Jonny Quest becomes '90s kind of kid

April 03, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

Say it ain't so, Jonny!

Jonny Quest, the animated pre-adolescent hero of a prime-time adventure show on ABC in the 1960s (and on Saturday mornings well into the '70s), has gone sensitive in the '90s.

In "Jonny's Golden Quest," a new movie premiering tomorrow (7 p.m.) on the USA cable network, the 12-year-old adventurer comes across very much as a '90s sort of kid: rebellious, resentful and beginning to be more than a little interested in girls.

His father seems a '90s sort of guy, too. Steady scientist Dr. Benton Quest now frets he cannot communicate with the boy, and also seems newly indecisive about the dangers of his work.

We meet Jonny's mother Rachel (voiced by actress Meredith MacRae) for the first time, too. True to the new '90s look, she's a successful biologist in her own right, but also shows signs of an old-fashioned female stereotype -- such as when she complains, upon landing in the Amazon jungle, "When you said we'd be roughing it, I thought you meant no room service after midnight."

And -- gasp! -- even macho bodyguard/secret agent Race Bannon turns out to have once been married to another secret agent named Jade (voiced by JoBeth Williams). "Our careers wouldn't qualify either one of us for the honey-I'm-home award," he confides, so they divorced after just a week of connubial bliss.

At least Hadji and Bandit haven't changed too much. Jonny's friend from India still says things such as "zim-zim-alabim!" and performs bogus Eastern mysticism, while Bandit yaps around everybody's ankles in respectful imitation of every screen kids' dog since Petey from "The Little Rascals."

Actually, "Jonny's Golden Quest" plays as if the venerable Hanna-Barbera studios ran the old formula through a computer to integrate cover stories from Redbook and Cosmopolitan, with a little Newsweek thrown in -- at least the Earth Day issues of the magazine -- since environmental destruction is now among the evils perpetrated by the villain, Dr. Zin.

The new adventure takes the Quest crew on the usual exotic trips, heavy with high-tech gadgetry and weapons.

The principal plot involves the discovery that the nasty Dr. Zin has been fooling around with genetic engineering, trying to clone himself while also creating a whole hive of insect-like mutant minions.

"The whole Amazon ecosystem is threatened," says Dr. Quest.

But the '90s subtext lies within the Quest family structure itself, especially the father/son bond -- and with the clear implication that such emotional dilemmas lie within the families of young viewers, too.

Jonny tells his mom, "I never kinda hung out and talked with Dad like I do with you."

"You should try. He's a great listener," she advises.

But then Rachel falls into the hands of Dr. Zin and seems to be killed in an explosion.

Jonny withdraws, blaming his father and engaging in reckless behavior. Dr. Quest complains angrily, "if you close off all communication, things will go on deteriorating between us."

Wow! Somebody call Sally Jessy Raphael. "Cartoon Characters' Who Hate Their Parents" sounds like a natural topic.

Jonny Quest was always on the wooden side. But does he have to show social relevance?

"Jonny's Golden Quest" will be repeated on USA Wednesday, Friday and April 10.

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