|Written by Tara O'Shea|
|Friday, 11 October 2002|
"Scooby-Doo" is the epic story of Mystery, Inc., four teenagers and their giant talking Great Dane, who have made a successful career of debunking fake ghosts and ghouls. However, all is not roses in the Mystery Machine. Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) is an egocentric jerk, Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is tired of being kidnapped by grumpy old men in rubber masks, Velma (Linda Cardellini) is tired of Fred taking all the credit for her plans, and Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and best friend Scooby are tired of seeing their friends fight. The gang splits up after an angry quarrel at a toy factory, only to be reunited when eccentric millionaire Mr. Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson) contracts them to discover the secret of Spooky Island, his college spring break hotspot that seems to be turning its patrons into pod people.
Daphne learns kung-fu, Fred learns humility, Velma goes on a journey of personal discovery, and Shaggy and Scooby explore the true meaning of friendship, while foiling a dastardly plan by real monsters to use partying college kids to take over the world, masterminded by an old and dangerous foe. For fans of the animated series, the movie is a delightful live action adaptation that gently lampoons the characters while retaining the spirit of adventure of the original. Casting is key, and it is hard to picture any better choice than Lillard as free-spirited and perpetually hungry Shaggy (who scarfs down vegetarian fare in several scenes that no doubt must have made original Shaggy voice Casey Kasem proud), and Cardellini is picture-perfect as bespectacled Velma despite her character being more reminiscent of Jan Brady than her cartoon counterpart. Uber Scooby fan and Teen Beat poster child Freddie Prinze, Jr. and wife Gellar do a halfway decent job of bringing Fred and Daphne to the screen, and comedy legend Atkinson chews scenery marvelously as Mondavarious.
Some of the film’s best jokes work on an adult level (Shaggy's new girlfriend, Mary Jane, for example), rather than being aimed at the tween audiences, and an extended fart joke really feels out of place and could have been removed with no loss to story or character. But the pacing is jaunty and the frothy confection of a silly spooky movie zips along so fast that it's a delight, if a somewhat shallow one, rather than a chore for the parents who grew up on Scooby-Doo in all his incarnations.
After viewing the deleted scenes, however, it becomes clear that the cuts made in order to secure a PG rating, down from PG-13, several key plot points would have been clearer had the footage been restored. Daphne's possession scene, and her encounter with the "new" Velma in particular stand out as sequences that would have helped the film overall, despite being deemed a bit too intense (or sexy) for younger viewers. However, it was in retrospect wise to cut Velma's musical number, despite Cardellini's talented and entertaining performance.
Still, even with a muddy narrative, the film is a hoot for kids and adults alike. The technical side -- shooting with a computer-generated Scooby -- is really quite remarkable, as is illustrated by the thorough featurettes documenting the shoot. Using a serious of tape marks for actors to retain their eye-lines during shots that include Scooby, director Raja Gosnell managed to choreograph complex scenes such as Shaggy and Scooby's fight. The stunt featurette focuses more on the talents of "Buffy" star Gellar than her equally deserving stunt double, but is great fun for stunt geeks and fans alike.
Visually, the widescreen transfer is presented excellently, with no noticeable print defects. The colors are rich and saturated color and the blacks are crisp and sharp. Bill Boes's production design and lavish and innovative sets are showcased. Visually, the DVD is a real treat. Sound is less impressive, neglecting to take full advantage of surround, but the dialogue is clear and easily understood throughout. The best extras are definitely the filmmaker commentary, which goes into great detail about the technical side of the movie, and the featurettes. The cast commentary featuring Gellar, Prinze, Lillard and Cardinelli is less entertaining than expected, with a surprising amount of silence. The colorful animated menus are slightly difficult to navigate, but once you get the hang of figuring out what's selected it gets easier. However, it can be vaguely frustrating at first.
While not a must-buy DVD, "Scooby-Doo" is definitely worth a night's rental for Scooby fans.