The Desperate Search for the Rare, Elusive, Original Reboot Joke

Extreme Scooby!

All-new all-different Scooby-Doo art by DC Comics VP Jim Lee. To the EXTREME.

Just when you thought entertainment corporations had cooled down on the idea of rebooting their property catalogs, along comes a day like today to remind you to stop overestimating entertainment corporations. This morning Entertainment Weekly reported Hanna-Barbera has struck a deal with DC Comics — that bastion of work-for-hire literary integrity — to jump-start some of its most well-known characters as 21st-century comics for a new generation who doesn’t know them and/or an old generation that will shell out money for any repackaged remnants of their childhood.

The article linked above includes teaser images from DC’s planned reboots of Scooby-Doo (now with weapons and tattoos!), the Flintstones (realistic proportions + painful Stone Age puns = PROFIT), Space Ghost and Brak (no more Adult Swim irony, natch), and more. (Jonny Quest’s cast looks surprisingly unchanged, but we’ll see what happens after half of them are killed in the first issue.) The official press release offers additional details omitted from the EW summation, including the part where the Scooby Gang will be fighting nanites, which are now officially Over if they weren’t already. (Trivia undisclosed in the article: DC, Hanna-Barbera, and EW share the same giant parent company.)

It didn’t take long for Twitter to burst into laughter and kick off another round of reboot jokes. Within the first thirty seconds after I caught the news, I next saw other users lining up to brainstorm concepts for a grim-‘n’-gritty Yogi Bear, scoffing about a Jabberjaw revival, hoping Mighty Man and Yukk were up for grabs, and so on. By the time I got home after a long work day and in a better position to interact, I didn’t even bother checking Twitter because I assumed all the best jokes and obvious intellectual properties were spoken for, and my late contributions would be tired and redundant. What’s a sarcastic guy to do?

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My 2015 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: The Year’s Least Best

Jai Courtney!

Jai Courtney comin’ up on loot at the thrift shop while waiting for a call back from the producers of Lethal Weapon 5.

Once again it’s National List Month, when all of Hollywood runs down to Hallmark and buys “For Your Consideration” cards to mail out to their fifty thousand closest friends. Meanwhile on the internet, where no one sends us free stuff to buy our love, we dedicated theater-goers are forced to make up our own minds, revisit our opinions, and vote with our bullet points. It’s just this fun thing some of us love doing even though the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

I saw twenty-six films in theaters in 2015, but five were Best Picture nominees released in 2014 and therefore disqualified from this list, even though two of them amazed me, because I’m an unreasonable stickler about dates. Also disqualified are a few 2015 indie releases I watched via the graces of Netflix as well as one recent sci-fi film I caught on Blu-ray last night. Of the remaining 21 contenders, one was a reboot, ten were sequels or continuations of long-running series, and one was arguably both depending on how you feel about time travel consequences. Call it a “bootquel”, I guess.

Right this way for our least favorite films of the year!

Grieving the Erasure of Your Favorite Corporate-Owned Universe

DC: Where Legends Live!

DC Comics house ad from The Flash #339, cover-dated November 1984. A lot of ’80s characters are no longer around, and it’s been decades since fans begged DC to bring back “legends” like these.

We live in an entertainment culture where we take it as given that all the best ideas were conceived before we were born, so trying to forge new universes seems like too much effort. Reboots used to be a desperation move, but anymore they’re the norm for luring in new fans — not just for work-for-hire companies with an intellectual property catalog to keep fertile and growing, but for artists, writers, and filmmakers all too happy to make a lifelong career out of perpetuating the lives and histories of worlds and heroes they didn’t invent themselves. It’s a living.

It’s easy to scoff at reboots when they’re happening to characters that don’t matter to you. If you’re a geek for long enough, though, sooner or later they’ll get to a universe you do care about.

I’ve been there. I remember the first time I had a universe yanked out from under me.

Right this way for memories and lessons about two universes with a lot in common…

“Fantastic Four” a Maddening Marvel Mishmash

Human Torch!

Michael B. Jordan gets into character while the film crew shields themselves from the toxic work environment.

