Thursday, February 11, 2010

SMCS Companion Piece #4: Danger Mouse

Sorry abut the delay. I was busy.

This week on the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show DJ Muppet and I watched Danger Mouse, a particularly entertaining British cartoon that ran from 1981 to 1992. There’s not much for me to say about this show other than it was miles ahead of most cartoons in terms of comedic writing, though it being a British cartoon so it may be unfair to hold it to the standards of a typically dumbed-down American cartoon. Anyway the fact is I wasn’t too sure on what to write this week’s companion piece. Then, randomly as I was doing some useless thing or other last week, it hit me: wouldn’t Danger Mouse make a great film? Crap, I immediately said to myself. If I had that thought you know Hollywood must have had it too. While it’s something of a terrifying subject matter I had come across my topic for the week.

Should Danger Mouse Be Made Into a Movie?

I want to be very clear about this: I’m talking about a Hollywood produced film. As in “American Made.” While I doubt England would bother making a film like this on their own if they were do so any reservations I had would be somewhat relieved. The movie would probably be CGI, as is the style these days. There have been rumors of such a film being planned but nothing has come of it so far. However there have been lots of cartoons turned into live action movies so I guess anything is possible.

Now if you read my Transformers Timeline from a few weeks ago you’ll recall that during the 2000s Hollywood ran out of ideas and began looking for non-movie franchise to turn into cash cow blockbusters. Obviously this happened to Transformers, but the list of cartoons and comic books (And fantasy book series, but that’s another blog for another day) that were also licensed is sizable. Old cartoons/kid shows have been pretty hit or miss as far as the quality goes (I believe they usually bomb in Box Office though) but part of that problem is, unlike with comic books, these films are usually marketed for children and, since Hollywood thinks your kids are stupid, they tend to lack depth. Emotionally I would love to see Danger Mouse on the big screen simply because it would mean someone is making new content for a franchise I loved when I was a kid. The problem is that I have zero confidence in movie makers’ ability to produce a film with that possesses all the elements that made the series so great. Let’s look at some recent cartoon/kid shows that have had silver screen adaptations.

Alvin & The Chipmunks

Pictured: The reason no one over Age 10 wanted to see this film

Most people seem to agree that this film was terrible despite its success at the box office, but I’ll go against the grain here and say that I actually didn’t hate this film. Sure I thought Jason Lee as Dave was about as compelling as a pet rock and David Cross’ character to be an insanely two-dimensional villain but aside from that I wasn’t offended by the film. There were even parts I thought were hilarious. By itself it was an inoffensive movie that was fine to bring your kids to. Its sequel squeakquel from what I understand ignored a lot of the character development from the first film and even wrote Dave out of the movie in favor of his cousin Tobey so we could once again see a comically out of place father figure dealing with talking animals as sons while at the same time trying to win the heart of the girl of his dreams. Just like in the first one. I’m giving this franchise an F.

Speed Racer

Still better than The Matrix squeals

Again I have to disagree with a lot of the hate for this movie. Sure it wasn’t Fight Club but what movie is? It was cheesy and corny but if you thought that was somehow inappropriate then you clearly never saw the source material. Sure the Spritle and Chim Chim parts could get a little lame (But they could be pretty amusing too) and one of Chim Chim’s actors was apparently a vicious monster on the set but really I thought the movie was entertaining. The visuals of the races are probably subjective, but I liked them. This gets a B, but since it did below the studio’s expectations at the box office I doubt there will be a sequel squeakquel anytime soon.

Astro Boy

More exciting than the actual film

Simply put this movie was just disappointing. This film itself was really mediocre with its pacing and conflict resolution and several actors (coughNickCagecoughcough) sounded like they just phoned in their performances in order to cash a check. Still it’s hard to make a movie based on something like Astro Boy as it was an early example of anime being altered for American audiences but as I understand it every other “modern” interpretation of the show/manga were more received warmly. This one not so much. The real weird thing about this movie was that it was clear that the studios were marketing it to children and that it was certainly written for them as well. But dude, this isn’t like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which has had a presence in America since the 1980s; this is freaking Astro Boy! This was a cartoon that my parents watched as young kids! The demographic you were trying to grab could theoretically be the grandchildren of the original fans and probably have no idea what Astro Boy is/was. You’d think they’d be better off targeting the nostalgia crowd and making a film that adults would like. I’m an adult and was bored through the entire film. You get a D!

So basically with those examples (And there are a lot more) we pretty much learn nothing. Danger Mouse could be a decent property or it could be crap. It really depends on who’s doing the writing, directing, and who it’s marketed for. Hopefully they get some of the original writers on board since as we all know if the creators are involved with a re-imagining then it can’t be bad. Right?

Oh yeah. Nevermid.

Are there any cartoons turned movies that you loved/hated? Let me know.

For more on Danger Mouse click here

For the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show Blog click here

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