If I’m reading Deadline correctly, Seth Grahame-Smith, the talented writer of the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and the upcoming Tim Burton big screen adaptation of “Dark Shadows” starring Johnny Depp, can’t seem to come up with an idea of his own. The relatively new talent who has previously updated Jane Austen and the BBC now has his sights set on writing a reboot/sequel to Burton’s own Michael Keaton classic, Beetle Juice. To be fair, I haven’t read his second novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and considering my own creative impulses I can’t really argue with the source of his inspiration, but he seems on the forefront of young talent who can mine gold from others works without needing to create his own.
It’s possible I’m merely professionally jealous, but that said, I don’t care how good his Dark Shadows script may be, a second Beetle Juice flick was a bad idea when Tim Burton abandoned Beetle Juice Goes Hawaiian in 1989, and it’s probably not a very good idea today. The fact that his producing partner just happens to be DreamWorks President Jeffrey Katzenberg’s son doesn’t really excite the imagination, either. Exactly who’s fancy is a new Beetle Juice meant to strike?
Those who saw and/or enjoy the original certainly aren’t lining up for a new one the same way fans of the first Fright Night weren’t waiting with baited breath for the Colin Farrell version, no matter how not-terrible it ended up being. New audiences wouldn’t even remember the Saturday Morning Cartoon version, much less care about the grotesque romanticism of a pinstriped ghoul when shirtless werewolves and sparkly vampires are the daily grind. The soap operaticism of modern horror lends a new Dark Shadows some logical sense where a Beetle Juice simply doesn’t, especially when everyone involved says they don’t have “remake” in mind, but a continuation of the original film…
Michael Keaton and Geena Davis have both previously said they would jump at the chance to make another, but when was the last time either of them opened a major theatrical release, much less what is likely to be a summer tent-pole blockbuster with emphasis on 3D and CGI? I’m a fan of both, but both are supplementing Hollywood’s dearth of non-blockbusters in straight-to-DVD flicks of varying quality. Besides, we all know that if Tim Burton directs or produces a follow-up to Beetle Juice, it will star Johnny Depp in the title role, and likely replace Winona Ryder with Helena Bonham Carter. Of course, looking at that from a studio perspective, it’s hard to argue with the box office successes of Burton’s recent slide into soulless garishness.
So, while I’m certain Depp and/or Bonham Carter could do justice to the undead con-artist and his former teen bride, without Michael Keaton, a new Beetle Juice is simply another edition of Who Were The Ad Wizards Who Came Up With That One? Still, I think Michael Keaton should be in everything, so if he does reprise the Ghostest with the Mostest, I’ll definitely be at the multiplex with bells on. Sans bells.
Rob Payne also writes the indie comic The Unstoppable Force, co-hosts the internet radio show We’re Not Fanboys, and avoids sandworms as best he can on the Twitter @RobOfWar. He totally had Beetle Juice toys growing up, but that still doesn’t mean sequel is a good idea