Scooby-Doo Movie Review

Children of original fans have made Scooby-Doo the Must-See-TV of the Nickelodeon set, and it's this demographic that openly salivates for Warner Brothers' live-action version of the affable cartoon. Won't they be pleased to discover that Raja Gosnell's Scooby-Doo happens to be as clever, mysterious, and inventive as an episode of the popular cartoon series, a high compliment indeed.

This new Scooby gets off on the right paw by recruiting CGI effects specialists Rhythm & Hues Studio to create the lively title character. Employing a live dog would have been certain death. Scooby may look transparent from time to time, his complexion always appearing a bit lighter than the human actors surrounding him. But his existence is no more bizarre than the fact that these kids speak to a dog that talks back. Remember, this is based on a cartoon. Scooby takes animated Roger Rabbit interactions to the next level, and it never derails this train.

The film then relies on spot-on casting to fill the shoes of Scooby's four Mystery Inc. teammates. Going one step farther, Scooby even explores assorted issues we've secretly suspected these crime-fighting kids must face: frumpy Velma (Linda Cardellini) hates that egotistical Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.) takes the credit for the plans she devises, while helpless Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) hates being the perennial "damsel in distress." Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) is content, as long as there's food in his future. Yes, these actors are playing cartoon characters, but they do it well, and Lillard as Shaggy just nails it. You'd think he just walked right out of your TV set and adopted a third dimension. Zoinks!

James Gunn and Craig Titley's screenplay even concocts a decidedly complicated whodunit for the members of Mystery Inc. The devious plot lures Scooby and friends to Spooky Island, where monsters disguised as teenagers rob unsuspecting kids of their essences and detain them in a giant cauldron of souls. All this certainly sounds scarier than it appears, as Gosnell never loses sight of the film's youthful target audience and the playful mood stays light from start to finish.

Without spoiling much, I will say the film's choice of a villain seems odd, and I'm not talking about Rowan "Mr. Bean" Atkinson, here playing Mondavarious, the owner of Spooky Island. But the action sequences are charged, the humor occasionally clever and the plot holes scarce. Also, those who remember the days of celebrity cameos on the Doo will chuckle at the sites of Pamela Anderson and the guys from Sugar Ray in minor parts. Perhaps Jonathan Winters, Don Knotts, and the Harlem Globetrotters were too busy to resurrect their roles.

As summer brain candy, Scooby-Doo is about as filling as one the title character's confidence-boosting Scooby Snacks. Probably as nutritious, as well. Just don't let that stop you from gobbling it up.

Scooby's DVD has plenty of extras -- one commentary from cast and one from crew, plus a number of deleted scenes that better establish why, say, Thelma's hairstyle suddenly changes mid-film and where Daphne learned how to fight. But what about the "your name means poop!" scene seen in the trailer... where are you?

Do the Doo.


Scooby-Doo Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG, 2002


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