Scooby-Doo (2002) / Comedy-Mystery
MPAA Rated: PG for crude humor and language
Running Time: 86 min.
Cast: Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Rowan Atkinson, Isla Fisher, Sugar Ray (cameo), Pamela Anderson (cameo)
Director: Raja Gosnell
Screenplay: James Gunn (based on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon)
Review published June 20, 2002
I find it curious that someone would bother taking the time to secure the rights to Hanna-Barbera's classic cartoon series, then get over $90 million to make a film without having any legitimate plot or much of a script to speak of. In fact if it weren't for the special effects, Scooby-Doo would almost feel like it were made overnight without a script among people passing around a camera anytime someone said "Hey, this would be funny, let's ad-lib it." Anyone looking for a recreation of a childhood favorite may have a tough time truly enjoying Scooby-Doo, as it seems to be made more by people who didn't like the characters than truly enjoyed the show.
After going their separate ways in an argument resulting from a past solved mystery, the gang is called back together by Mondavarious (Atkinson, Rat Race), an island theme-park owner who fears some supernatural forces may be involved in turning the island patrons into creatures of the undead variety.
The basic premise of this big screen version of Scooby-Doo seems to come from a session of "Wouldn't it be funny if..."
"Wouldn't it be funny if Fred talked like a homeboy?"
"Wouldn't it be funny if Daphne opened up a can of whoop-ass?"
"Wouldn't it be funny if Velma was a hot chick under that turtleneck and goofy hairdo?"
"Wouldn't it be funny if Shaggy and Scooby had a serious bout of flatulence after all the junk they eat?"
Yes, these ponderous musings and more are what fill almost every pain-inducing frame of celluloid, and we get to watch every single character act out-of-character before the end credits roll. While some of the gags are admittedly amusing, they're just not enough if you don't have a relatively workable story to build the gags on, and unfortunately the story is about as confusing and anemic as they get. By the end, the film has gone so far astray from Hanna-Barbara's original creation that they even fail to properly end the mystery in the manner in which every mystery was solved in the original series, i.e. finding logical explanations for all of the supernatural activity.
If you are the type of person who watches the TV cartoon of Scooby-Doo for anything that could be taken as a pot-smoking reference by Shaggy, a lesbian inkling from Velma, or hints that Fred and Daphne were getting it on, then you are probably the type of person this film version was made for. Everyone else who just wants to remember a childhood favorite won't really find much nostalgia value in these characters to bring back memories. And for God's sake, if you are a person unfamiliar with the TV show at all, stay the hell away at all costs. This film assumes you are intimately knowledgeable with every one of the characters, and will make absolutely no sense if you aren't. Scooby-Doo isn't so much the "Scooby" I grew up on as it is Scooby Doo-Doo.
-- Followed in 2004 by Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.
©2002 Vince Leo