Last December, the annual "Black List" was released through unofficial channels in Los Angeles. It's a fairly recent tradition, a list of scripts that have been circulated in Hollywood, where a shadowy group of agents and managers and development executives vote for their favorite unproduced scripts. Unsurprisingly, many of those scripts end up being produced soon after each year's list is released.
I guess I thought the list was all about spec scripts, original work, but this year, there were a number of assignments that ended up on the list as well. One that I found particularly surprising was "Jonny Quest," not because I think it's going to be bad or because I have some issue with the film... I just was startled to see that many people had that strong a reaction to it. Definitely made it one to keep an eye out for.
[more after the jump]
I spent a decent amount of time on the set of this spring's "Race To Witch Mountain," and the first thing I noticed was the chemistry between director Andy Fickman and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. "Race" is their second film together, following "The Game Plan," and I suspect we're going to see a number of films from the two of them. If "Jonny Quest" is one of them, that might be a good thing. Fickman is a cartoon, so he's definitely qualified to bring a cartoon to life, and Johnson would make a great Race Bannon. Hell, what kid wouldn't want a bodyguard/best friend like Johnson?
There are a couple of things that bear mentioning, though. First, in a post-"Venture Brothers" world, the only way to make "Jonny Quest" is 100% camp-free, and the script by Dan Mazeau is a huge step in the right direction. It's a serious action film, but it's fun without making fun of itself. And the thing they get most right... they thing they HAVE to get right... is the relationship between Race and Jonny.
And, yes... Jonny is 12 years old in the script. As he should be.
I had a conversation with the producers on the film, Daniel Alter and Adrian Askerieh, a few months ago, and they posed the question then about the age. Obviously, "Speed Racer" is a huge concern right now, because no matter what you feel about the film (personally, I dig it a lot), its failure has got to have executives closely eyeing any project that's even remotely similar. And the question that seemed to be giving them the shits when we spoke was "What age do you make Jonny?"
I think the IESB.net interview has a great point from Dwayne Johnson, though, when they're talking about that exact point:
IESB: He has to be a kid who needs to be taken care of, and if he's 17, 18 years old who's taking care of him? He's a dude.
Dwayne Johnson: [laughing] Right, right, a dude taking care of another dude. Then it becomes creepy.
Exactly right. The whole point of the script is that Race is hired to be Jonny's bodyguard after a whole string of failed bodyguards who can't keep up with him. Their relationship is the thing the entire movie hinges on. Yes, the action set pieces are great, but the human side of the script is what pushes it over the top and is, I would argue, the reason it made The Black List.
I'm not some rabid Jonny Quest fanboy, and I'm not speaking out of some rampant nostalgia for the property. Honestly, I'm not going to lose sleep about it either way. But if Warner Bros. is actively chewing on this issue right now, and if Fickman and Johnson are working to help the producers solve the problem, then maybe one more voice in the mix can help, and as much as Zac Efron is a rising star with a fanbase that Warner would no doubt love to tap, the best thing for the film would be to cast younger. Find the right kid. Find a real Jonny Quest. Let Dwayne Johnson sell the tickets. Let the kid carry the movie.
Besides... isn't Zac Efron supposed to be making "Footloose" at the exact same time they're talking about making this one?
It's intriguing, and we'll keep you posted as the film moves forward in development.
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