has no choice but to call on Beetlejuice once more so that he can frighten the intruders off the island.
An extended effects sequence has Lydia visiting the afterlife to find Beetlejuice. There are some neat creatures along the way like the “Hipnoids” (headless ghosts who dress like pop-stars and suck spaghetti into their necks) but the sequence goes on forever and nothing that Lydia encounters there tops the monsters from famous “waiting room” scene in the first film.
Beetlejuice agrees to scare off the developers in exchange for his license, which Lydia is able to acquire. After the “Ghost with the Most” springs her friends from captivity, Lydia grants him three days to horse around on the beach before fulfilling his promise to spook the developers and tourists. Here, Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian finally differs a bit from the original film’s structure: Beetlejuice, his heart still set on marrying Lydia, creates a rift between her and Kimo, first leading the surfer astray by enticing him with another woman (she’s secretly a cactus… don’t ask) and then seducing Lydia by drugging her with a love potion. This stretch of the film gives Beetlejuice a chance to engage in the dirt-bag magic tricks that made the original film fun while allowing him to make use of the fresh scenery, playing volleyball, doing the limbo, etc. He even sets poor Otho, (the rotund interior designer from the first film) on fire to prevent him from banishing him back to the afterlife. Most important, Beeteljuice also uses magic to put Lydia in a bikini, so that’s one upsetting thing to come from this film not getting made.
Posing as an oil tycoon, Beetlejuice convinces the Deetzes to allow him to marry hypnotized-Lydia on the day of the hotel’s grand opening. Kimo figures out what Beetlejuice is up to and when he tries to stop the wedding, all hell breaks loose, with Beetlejuice transforming into the enormous creature “Juicifer,” and wreaking havoc on the island with the help of re-animated dinosaur skeletons and the Easter Island Heads, which pull themselves out of the ground and reveal themselves to be buried giants (the Easter Island Heads eventually found a home in Mars Attacks! where the Martians used them as over-sized bowling pins).
The tourists are nearly killed by Beetlejuice and his army of monsters but Lydia, having snapped out of the love spell, comes to everyone’s rescue by summoning an enormous tidal wave that wipes the creatures off the island, along with her father’s hotel. Just before Beetlejuice can exact vengeance on Lydia and murder her with a dagger, Otho says the demon’s name three times and sends him back to the afterlife. Lydia and Kimo are happily reunited, the island is to become a nature reserve and Beetlejuice, after accidentally drinking his own love potion, falls for the neglected burn victim he lives with back home.
While the climactic sequence might have been an enjoyable special effects blow-out, it’s still probably best that Beetlejuice never became a franchise. If the relationship between Lydia and the Maitlands was the soul of the first film, the soul of this film is a flat love story between Lydia and her surfer beau. Also, whereas the character of Beetlejuice was used sparingly in the original, there’s too much of him this time around and he becomes a bit unbearable. So while I’d have liked to have heard Danny Elfman do an all-out Hawaiian Beetljuice score, I don’t think it would have justified this movie’s existence. Then again, if they’d made this movie, they could have called part three Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice Beetlejuice.