Movie Review: Scooby Doo

Scooby-Doo_posterby Brandon & Susan Blackmoor

 

Scooby Doo, How Could You? 
(or, Scooby Doo as Modern Myth)

Scooby Doo is the King Arthur of our generation: a tale retold countless times, interpreted and re-interpreted according to the whims and prejudices of the storyteller. We have explored the branches of Scooby Doo’s evidently inbred family tree (his brother Howdy Doo, and his cousins Scooby Dum, Scooby Dee, Whoopsy Doo, and Dooby Doo, just to name a few), we have seen the Scooby gang miniaturized into small-bodied large-headed versions of themselves, and we have seen the Mystery Machine gang play host to such luminaries as Don Knotts, Phyllis Diller, the Addams Family, and Davy Jones.

The myth of Scooby Doo has inspired scenes in movies like Wayne’s World and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. The characters have become role-models to generations of young people who find themselves arrayed against possibly-supernatural mysteries. Curious and open-minded teenagers have discovered the joys of alternate lifestyles through the regularly-abducted example of Bondage-Prone Daphne, and the patron saint of Cannabis sativa, Shaggy, has gently shepherded his flock through the terrible ravages of sloth, cowardice, and the munchies.

The most recent addition to the Scooby Doo myth cycle is a worthy effort. For the first time, human actors are cast in the roles of the beloved Mystery Machine gang as they meddle in yet another mystery. By and large, they do a surprisingly good job of portraying their animated counterparts. The best of these is Matthew Lillard’s poignant evocation of Shaggy. We are shown a deeper, more meaningful Shaggy. Yes, he eats anything that isn’t nailed down, and yes, he’s every bit the coward we have come to know and love, but there is more to him. He is the soul of the group, the conscience and moral center. Lillard also pegs the voice and mannerisms of the animated Shaggy with preternatural accuracy.

Linda Cardellini deserves mention, as well: she breathes life into Velma, and for a brief moment we know the true Velma, the Velma under the thick glasses and the thicker turtleneck sweater. Sadly, Sarah Michelle Gellar doesn’t quite make us believe the role of Daphne. Is she too cute? Insufficiently glamorous? It’s difficult to say. She tries, and perhaps she does the best with the part that she can, but it just rings false. Not as false, however, as the grievously mis-cast Freddie Prinze, Jr. as Fred. Does Prinze look like Fred? Not really. Does he give off Fred’s latent homosexual vibe? No (at least not to me). Does he have Fred’s trademark topheavy build? Nope. So what explains his inexplicable casting as the foppish hunk? Could it be because he was romantically involved with Sarah Michelle Gellar, who can single-handedly attract millions of dollars of financing to a movie project? But perhaps it’s better that we not speculate. Besides, they’re married now, so we should be kind—the romance won’t last much longer. The important thing is that the cast, on the whole, does a fine job, and better than one might expect.

But what of the story? Does it live up to the greatest of the Scooby Doo stories: The Spooky Space Kook, Which Witch is Which, or Foul Play in Funland? Almost! The story concerns a rich amusement park owner who calls in the gang to investigate peculiar behavior of the park’s patrons. It’s a simple story, and it’s fairly transparent, but it works. The creeps are creepy, the sets are marvelous, and the amusement park owner is played by the pleasantly goofy Rowan Atkinson—and as we all know from the underrated farce Rat Race, Rowan Atkinson can be entertaining even while falling asleep.

This isn’t to say that the movie couldn’t be improved. There were several scenes left upon the cutting room floor that would have made the film more entertaining to its adult audience, such as the kiss between Daphne and Velma, or Shag and Scoob trading hits on a Scooby-sized bong. Some of these will hopefully find their way to the Scooby Doo “Special Edition” DVD (which should see heavy promotion in the months before Scooby Doo 2 is released in theatres in 2004). There’s also the small matter of the Scooby Doo character itself. It’s no Jar-Jar Binks, but it’s no Velociraptor, either. If you want to see a funny talking dog, see Men in Black 2. Let’s hope that the animation is better in the Scooby sequel (and that there aren’t any more Star Wars movies).

But is Scooby Doo watchable and fun? I think so. So add it to your Netflix queue, stoke up the hookah, and kick back with some Scooby Snacks.

 

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