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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Keanu Reeves: the Return of “Bill & Ted” and the Path From Johnny Utah to Shane Falco

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It is the end of the summer for 2020 and we are quickly approaching the often-vaunted fall lineup of films. Keep in mind that around THESE parts, the summer is about two months longer compared to the rest of the country. So, “fall” means something entirely different to all of us.

As if things have not been crazy enough, a bevy of movies this year have been moved around like a game of musical chairs and it has been nearly impossible to keep up with the constant changes going on, in the midst. If you take one look at the top Box Office list on, say, Rotten Tomatoes, you will find that a number of films are there that would not normally belong. You see, in order to keep up with consumer demands AND attempt to turn some kind of a profit, in the minds of the movie theater industry, resorting to nostalgic screenings has become the preferred method.

Speaking of nostalgia, a perpetual exploitation of cult fans has been utilized for many years in the form of remakes and sequels. While it is true that most sequels occur within fairly close proximity to the timing of the former release, over the past several years, an apparent gap has surfaced. For example, Dumb and Dumber To was a direct follow-up to Dumb and Dumber, but the space between these two films was almost two, full decades. Surely, those involved did not originally plan things that way. I feel that I should note that I do NOT consider the supposed prequel to the original movie, from 2003, as a worthy inclusion to the franchise because the Farrelly Bros. had no connection to that project, aside from the use in likeness of their created characters.

Having said all that, when I first caught wind of the upcoming sequel to the Bill & Ted franchise, my cynical mind immediately assumed that this was simply the latest attempt at a “cash grab” for the production company known as “Orion.” Incidentally, Orion Pictures was the distributor for the previous two entries, but now that role belongs to MGM, which happens to own United Artists (the listed U.S. distributor). Be that as it may, Bill & Ted Face the Music has managed to create an even larger time gap between itself and its predecessor than the aforementioned example I just gave, but if the film is legitimately “good,” then it will not matter what actually motivated the release of this movie.

Thus far, according to Rotten Tomatoes, at this present time, the film has garnered a nearly-identical response from both the critics and average viewing audiences. It seems unlikely that it will be able to dodge a loss of money, as is the case with virtually all current movie releases, but since this one was made on a relatively small budget by today’s standards (which is around $25M), the losses will not be as dramatic. I know, it is merely a silver lining, but it is better than nothing, at THIS point.

As I surfed the streaming wave earlier today, I came across a movie that I had not watched or even talked about for some time. It is entitled The Replacements, starring Keanu Reeves as a “washed-up” football player, who is then granted a rare opportunity to redeem himself as a once-successful Quarterback, though it be some years removed from his former glory days. As I watched the character of Shane Falco emerge from his shell, I quickly remembered a previous role from Reeves’ past that seemed to be eerily similar: Johnny Utah, the lead protagonist of Point Break (from 1991). Of course, these are, in reality, two, distinctive characters, but I thought to myself, “Would it not be fun to see if there is a way to connect those two into one and see if a fun, albeit nerdy, theory could be created?” As I sit right now, I, also, wonder if it has been tried before. After all, “…there is nothing new under the sun.” However, with each new crop, there requires a fresh watering, even if the older crops have received something very similar. So…

Let us assume that Utah shares the same, exact birthday as the actor who portrayed him: September 4th, 1964. Assuming that the end of Point Break takes place at the time of its theatrical release, we can, also, safely assume that the story begins about one year prior. That means we are in the summer of 1990. Further support for everything I have just tallied is given when Johnny Utah utters to a boy inside of a surfboard shop, “I’m 25!” In the summer of 1990, Reeves was, indeed, 25 years old.

Later on in the story, Utah’s character is having a conversation about his collegiate career as a football player and it is disclosed that he beat USC in the Rose Bowl about three years prior, playing for Ohio State. This would have made Utah 22 at the time and would likely mean that he was, also, a Senior. He further states that due to an injury sustained in that bowl game, he had to have surgery for two years and missed his window into the pros. Now, he probably WAS studying to become a lawyer, as he claimed, but, of course, he deceptively left out the bit about being recruited to the FBI. Just FYI, in policing terms, this would be known as “tolerated deception.”

