Oh No They Di'int!! -- episode 1

For quite a number of years now I've been a casual fan of the classic '60s animated adventure series Jonny Quest. I'm not nearly as into it as I am Star Trek, Quantum Leap, or other series, but I like it enough to have collected the excellently done '80s comic book series published by Comico, and to have bought the DVD set when it came out a few years back -- and the '90s TV retooling of it probably stoked my interest in it too. I'm also familiar enough with it to know that, for a good 20 years or so, there's been talk of a live-action feature film version being in the works. Indeed, in issue #1 of Starlog Press' "Comics Scene" magazine, published in 1987 and which I just consulted, there was a small sidebar article in which Fred Dekker, director of the then soon-to-be-released Monster Squad, was gearing up to go into pre-production on it. But now, after more false starts than Bandit can shake a stick at, Hollywood appears to have finally shifted into high gear on the project, thanks most likely to the list of high-profile retro animation reboots and comic book hero adaptations.

But, all is not quite rosy in Quest land, at least if you ask me. What's bothering me, specifically? The actor they've all but officially confirmed as being cast in the title role ... Zac Efron. (His IMDB page still says he's only "rumored" to be cast, so I'm still holding out hope.) Now, understand that I don't have anything against Mr. Efron personally, or even critically; he's a decent actor and a good-lookin' dude (whether he deserves all the adulation and adoration that's been heaped upon him is a debate for another time ... or not, since it's not a subject fit for this blog) ... I just think he's flat-out wrong for the part. He's too old to play the Jonny we know and love -- in the original series, he was 11 years old, and in the '90s update he was in his early teens -- and Efron basically looks his age, which is, as I said, too old. Are they wanting to cast a big name primarily to draw the crowds to the theaters? The Jonny Quest brand arguably carries enough of its own weight to bring in not only the people who grew up watching the show, but their grandkids and the nostalgia buffs, so the producers should feel reasonably free to seek out a lesser-known name, or even an unknown -- a younger (or at least younger-looking) actor, with a closer visual resemblance to Jonny, good acting chops, and a bit of an athletic inclination certainly wouldn't hurt (for the potentially demanding physicality that the role would implicitly demand). Surely, with the population of this country, a young man matching those criteria couldn't be too hard to find.

But then, the whole "pulling the crowds in with the Jonny Quest brand" thing might be moot, because the producers are -- get this -- considering not even calling the movie (or, presumably, the character) Jonny Quest at all! More absurdly, they're basing this thinking on the box-office failure of the recent live-action Speed Racer movie. Uh ... what?!? Not only were the original JQ and SR animated series not even produced in the same country, let alone by the same people, but as far as I know the Speed Racer movie wasn't written or directed by any of the same people who'll be involved in Jonny Quest. So why are they automatically presuming it'll be a failure? I can just hear the JQ writer and director, whoever they may be, now: Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence, studio mucky-mucks. But then, the Hollywood studios don't appear to have ever placed a whole lot of stock in outside-the-box thinking anyway. But, I digress. If they're going to make a Jonny Quest movie without calling it Jonny Quest, then what's the point? And what, exactly, is making the studio bigwigs assume that such a strategy won't backfire on them, and cause the movie to be an even bigger flop than it would have been if they'd kept the Jonny Quest title?!?

But, back to the question of who to cast in the role of Jonny. I'd have to think about already established names in that age group, but the one that comes to mind first is junior Gossip Girl cast member Connor Paolo. He looks like he's still firmly in his mid-teens (and I think a JQ movie would work better with Jonny at that age), and even has a bit of a Jonny Quest look to him. Sure, he's naturally dark-haired, but he looks pretty good with dyed hair and could always wear colored contacts. But then, does Jonny even really need to be a blond? (But, like the above question, that can wait till later.) He's a pretty good actor, to boot -- was kind-of creepy in his Law & Order: SVU appearance recently (not that JQ would demand creepy acting) -- and could probably hold his own with the physical stuff. So, how about it, Hollywood? Connor could use a big feature-film break, and I'd bet he could pull this one off with flying colors.

No comments: