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Review: Mashup Monday with “Tom and Jerry: Spy Quest” and “Scooby-Doo Meets KISS”


It’s Mashup Monday, where we look at two slightly unlikely properties combining to make some surprisingly fun entertainment value.

Tom and Jerry Spy QuestI freely admit I wasn’t impressed enough by Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes enough to keep seeking out the subsequent Tom and Jerry movies. That film struck me as a movie made by people who loved both properties and understood them both deeply, but failed to see mixing the two together didn’t play to either one’s strengths. However, any feelings of skepticism to the new movie Tom and Jerry: Spy Quest were soon quashed. The movie unites Hanna-Barbera’s famed cat and mouse pair with Jonny Quest, and I don’t think I’m giving away too much by saying they end up saving the world by smashing into things (including each other) repeatedly.

Beachside shenanigans between Tom and Jerry bring them into contact with boy adventurers Jonny Quest and Hadji when Tom and Jerry thwart a kidnapping scheme accidentally. Brought to Dr. Benton Quest’s secret lair, Tom and Jerry learn of Dr. Quest’s latest invention: a power source that could easily solve the world’s energy needs for decades. Unfortunately for our heroes, the evil Dr. Zin has also learned of the power source, and a second attempt at the Quests’ stronghold leads to the capture of not only the power source but also Dr. Quest himself and bodyguard Roger “Race” Bannon. It’ll be up to Jonny and Hadji, with the help of Tom and Jerry, to defeat Dr. Zin before Dr. Quest’s power source is integrated into Dr. Zin’s sinister plans for world domination.

The major reason I felt that Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes didn’t work was because Sherlock Holmes stories are fundamentally exercises of the mind, despite the occasional deployment of baritsu or Dr. Watson’s service revolver. Tom and Jerry were always at their best with minimal story and tremendous violence in small, concentrated bursts. What Tom and Jerry need for their stories to work was firmly at odds with the needs of Holmes and Watson. I think the major reason why Spy Quest works where that earlier movie didn’t is that there’s always an excuse for cartoon mayhem in a Jonny Quest story, so the only thing Spy Quest has to do to integrate Tom and Jerry smoothly is to use them as that excuse. If you can swallow that they’re there at all (and that Dr. Zin has inexplicably hired three idiotic cats in power armor as his primary henchmen), the rest of the movie works just fine as a slightly unusual Jonny Quest story. It helps that the extended Quest clan never questions the odd anthropomorphism of Tom and Jerry, nor do any of the supporting characters. I suspect one cynical remark would make the entire exercise come crashing down.

Tom and Jerry Spy QuestIt’s pleasantly surprising to see how well Spy Quest uses everyone in the cast effectively with the arguable exception of Race Bannon, who is sidelined relatively early due to plot considerations and doesn’t quite get his due once he is back in the game. Admittedly, the movie does go through a number of deep machinations to get its pieces in play, but the convoluted twists and plot machinations end up being part of the charm rather than a detriment. Like the Sherlock Holmes movie, Spy Quest demonstrates the crew’s deep appreciation for both Tom and Jerry and Jonny Quest in some throwaway references and the supporting cast. The inimitable James Hong chews the scenery with relish as the voice of Dr. Zin. Zin was never an egregious yellow peril stereotype (at least in my view), but it’s nice to hear him played by an actor of the right ethnicity who doesn’t have to fake the accent. It’s also a kick when one other familiar face appears from Jonny Quest in the middle of the movie (I won’t spoil who), accompanied by Droopy the Dog as this character’s unflappable majordomo. The animation is also up to higher standards than Jonny Quest ever got in the past, roughly on par with the Sherlock Holmes animated feature and a cut above current TV shows. I would even believe the animation was deliberately cut back a notch to better match up with the original Jonny Quest, since Tom and Jerry feel more fluid than Jonny or Hadji.

Tom and Jerry: Spy Quest was released on DVD only back in June, but still looks and sounds fine with an anamorphic video presentation and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Both are more than up to the task of goosing the action scenes whether they’re being played seriously or for comedy. Bonus features are limited to four TV episodes: two each for The Tom and Jerry Show and Jonny Quest. The Tom and Jerry Show episodes are appropriate for the detective sequences that form the back-halves of both episodes. Of the Jonny Quest episodes, “The Fraudulent Volcano” is from the original show, while “Deadly Junket” is from the later Adventures of Jonny Quest; both feature Dr. Zin as the antagonist. I find it ironic and disappointing that the newer episode is the one that gets so many things wrong about its Asian setting in contrast to the earlier episode (which, in marked contrast to most other cartoons of the era, doesn’t overly caricature the Chinese characters and prints its signs in perfectly legible and correct Chinese characters instead of in nonsense chicken scratch).

Scooby-Doo Meets KISS Rock and Roll MysteryI like but don’t love Scooby-Doo and have never been much of a fan of KISS. Frankly the trailers for Scooby-Doo Meets KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery felt more like the result of a marketing meeting between two organizations well past their point of peak popularity, each seeking to rejuvenate their fortunes with the help of the other.

I’m as surprised as anyone that the movie is so enthusiastically entertaining.

