July 10, 2003
Go back to your childhood as you sit cross legged in front of the TV on a school day afternoon and watch the continuing adventures of Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and of course Scooby-Doo.
Irony has become very much a theme in Hollywood in recent years as wave upon wave of nostalgic TV series have been given the updated camp treatment. The Avengers was one of the first, but not particularly memorable (at least after therapy), then came the louder and slightly better Lost in Space. More followed, with none really knowing what side of the camp wall they were intending to stand until the Hanna Barbera series Scooby Doo received its live action outing.
Scooby has been a stalwart of children’s TV since the Sixties as his team Mystery Inc went about solving crimes in ‘medalling kids’ fashion. This latest live action version maintains the original’s energetic spirit and keeps the characters of Scooby and Shaggy as innocent in the ways of the world as they always were. Only the characters of Fred, Velma and Daphne have been altered, but then they needed to be as their 2D counterparts were merely there for plot advancement anyway. It was the hapless duo that provided the entertainment.
Velma has developed into a sensitive and misunderstood genius, bizarrely played by the beautiful Linda Cardellini. It seems that Hollywood interprets ‘frumpy’ as a beautiful girl in frumpy clothes, but who cares? Unlike here cell animated self, she’s bothered by the lack of recognition she receives for here crime solving abilities, and she resents the vain and egotistical Fred. Fred on the other hand believes all is well, and that he is a genius. When any crimes are solved he is the one that receives all the plaudits, which he readily accepts. Daphne, played by her Buffness Sarah Michelle Gellar, is the victim of constant jibes about here twenty four hour damsel in distress routine. So much so that she apparently comes with here own ransom note.
None of this character richness was present in the original cartoon series, as concepts such as vanity and jealousy didn’t really have any place in a Scooby Doo cartoon. There was a more adult orientated series of gags though on one Hanna Barbera special of Johnny Bravo which featured the Scooby Gang. When splitting up to search a haunted house Fred suggested that he and Velma check the basement, until Daphne called him and made suggestive eye movements, forcing him to rearrange the teams so that he and Daphne check the bedrooms. This is the kind of humour on offer in the live action Scooby Doo, it’s inoffensive and way over the kids heads so both children and adults will like it. This film is very like a Christmas pantomime in the sense that half of the jokes are aimed at adults anyway, particularly those that used to watch Scooby as kids yet the children of today will still laugh because it’s Scooby Doo.
It’s great that even Scrappy Doo makes an appearance in one of the flashbacks. They talk about how he ruined the gang for everyone as though the programme makers themselves were admitting that Scrappy was a bad idea in the original cartoon. Surely they wouldn’t admit that, would they?
Although the effects on Scooby were very impressive, and when this film was announced there was speculation as to whether he’d be CGI or a real dog in the Disney style, but the real star of this film is Mathew Lillard. His perfect – and I do say perfect performance of the Casey Kasem voiced Shaggy made the film. Becoming a larger than life cartoon character in live action form is tough, look at how Mathew Broderick drowned in the Inspector Gadget role, but becoming one that has been around for over forty years is a mammoth undertaking, and Lillard positively shone in the role.
Buffy fans too get to enjoy SMG become a real life member of the Scooby gang, and drown their sorrows about how she found true love with co-star Freddie Prinze Jr on the set of Scooby. Sarah plays a cross between Buffy and Clueless’ Cher Horowitz, a kind of high kicking bimbo. She seems to enjoy these kind of roles as they’re a far cry from her increasingly intense plot lines in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The film opens with a classic Scooby moment as the gang are in a spooky warehouse trying to trap an obviously fake ghost. The carefully laid out plan goes horribly wrong and Scooby and Shaggy save the day through blind luck only to reveal that once again it was the janitor, and he proclaims how he’d have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those pesky kids.
The resultant media circus that surrounds Fred for his latest triumph enrages Velma so much that the gang argue before splitting to go their separate ways. Only an invite to spooky island and the promise of a mystery gets them back together again. Actually it was he promise of ‘all you can eat’ that enticed Shaggy and Scooby, the mystery was neither here nor there. On this island they investigate strange happenings, disappearances and holiday guests becoming zombie-fied.
Rowan Atkinson puts on his best ‘I can do other stuff in film apart from Mr. Bean’ routine and Shaggy meets the delectable Isla Fischer from Home & Away. Naturally being the Shaggy from the original Scooby Doo his interest in her is perfectly innocent and he doesn’t let in detract from the real issue of eating Scooby Snacks and generally hanging around with his pal.
Basically this film is great entertainment on a pure level, if you were a fan of Scooby or you just think that large dogs causing havoc is entertaining then you’ll enjoy it. If however you weren’t a big fan of Scooby Doo then you might not get the jokes or the references to the cartoon antics.
Scooby Doo 2 is now in production and is due for theatrical release in 2004.