As a longtime comics fan, John Byrne’s Fantastic Four was one of my favorite Marvel series as a kid. Years later I developed an appreciation for the first 103 issues in which Stan Lee and Jack Kirby gave us some of the greatest stories among their many collaborations. My FF fandom came and went as creative teams, interpretations, and times changed, but I have fond memories of great runs by Walt Simonson, Dwayne McDuffie and Paul Pelletier, Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, and the long-forgotten team of Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz (#219, 222-231) who introduced Marvel’s First Family to this impressionable eight-year-old. I have those runs, and I have my warm memories, but my emotional attachment to them as individual characters has faded enough over time that I’m open to seeing new and different reinterpretations. Honestly, though, I haven’t encountered a worthwhile use of the FF in years.

Meanwhile in the more recent past, I previously named Chronicle my favorite film of 2012. A previous entry already used up a couple hundred words explaining what impressed me about this found-footage mini-epic that imagined what would happen if one of Disney’s Witch Mountain films were remade as an episode of Black Mirror. Credit remains due to lead actors Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and The Wire‘s Michael B. Jordan; to screenwriter Max Landis making a heck of a feature-film debut; to cinematographer Matthew Jensen, editor Elliot Greenberg, and numerous other cast and crew members for an experience that still rattles me whenever I think back to key scenes.

In the MCC capsule summary I’d expressed my hopes of seeing big things from director Josh Trank in the future. Here we are today, living in that bleak future where the boundaries of Chronicle‘s imagination are visible in maybe two sequences from Fox’s newly rebooted Fantastic Four, which was mostly directed by Trank and finished by a producers’ committee using Trank as their contractually subjugated proxy/scapegoat. In a short-lived tweet last week Trank publicly blamed the studio for all the faults in the finished product. The multiple flaws that riddle this slipshod corporate product from start to finish belie Trank’s sorry attempt at a total cop-out.

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First Teaser Pic Leaked for “Ronald vs. Hamburglar: Dawn of Grease”

New52 Hamburglar!

I worked for McDonald’s for twelve years and wouldn’t be who or what I am today without the experience, but the place keeps getting funnier every time I see them try something different.

In the past week the venerable fast food behemoth had announced plans to ditch several superfluous menu items, add a few new superfluous items, test a McDonald’s delivery service, and consider raising its workers’ wages across the board so they’ll have an excuse to double their prices. Today the veil of secrecy was lifted on an upcoming TV project in which the company has paid an ad agency to reboot the Hamburglar for a 21st-century audience, maybe because his copyright was about to expire and Arby’s was ready to make a play for him.

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Top 10 Surprises in the Upcoming “Teletubbies” Reboot

Teletubbies Time Warp!

Pictured left to right: William Shatner, Harry Shearer, June Foray, and Seth MacFarlane. Or not.

Sooner or later, every old intellectual property must be revitalized for a new generation that has no interest in it. Revivals are perpetually on the way in every medium –as of this minute, your slate of candidates includes Archie, Logan’s Run, and even gum-wrapper superstar Bazooka Joe. Why waste your time and imagination inventing new characters when you can just stamp your preferences onto someone else’s venerated labor of love?

Also on the way: the return of the Teletubbies! England’s other, other, other Fab Four were psychedelic freeform heroes to a generation of toddlers born at a weird time. Now that formerly captive audience will have the opportunity to recapture their childhood, reunite with their old mentors, and complain about all those years of characterization, continuity, and PBS crossovers that are being tossed out the window and now the seasons they’ve collected on VHS are null and void. Welcome to 21st-century entertainment, youngsters.

Right this way for…another list!

My Super Awesome Cinderella Reboot Pitch

Walt Disney's Cinderella

The young woman whose life was changed forever by a first date and some pretty shoes.

[It’s a hidden gem from the MCC Archives! The following entry was originally posted on November 19, 2012, with zero awareness that Disney would someday do something new-not-new with Cinderella. Fast-forward two years, and their live-action remake is coming to theaters this Friday, March 13th. The prophecy has come to pass!

I have no plans to see their version unless someone mails me a ticket, but it’d be great if they totally followed my outline and proved me a genius out of time. Based on the last trailer I saw, they declined my pitch and theirs will instead be a Gus van Sant shot-for-shot homage with no twists allowed. This entry, then, captures the marketable joy of What Might Have Been.]

* * * * *

This weekend I revisited Walt Disney’s twelfth animated classic Cinderella for the first time since the late 1990s. Of all the numerous Disney films our family has owned in multiple formats, this is one of several that rarely saw repeat viewings even when my son was a toddler who insisted on watching every animated movie over and over again until I hated it.