As it happens, the FBI proved to be too much for Utah and just a year later, where the film ends, he symbolically tosses his badge into the ocean, conveying that he was leaving the force. So, what might have Utah done in the coming years? Well, is it possible that he decided to return to athletics and give the pros another try? I do not see why not. Of course, it would have been too late for Utah to be drafted for the upcoming season, so let us fast-forward to 1992…

On second thought, allow me to connect the glue between the identities of Johnny Utah and Shane Falco. Remember: HE was the lead protagonist in The Replacements. There is no discussion revealing where Falco came from or even where he played college football, unless I missed something… Indeed, I did. As it turns out, he went to Ohio State! So, this simplifies things for the theory. If there is one hole to fill, it is when a character mentions Falco playing in the Sugar Bowl in 1996. Well, for the sake of this theory, I am going to assume that this character misspoke and meant to say, “1986,” which would have placed Falco in college around the same time as Utah. If Falco was once Utah, then he simply would have been a Junior that season, just one year ahead of his playing days mentioned in Point Break.

This brings me to the most complicated detail in the whole theory: his name. Yes, I am taking liberty with some assumptions, but please hear me out… If you were Utah and had just had the experience he went through, would you possibly be looking for a new identity? Consider the mindset of Utah throughout the story. He tells lies about his background, here and there, to gain position for what he wants, whether it be to crack a big case for the FBI or even to win favor with certain people of interest. Does that sound like the kind of person who might seek something like a name change? Somehow, to me, it DOES.

So, why the name “Shane Falco,” then? Well, again, there is no background info given in The Replacements, so that gives me some more room for filling in the hole. Growing up, I knew of a novel, which was later made into a movie, entitled Shane. It takes place in Wyoming in the late 1800s and is about a gunslinger who meets a family and proceeds to protect their ranch from thieves of a sort. Although Ohio is not often lumped into the “Western Frontier” mold, back in the 1970s, the genre of Westerns was far more popular than it became as time went on. Is it possible that Utah might have watched the Dallas Cowboys in their heyday and been a fan of all things cowboy for a segment of time? Yes, I believe so. In that case, let us assume that Utah read the book and/or watched the film Shane and remembered it as a intricate part of his childhood days.

That leaves his last name, “Falco.” Well, depending on how old someone was at a specific time in history, video games were a part of our lives. Admittedly, the people of the 1960s are more prone to old arcades and Atari, but what if a man of the 1960s was in a transition phase in the early 1990s and he decided to take up the latest in video games? The Super Nintendo was the hottest system in those days and what games could look more appealing to those with a background in law enforcement? Shooters, of course. Better yet, flying shooters. As it happens, in the first quarter of 1993, Star Fox made its way to the Super Nintendo system and one of the primary NPCs of the game was named “Falco.” He is still remembered for his rather arrogant persona and blunt delivery, but there are bound to be those who like him. Perhaps, that would be someone who could relate to him, like an arrogant football QB or a blunt FBI agent.

The only trouble now is that it delays the time table for when Shane Falco was to begin his time playing with the team in Seattle, which was mentioned in The Replacements. Keep in mind that this particular movie was released in the summer of 2000, which would have to mean that it was covering the Washington Sentinels’ yearbook, in a manner of speaking, for the 1999 season. There is no specific year given for when Falco played with the professional football team in Seattle, but I can venture to guess that it might have been 1996. Yes, I am double-backing my “fix” from earlier, but for the sake of filling in the hole, I am taking further liberty on this occasion. With all that said, there is, now, no actual trouble with the time table in connection with Johnny Utah’s legal name change to Shane Falco. While it takes time to go through the full process of a legitimate name change, if Falco was signed by Seattle in 1996, there would have been about three years of time for him to change his name from Johnny Utah and get back in playing shape for professional football.

So, there you have it! The foundation for this theory has been set down, but how strong will it be? Only time will tell. Of course, you should also recall what I said at the top. Yes, this is just in good fun. You can recite some of the lyrics from the original Mystery Science Theater 3000 television show jingle if that helps you in any way. Yes, it DID help me, for your own information, if you need it.

Has anyone else ever wondered what happened to the Washington Sentinels in the 1999 playoffs? My guess is that they were probably bounced in the opening round. Yearbook videos tend to gloss over post-season defeats, after all. Shane Falco (AKA Johnny Utah) likely never played another down in the sport, at least as a professional in The United States, but who knows? Maybe he joined a team in the Canadien Football League or the Arena Football League. I could envision that. Might a suggest that this article or some other source could lead to a new cash grab involving the backstory of Shane Falco? The possibilities seem innumerable. Mr Keanu Reeves, are you ready to reprise THIS role now?… Well, perhaps after you are finished making The Matrix 4 (shrugs).

In the mean time, let us all safely enjoy football season, whether it be for the pro level, collegiate level or even the youth level. I believe that is what someone like Johnny Utah/Shane Falco would want and/or say. Well, that, and, “Vaya con dios.”

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