Warner Bros. Cartoon Party
The notion of kids and their parents not having a darn thing in common is quickly becoming a thing of the past. It might have been true back when some tried in vain to pass their love of the Kingston Trio onto the MTV generation, but a quick survey of just about anyone's Facebook feed will turn up at least a few examples of moms/dads and little tykes bonding over the same stuff. Be it a love for toys or cartoons, families have more in common than ever before, and the media each one consumes has grown to reflect this. No matter what age you are, fans of Legos, Scooby-Doo, and Batman himself have reason to rejoice, for the folks over at Warner Bros.' animation department have recently released three features ready to help further tighten that generational gap.
BATMAN UNLIMITED: MONSTER MAYHEM
Halloween is a scary enough night as is, but it's double the terror in Gotham City. As the locals occupy themselves with trick-or-treating, that clown prince of crime known as the Joker (voice of Troy Baker) launches his latest campaign of terror. With the help of such monstrous miscreants as Silver Banshee (voice of Kari Wuhrer) and Solomon Grundy (voice of Fred Tatasciore), the Joker turns all of the city's technology against its citizens and declares himself supreme ruler. Thankfully, Batman (voice of Roger Craig Smith) is on the hunt, recruiting Nightwing (voice of Will Friedle), Red Robin (voice of Yuri Lowenthal), and more heroic comrades to see justice served before it's too late. With this year's colorful but unexciting Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts proving such a bummer, my hopes of its follow-up Monster Mayhem tripping any triggers were fairly dim. Luckily, this futuristic take on the Dark Knight is a marked improvement, in terms of humor, action, and overall style. It has a far less rocky go at making sure its tone isn't too gloomy for kids but still flashy and chaotic enough not to give older viewers a lame impression. Using monster-themed members of Batman's infamous rogues gallery seems a novel way to do just that, allowing the movie to have fun while still retaining a freaky edge. Even the Joker comes out looking pretty good, remaining off-kilter and intimidating despite having some of his scarier traits played down. The film still experiences some of the tired quips that plagued its predecessor, and while all of its crazy sci-fi imagery appears cool for the most part, I'd be fibbing if I said the Caped Crusader's climactic virtual reality showdown against the Joker didn't absolutely go off the rails. Overall, Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem isn't among the becowled one's most sterling adventures, but for something that will be dismissed by many as a glorified toy commercial, it's more lively and inventive than it lets on.
LEGO DC COMICS SUPER HEROES: JUSTICE LEAGUE - ATTACK OF THE LEGION OF DOOM!
What's a self-respecting criminal mastermind to do when the likes of Superman (voice of Nolan North) and Wonder Woman (voice of Grey Griffin) keep foiling your schemes? Why, start your own team, of course! That's just what the nefarious Lex Luthor (voice of John DiMaggio) has in mind, assembling his fellow fiends to strike back against those pesky do-gooders in the Justice League. With a certain shape-shifting alien as their secret weapon, will these supervillains finally be powerful enough to match some of the biggest heroes of all time? As Justice League vs. Bizarro League accomplished so well earlier this year, Attack of the Legion of Doom! shows the DC Comics universe in a decidedly more wacky light than usual. Seeing everyone's favorite superfolk clobbering robotic monkeys and stopping stink bomb-wielding foes are perfectly palatable alternatives for those little ones who aren't ready for the intensity of their live-action appearances just yet. Kids will have a ball with the slapstick humor and corny puns, and grown-up comics buffs can enjoy the movie's many digs at our heroic ensemble's individual personalities (Superman's naivete, the Flash's impulsiveness, etc.). But whereas Justice League vs. Bizarro League felt just right at a trim forty-something minutes, Attack of the Legion of Doom! tacks on another thirty minutes of what turns out to be chiefly unnecessary filler. The Flash and Green Lantern's cliched clashing over a disinterested Wonder Woman's affections gets old fast, and the subplot involving Cyborg (voice of Khary Payton) finding a purpose in the League closes with an almost uncomfortably mixed message. Nevertheless, Attack of the Legion of Doom! comes across as good fun on the whole, a colorful and energetic romp that should prove as entertaining for youngsters as for youngsters at heart.
SCOOBY-DOO! AND KISS: ROCK AND ROLL MYSTERY
A creepy amusement park. A spooky witch. Crowds of innocent people fleeing in terror. This looks like a job for the greatest crime solvers in history...KISS? That's right, Scooby (voice of Frank Welker) and the rest of the Mystery Machine gang take a back seat while the famous rock band investigates haunted happenings at their own theme park. But when this case proves to be too much for even Gene Simmons and company to handle, you can bet that the hungry hound and his pals will be there to help give evil the heave-ho. Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery carries on the celebrity crossover tradition that's had our canine crime-buster run into Batman and the Harlem Globetrotters in previous years. That the powers that be waited so long to bring about this team-up is no less weird than the pairing itself, but the flick brings a self-aware silliness to the table that excuses many of its more far-fetched moments. As a matter of fact, with all of the references to their songs scattered about and the soundtrack blasting said tunes constantly, KISS fans are liable to get as much enjoyment out of this movie as children, if not a bit more. Unfortunately, this is also sort of a problem, for while the rockin' music and psychedelic animation are great, the presence of Scooby and the gang ends up downplayed as a result. There really isn't much of an investigation to draw in the kiddies, just a lot of chasing the easily-identifiable villain around before a rather unceremonious unmasking at the end. Still, Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery is about on par with most of the eponymous pooch's escapades; it's really simple and zany, but it's a harmless and genuinely funny little ditty all the same.