As with many older Disney films, parts of it have aged better than others. I’ll admit I had trouble staying conscious all the way through. Even if I’m alone in this struggle, the film is now over sixty years old and therefore in need of a gratuitous overhaul on shallow principle. In the spirit of today’s remake-happy medium that thrives on second-hand ideas, the following notes are my suggestions to downconvert this one-time children’s favorite for the modern, unsophisticated audience that Hollywood executives so dearly crave.

Right this way for notes to make the greatest Cinderella of all times!

My 2014 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: the Year’s Least Best


Harry was pretty sure he’d gone terribly wrong somewhere on his Defense Against the Dark Arts homework.

Once again January is National List Month, that left-brained time of year when everyone’s last twelve months of existence must be removed from their mental filing cabinets, reexamined, and refiled in specific pecking order from Greatest to Most Grating. Here on Midlife Crisis Crossover, we enjoy our annual tradition of spending at least two posts looking back at our year in movies, trying to remember what we thought about them at the time and ultimately deciding which films can beat up which other films. When I reach that realization that my opinions sometimes change over time upon further reflection or second viewings, that’s when the process turns messy and I end up hating my own list. But internet bylaws insist it must be done. And I like lists more than I like internet bylaws.

The final tabulations reveal I saw 19 films in theaters in 2014 (tying with 2007 and 2010 as worst moviegoing years ever) and four via On Demand while they were still in limited release. This count doesn’t include seven 2013 films I attended in 2014 for Oscar-chasing purposes, or any films I watched on home video long after their theatrical run. As one sad example, this harsh rule of mine disqualifies Boyhood from the list since I just watched it via Redbox rental two nights ago. If I’d gotten out of the house for a three-hour theater visit just one more time last summer, it would’ve made my Top 3. Consider this paragraph my version of a Very Honorable Mention.

Links to past reviews and thoughts are provided for historical reference. On with the reverse countdown, then:

Right this way for the weakest of the herd!

My Super Awesome “Frosty the Snowman” Reboot Pitch

Frosty the Snowman!

Millions of viewers used to love watching Frosty the Snowman every year when it aired around Christmastime. The beloved 1969 animated special was one of several perennial favorites in my childhood household. We knew the song, we knew most of the lines, we recognized those familiar cartoon voices, and we knew every beat of the story, from the flop magician to the snowman’s parting promise. Frosty was common knowledge among us kids.

See that face up there, full of angst and pathos and magic? That classic hero just turned 45 years old. Isn’t it time for his 21st-century reboot?

I don’t mean as a feature film, because that declining box office is depressing. I also don’t mean another one-time TV Christmas special, because that’s thinking too small. See, I’m thinking live-action regular series. So many facets of this undervalued intellectual property yearn for a modern update with better fashions, extra pizzazz, hipper attitudes, and supernatural warfare. Frosty himself could stay CG, but there’s no reason Karen, her friends, the other townspeople, and most of the town scoundrels couldn’t be played by real actors so we can crank out episodes more quickly and minimize our animation needs. Unless we send this proposal to Fox, animating it will get us nowhere. I say it’s time for Frosty to start over, but this time keep it real.

I’ve taken the liberty of mapping out a hypothetical thirteen-episode first season that would rebuild the Frosty universe from the ground up and make it relevant and “sick” to a whole new generation of impressionable prime-time viewers. This, then, is what my preliminary episode guide looks like for…


Right this way for capsule summaries of all thirteen season-one episodes and a sneak preview of future storylines!

“Mr. Peabody & Sherman”: Wibbly Wobbly Timey-Wimey Ruff

Mr. Peabody and Sherman, DreamWorks

Midlife Crisis Crossover calls Mr. Peabody & Sherman the greatest adaptation of a Jay Ward Productions cartoon in cinematic history!

Seriously, consider the competition: 2000’s live-action The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, which had precisely one (1) funny joke that I recall with traumatized clarity to this day; Brendan Fraser as Disney’s George of the Jungle, which was a merchandising showcase disguised as kiddie slapstick farce; and Brendan Fraser again in Dudley Do-Right, which had no reason to live. Thankfully Hollywood came to its senses and refrained from giving us Brendan Fraser as Tom Slick, Aesop’s annoying son, and Super-Chicken’s sidekick Fred.

DreamWorks neatly sidestepped any more Fraser pain by taking the CG-animation route and barring him from participation. In another risky deviation from the formula of the other three films, director Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little) and his crew also chose to make their film funny. I applaud this bold, non-conformist stratagem.

This way for another Wayback adventure!

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