SCOOBY-DOO 2 – MONSTERS UNLEASHED (2004)
Starring Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Geller, Matthew Lillard, Seth Green, Alicia Silverstone, Peter Boyle, Tim Blake Nelson, Pat O’Brien, Bill Meilen, Zahf Paroo, Andrew McIlroy, Ruben Studdard and the voice of Neil Fanning.
Screenplay by James Gunn.
Directed by Raja Gosnell.
Distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures. 93 minutes. Rated PG.
Call me a sucker, but I was one of the very few people in the world who really kind of dug the first live action Scooby-Doo movie. Now, I recognize that the acting generally wasn’t that great, the monsters were pretty cheesy, the storyline was dull, and the CGI creation of Scooby-Doo looked all too obviously computer generated. However, as much as I hold the original cartoon series dear from my youth, I do recognize when I watch the old episodes as an adult that they have the same problems (with the exception of the computer-animated pooch, of course.)
But, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! will always be special to me because it is a very real part of the life influences that made me who I am. It was brilliant kid’s entertainment (and still is, my nephew is only two and already hypnotized by Scooby) that took a lighthearted look at things that fascinate kids – ghosts, ghouls, werewolves, vampires, and haunted amusement parks. Besides, it had a cute dog who talked! What more could you ask? As I grew up, I caught onto some of the show’s more adult themes as well; the reason for Shaggy’s eternal munchies, whether or not Velma was a little too fond of Fred (or Daphne, for that matter, as one school of thought goes.) The show knew it was a little hackneyed and predictable (Nearly every episode ended on a variation of the line, “And I would have gotten away with it too, if not for those meddling kids and their dog.”)
So perhaps it was nostalgia that made me enjoy the first film so much. Or, perhaps it was because the film didn’t take itself at all seriously, trying (not completely successfully) to make the movie as much a funny modern pastiche of the series as the brilliant movie lampoon of a similarly sacred childhood show, The Brady Bunch. So, I signed up for the ride and while I didn’t think the first movie was great, I did have a lot of fun while watching it.
Scooby-Doo 2 – Monsters Unleashed is more of the same, and yet somehow this time it didn’t really work for me. Perhaps it is because of the tossed-together storyline. Scooby-Doo 2 is like Scooby’s Greatest Hits reel, bringing back several of the ghosts from the original classic show. The theory behind the film is that Scooby-Doo and the members of Mystery Inc. have become such media darlings for capturing numerous spooks that the museum of their hometown of Coolville has set up an exhibit of the costumes of their greatest conquests. (What happened to museums that had art and antiquities?) Of course, one of the costumes, the pterodactyl ghost, ends up being alive and destroys the exhibit. Then the ghost of the knight comes to life, and soon there are also skeletons with giant eyeballs, the ghost of the miner 49, the creeper and a tar monster plotting to do the kids in.
Matthew Lillard is still flawless at inhabiting the character of Shaggy, he is one of the rare actors who so perfectly nails a cartoon character that he almost feels animated himself. Linda Cardellini is still very fun as the shy, bookish, brilliant Velma, though even more than the first film she is often made up to be too sexy for the role (when Velma is hotter than Daphne, there’s something wrong in the universe.)
Again, in this film, the real-life married couple of Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar get the short stick. Fred is a vain airhead who is only there to look good in an ascot (and how could anyone not look good in an ascot?). Daphne’s character has lost the little bit of dimension it was given in the first film, although somewhere down the line, Gellar’s character has become a karate kicking Daphne the Vampire Slayer. I don’t remember that from the series.
The computer-generated Scooby is pretty seamless now. You no longer pay attention to the fact that it is obviously a computerized version of a cartoon dog, now you just look at him as a character, and still a very funny one, too.
You don’t expect heavy characterization from a show (or movie) that defines characters by the color of the clothes they wear, but the attempts to give the kids “back-stories” fall flat. Fred and Daphne’s gradual realization of how much they care for each other, Scooby & Shaggy’s crisis of faith that they may not be pulling their weight in Mystery Inc. and Velma’s crush on a cute museum curator (Seth Green); all these threads seem undercooked, plot contrivances thrown in without any clear reason or particular need to get out of.
There are also the standard issue potential bad-uns, Peter Boyle as Mr. Winkle, owner of the haunted house and haunted mine, Alicia Silverstone as a yellow journalist looking to make a name on the kids’ failure and Seth Green as the mysterious museum curator who may have a thing for Velma or may just be hanging with her for information.
The storyline doesn’t matter really. In the end, after all the action and monsters and romances and bright colors and lessons about friendship and fart jokes; as the man says, there was just not enough “there” there. To call the story featherweight is to be dismissive of feathers, and anyone who doesn’t know who the bad guy is the first time they see them just isn’t trying.
When you get down to it, the worst thing about the film is that there was really no reason other than money to make Scooby-Doo 2. I’m sure we’ll have to say the exact same thing about the inevitable Scooby-Doo 3, which I hear is already in the planning stages. (3/04)
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. March 26, 2004.