cartoons have more recognition across age groups than
Hanna Barbera's beloved crime-fighting doggie, Scooby
Doo. This popularity ensured Scooby's first feature film
would have a large built-in audience base but it also
presented a problem. How would the filmmakers create a
PG-rated movie loud and noisy enough for today's low-attention-span
rugrats while still satisfying the older fans hoping for
a pop culture nostalgia trip?
bet on the kids. Scooby-Doo is a kids movie
through and through and caters to a depressingly low common
denominator. It almost could have been called something
elsesay, "Hank the Delightful Talking Dog"because
it has almost nothing to do with the original cartoon.
Only the names are the same. Hunky Fred (Freddie Prinze
Jr.), sexy Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), nerdy Velma
(Linda Cardellini), and hippie burn-out Shaggy (Matthew
Lillard) are four teen buddies who ride around in a groovy
van with their dog, Scooby, and make a living solving
creepy mysteries. The problem is Velma is sick of the
moronic Fred taking all the credit for their success.
There's a big fight and the team disbands for two years,
only to be reunited at Spooky Islanda
haunted island theme park in need of their services.
amusing to hear Lillard's dead-on Shaggy impression as
well as other things we remember, like "Jinkies!"
and "Zoinks!" But it's not THAT amusing. The
opening scene, in which the team nabs and unmasks a prototypical
villain, makes us smile for about one minute before turning
into a big, messy pile of confusing junk that these days
tries to pass itself off as "madcap." It's a
scene typical in today's kids' moviescharacters
fly through the air, ram into walls, accidentally end
up on a runaway skateboard, etc. It feels like it was
directed by an evil robot and edited so insanely fast
that we laugh only as a defense mechanism.
is every speck of the charming, clunky clumsiness of the
crudely animated cartoon. It is replaced by more of this
nonsensical computer-animated noise in a story line that
rivals Tomb Raider in its senseless complexity.
Sadly, the only reason the plot is so involved is to distract
us from the fact that it isn't funny.
of the laughs come courtesy of Scooby himself. Yeah, he's
obviously a computer image, but he's a low-key, likeable
computer image. With that embarrassed laugh and cowardly,
trusting personality, Scooby is the most human character
in the movie. His digital mug conveys more emotion in
one shot than Freddie Prinze Jr. has in his entire career.
It's only too bad that most of Scooby's time is monopolized
by irrelevant, unfunny scenes like an extended farting
contest with Shaggy. Ha. Ha.
hard to blame these scenes on poor Scooby and Shaggy,
whose loving relationship is actually pretty charming.
The reason these two characters work is that they're heartfelt,
and as two-dimensional as the cartoon was, it always had
heart to spare. Unfortunately, Fred has been transformed
into a mean, moronic pretty boy (where's the young, intelligent
Christopher Reeve when you need him?) and Daphne has been
vamped into a vain bitch. Only the neurotic Velma is developed
into something more than her cartoonwhen she finally
sheds her orange sweater for a form-fitting orange halter
top and skirt, it feels like a victory. It's hard not
to cheer, "We always knew you had it in you, Velma."
of these characters suffer from the script's failure to
acknowledge or disown their pop culture history. At times
it appears that Fred and the gang exist in a time-warp
and are naively unaware as in the superior Brady
Bunch movies. At other times, this is not the case.
Because the actors skirt around this issue constantly,
many of the jokes fall flat.
isn't really possible to hate Scooby-Doo, but it's
more than probable you will feel indifferent about it.
The movie is at least short (87 minutes), and although
it's fast to a fault, it IS at least fast. But there's
no joy, no unpredictable fun. You keep hoping one of those
meddling kids will rip the rubber mask off this movie
and reveal the REAL feature filmsomething bubbly
and intelligent, not made by a gang of evil robots.
is a nationally syndicated columnist and filmmaker. Info
on his newest film, Ball of Wax, can be found at