There’s a bit of a haunting problem at KISS World, a giant KISS theme park that actually looks like it might be good, kitschy fun if it existed in real-life. This leads the Scooby Gang to pay a visit to see if they can help solve the mystery. However, the gimmick of the movie is that KISS’s on-stage personae as leather-clad, heavily made-up superheroes is hiding in plain sight: they really are superheroes that fight crime and solve mysteries when they’re not rocking out. The net effect of this curveball nicely rejuvenates the Scooby-Doo formula because genuinely supernatural elements can get injected into the story. We’re used to guys in rubber masks who would have gotten away with it if not for those rotten kids and their dog, but the game changes pretty dramatically once KISS starts flying through the sky to sling lightning and fire and lasers at the Red Witch plaguing their theme park. The movie tries to have its cake and eat it too with the explanations at the end (including one other sly wink that may well trigger major Wold Newton universe building across all the Hanna-Barbera properties), but I view that as less of a weakness and more of a recognition of what makes both Scooby-Doo and KISS distinctive and a way to ensure both can get what they need from the movie.

Scooby-Doo Meets KISS becomes one of those mash-ups where injecting well-worn elements from one genre into another turns out to make both feel a bit fresher. KISS gets to play their stage personalities seriously in a sly wink to their stage act, while the Scooby gang has to mix their usual youthful sleuthing with something genuinely different from the usual. It culminates in a trippy, psychedelic sequence to the mystic alternate dimension of KISSteria via an animated sequence that feels like a string of 70’s heavy metal album covers brought to life (and I’m sad at my uncertainty that you kids today won’t truly understand what “70’s heavy metal album covers” actually means). It’s a crazy, wonderful sequence set to a KISS soundtrack that’s enormously entertaining, and is further topped by the discovery that all the inhabitants of KISSteria look and dress like KISS, with the Elder of KISSteria sounding like Esther the New-York-Daffy Jewish grandma you see periodically at the bodega. My one minor quibble is that the movie tries a bit too hard to throw us off the scent by presenting an array of potential suspects with means, motive, and opportunity, but this just means the movie has a few too many characters than it can really comfortably support.

Scooby-Doo Meets KISS Rock and Roll MysteryI remember when KISS was highly transgressive for their crazy clothes and outlandish makeup, but like AC/DC, they seem to have been tamed to the point where they’re suitable for kids’ movies. Then again, KISS was always the cosplaying rock band — kind of like the Aquabats but with more elaborate costuming and less visible flab. What was outlandish then doesn’t feel all that unusual now. The entire movie feels a lot like what would have happened if the 70’s Scooby-Doo cartoons could have teamed up with KISS when they were both at peak popularity. The music videos are a high point in a movie that has many of them, though, with a handful of KISS songs wonderfully accompanying cartoon mayhem.

Scooby-Doo Meets KISS ships as a Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet Digital HD combo pack. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack on the Blu-ray is fantastic, bringing out the music nicely and definitely adding some added oomph to the movie. Bonus features include 2 episodes of the Scooby-Doo TV series, a brief featurette where the celebrity voice cast in the movie answers “Are You a Scooby or a Shaggy?”; and a short and not terribly funny blooper reel of KISS filming promotional material. This latter reel is also less funny because the material they’re shooting is not included for some context.

A mashup can be a lazy way to try and grab eyeballs, but Tom and Jerry: Spy Quest and Scooby-Doo Meets KISS succeed by pulling the same trick in slightly different ways. Both add two components together that shouldn’t get along, but Spy Quest works by sliding one seamlessly into the other while Scooby-Doo Meets KISS works by exploiting the difference. Jonny Quest was one of Hanna-Barbera’s best and has aged remarkably well; Spy Quest shows that you don’t have to do much to freshen up the formula for presentation to modern audiences. In fact, it works well enough that one hopes Warner Bros. greenlights some new Jonny Quest adventures in advance of the live-action movie that’s in the works. In contrast, Scooby-Doo Meets KISS shows that you can teach old dogs new tricks, perhaps demonstrating how the formula of Scooby-Doo is exactly why the show has endured for as long as it has.

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Last pup of a dying planet, a young German Shepherd is rocketed to Earth, where he is bombarded by cosmic gamma rays emitted by a radioactive spider. Crash-landing in the forgotten land of Hubba Hubba, he is discovered by the Who-You-Callin'-Ancient One and his lovely wife Pookie. Instilled with their traditional American values, he spends his young adulthood roaming the globe, learning all the secrets of Comic-Fu. Donning battle armor fashioned from spilled chemicals splashed by lightning, he becomes the Sensational Shield of Sequential Art ACE THE BATHOUND! Look, it sounds a lot better than the truth. Born in Brooklyn, moved to Queens at 3 and then New Jersey at 10. Throughout high school, college, grad school, and gainful employment, two things have remained constant: 1) I am a colossal nerd, and 2) I have spent far too much time reading comics, and then reading and writing about them. Currently working as a financial programmer in New York City, while continuing to discover all the wonderful little surprises (and expenses) of owning your a home in the suburbs. Shares the above with a beautiful, wonderful, and incredibly understanding wife named Frances (who, thankfully, participates in most of my silly hobbies) and a large furry dog named Brownie (who, sadly, does not). Comics, toys, Apple Macintosh computers, video games, and eBay


  1. I can tell Warner Bros. Animation clearly put more effort into those two movies than they did with "Looney Tunes: Rabbits Run." It's kind of sad Warner Bros. doesn't seem to have that much faith in the Looney Tunes anymore, and instead care more about Tom and Jerry, and even Scooby-Doo.