The Beetlejuice 2 trailer left me wishing Adam and Barbara were a part of the sequel

If I told you how many times I've rewound the part where Alec Baldwin's character Adam Maitland first encounters the titular ghost in Tim Burton's Beetlejuice, you'd give me a concerned look and immediately confiscate my TV remote. The actor's slack-jawed reaction is several seconds too late, absurdly hammy, and has been cracking me and my pals up since we first watched the film in the '90s. Back then, we'd play it on a loop in the wee hours of every sleepover, and roll about the floor giggling – eyes glistening with happy tears. I'm literally laughing at the thought of it as I'm writing right now…

It's just a split-second, silly goof that Burton clearly didn't think was noticeable enough to shoot again or cut out of the final edit but, to me, it perfectly sums up something I've long argued about Beetlejuice, and that's that Adam and his wife Barbara (Geena Davis) are the best, and funniest, part. Seeing the way they respond to the wild things that are happening around them is where the film's true magic lies. Given that, it'll probably come as no surprise that I'm concerned they won't be back for the upcoming sequel; a worry that has been ever so slightly amplified by the new movie's recently released glossy teaser.

Michael Keaton as Betelgeuse in Beetlejuice

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

You see, for all its kooky zaniness, Beetlejuice wouldn't work as well without awkward, "straight man" characters like Adam and Barbara to bounce every gag off of. They're a hilariously boring pair, who spend their days reading or doing things like building miniature towns in the attic. It will never not be funny that they perished on their way back home from buying… decorating supplies. (If you've not seen Beetlejuice yet, you should know that Adam and Barbara die at the start, before enlisting the help of Michael Keaton's eponymous trickster to help spook away their home's horrid new occupants). They're the complete antithesis of your typical exciting hero and are all the better for it. As the deliciously dull duo are comically thrust into – and struggle to adjust to – the chaotic world of afterlifes, bio-exorcists, and giant sandworms, they grab our hands and pull us along with 'em, and it's not too much of a stretch to imagine how we, too, would fare in such a bonkers situation. 

Yes, fan-favorite characters Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder) and her stepmother Delia (Catherine O'Hara) are human in the 1988 original, but they're still eccentric and extreme. The former is a depressed teen with a spiked fringe and a macabre interest in the paranormal, while the latter is a temperamental sculptor with a penchant for screeching who's… played by Catherine O'Hara. They're brilliant fictional creations – and instant icons with their unique looks and memorable one-liners – but they're not relatable in the same way our domestic leads are.

Now, Beetlejuice 2 – officially titled Beetlejuice Beetlejuice – is set to introduce Lydia's daughter Astrid, and there's every possibility she'll fill the void left behind by the Maitlands. The teaser is brief but it does show her lifting the cover away from Adam's miniature town, before Betelgeuse (Keaton) emerges from it in a later scene, suggesting she's partly responsible for his comeback. We don't know all that much about the newbie yet, though, and provided she's a Deetz and played by inherently gothy-looking Wednesday star Jenna Ortega, we can safely assume she won't be ordinary.

I do get it. There are reasons Adam and Barbara are unlikely to show up in the follow-up. (It seems worth noting here that while they've not been confirmed to return and didn't appear in the teaser, Warner Bros. has not categorically stated they're not involved). "I have a feeling ghosts don't age. How would they explain that they're older?" Davis previously asked PEOPLE back in late 2022, going some way to explain why she and Baldwin won't be reprising the roles 36 years on.

Cinemagoers' wants and needs have changed drastically in the last three decades, too, and unfortunately, subtlety – particularly in legacy sequels – is a dying art. Is your movie even successful nowadays if it doesn't birth hundreds of thousands of memes, or fans don't share screenshots of your main characters declaring them "mother!"? Whimsy, too. The clip opening on a funeral, complete with choir boys singing a slowed down version of 'Day-O', suggests it's going to be a More Serious than what came before it.

Beetlejuice Beetlejuice was always going to be bigger than its $15 million-budgeted predecessor, and despite my anxieties, I can't wait to be back in that world again. I just hope that it remembers what made the original as special as it is. Adam and Barbara Maitland, gone but not forgotten. 

Beetlejuice Beetlejuice releases on September 6. In the meantime, check out our breakdown of the most exciting upcoming movies heading our way.

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.