You know the movie “Beetlejuice” has become intertwined into pop culture when you see Robin Thicke wearing the black and white Beetlejuice suit while Miley Cyrus twerked on MTV’s Video Music Awards. Whether intentional or not, the fashion must have been on someone’s mind. And considering you still hear quotes from the original film being uttered here and there, it’s borderline odd there hasn’t been a rush job getting a sequel out sooner. You can forget the non-canon animated Saturday morning series from the early 1990s.
Now that a theatrical sequel really is going to happen, how can it be done so it doesn’t feel like it’s cashing in? With concerns from writer Seth Grahame-Smith (who’s writing the screenplay), you have to wonder if he’s painted himself into a corner. You can’t always do a sequel more than 25 years later and not make it look completely unnecessary. It’s the same reason a sequel to “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” still festers.
Perhaps the only way to mask it all is to make it completely absurd in a way that renews the whole concept. Tim Burton wanted to take it in said way back in the early 1990s when an idea was created of having Beetlejuice in Hawaii. Yes, “Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian” sounds like an infiltration of the beach movies from the 1960s, which might have been the point. In fact, it gives a hint that perhaps the next Beetlejuice should exist out of time considering his surreal qualities might look like he fits in too comfortably with today’s society.
If there was any criticism of the original film it was that some 1987 critics felt Beetlejuice didn’t fit in with the main plot of the story. Of course, the main idea was to subvert the conventional romantic story with an absurd ghost straight out of a vaudevillian show. Whether good or not, the world is a far different place now from 1987 where absurdity is seen in the news on a daily basis.
Since we’ll assume Beetlejuice can cross boundaries of time, why not go back and see him interact in a different time period? Envisioning the character infiltrating the 1950s or 1960s would bring the proper imbalance necessary for Beetlejuice to make any radical statement. With those eras even more remote from the 2010s than 1987, it’s really the only hope without seeing Beetlejuice getting a reality show deal in 2013.
We also need to see the 1950s or ’60s through this prism after far too many serious movies taking place in the era. At least we got a little sense of that infiltration in movies “Back to the Future” and “Pleasantville” where the ’50s universe was somewhat turned on its ear through irony rather than absurdity. It’s much more fun, though, when the absurd infiltration happens from a ghost who can do a lot more to disrupt things than Marty McFly or the leads of “Pleasantville” did.
Nobody says that Alec Baldwin or Geena Davis have to be left out either. Thoughts might be that both are too old now, even if age doesn’t matter if Baldwin and Davis play their 1950s-era descendants. As far as Winona Ryder, she can still play Beetlejuice’s significant other, or a descendant of Lydia Deetz who ironically ends up in the same situation.
We have to hope writer Grahame-Smith thinks seriously about moving Beetlejuice away from the present day in some capacity. No doubt getting it perfect keeps him up at night, even if there could be alternatives. After all, seeing Beetlejuice infiltrate today’s ghost-chasing reality shows would technically be worth the price of admission.