First published in the Holyoke Enterprise April 14, 2016
“Scooby-Doo, where are you?” is almost a universal phrase. As the comedian Eddie Izzard said, Shaggy and Scooby may be the most recognizable characters in Western culture since Falstaff – that’s SHAKESPEARE, guys! First created in 1969, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! followed the adventures of Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby-Doo as they worked together to solve mysteries and uncover the truth behind supposed supernatural occurrences. They usually turned out to be the scary old man who ran the amusement park and ended with the villain saying, “I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!”
Spin-off after spin-off have come and gone since the mid-1970s, including A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, and Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! as recently as 2015. TV Guide even rated the show the fifth greatest TV cartoon of all time. Not bad for a talking dog and bunch of hippies!
Let’s jump to 2002 and the live-action film Scooby-Doo starring Freddie Prinze, Jr., (his wife and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) Sarah Michelle Geller, Matthew Lillard (Scream), Linda Cardellini (Freaks and Geeks, Mad Men), and a CGI Scooby-Doo for a brand-new adventure with new thrills and chills. The Mystery Inc. gang has split up following a fight between Fred, Daphne and Velma. Fred tends to take all the credit and is a little too obsessed with fame, Daphne is tired of being the damsel in distress and always getting captured, and Velma wants recognition for her ideas and schemes. And Shaggy and Scooby want a sandwich.
When they’re all invited to a Spooky Island to investigate strange goings-on, they’re forced to reconcile and put their heads together to find out what’s happening to the young people on the island. Once there, they meet the owner and operator of the island Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson, Mr. Bean) and witness a strange ritual where most of the guests are chanting along with the freaky N’Goo Tuana and his Mexican wrestler friend Zarkos. Yeah, super weird stuff. But Shaggy and Scooby also meet Mary Jane (Isla Fisher, Wedding Crashers) and she’s got a couple quirks of her own, like glowing green eyes and a face that doesn’t always stay in the right place. One night, the hotel is attacked by these terrifying dog-demon creatures who kidnap Fred and Velma and destroy most of the place. Can Shaggy and Scooby rescue the rest of the gang and figure out the mystery of Spooky Island before it’s too late?
I remember this movie coming out (I was in high school) and thinking it was a dumb idea. Did we need a Scooby-Doo movie? No, we did not, but after watching it, I will give it a pass. It’s actually quite funny and a good time to watch. The CGI is terrible and is extremely dated by today’s standards, but if you can get around that, the performances are all really strong. You can tell all the actors grew up watching Scooby-Doo and are having a great time. Lillard in particular is a fantastic Shaggy and does a top-notch job acting with nothing but a tennis ball on a stick for most of the movie. FPJ is a great Fred (even better than the original cartoon) and SMG kicks major behind as Daphne (she’s learned martial arts since they broke up so as to not get captured all the time). Plus when you’ve got a script written by James Gunn (Dawn of the Dead remake, Guardians of the Galaxy), most of the heavy lifting is taken care of already.
There are some pretty scary moments – those dog-demon things are nasty – and since it all takes place at a place literally called Spooky Island, you can understand how this can be true. It is rated PG and rightly so. Also the tagline is, “Be Afraid. Be Kind of Afraid”, so there you go. A fun, silly romp down memory lane with some updated classic characters, Scooby-Doo isn’t great but it is very fun.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Snack Packs
Do you remember this movie? What did/do you think of it?