You know, every summer seems to have at least one potential big bomb that draws attention to its stench well before Christmas, and no, not just whatever is the latest tragedy from directors Joel Schumacher or Garry Mashall (or George Lucas, heh). For 2002, the number one candidate has long appeared to be the live-action, big budget edition of “Scooby-Doo”.
Starring Freddie Prinze Jr. (as Fred), “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” star Sarah Michelle Gellar (as Daphne), Linda Cardellini (as Velma), and Matthew Lillard (as Shaggy, doomed to carry this mother on his back) as the occasionally competent detectives of Mystery, Inc., this epic features Scott Innes as the voice of a CGI Scooby. Inspiring minimal confidence is the director of “Big Momma’s House” and “Home Alone 3”, Raja Gosnell, and James Gunn, the writer behind a couple of Troma films and “The Specials”. The trailers alone have been so ubiquitous that I couldn’t wait for the movie to come out, just so it could die and Warner Bros. would kill all the ads. Hell, I never really liked the show (or many of the other Hanna-Barbera wannabe classics) to begin with. It was too damn repetitive with every plot revolving around some “nutjob in a Halloween mask” who would have succeeded in his inane evil plot, if not, of course, for “those meddling kids”. Of course, now I’ve actually seen the damn movie.
The film opens with the ghost-busting of a toy factory that doesn’t go quite as Mystery, Inc. planned. As a result, the members of the group go their separate ways minutes after the opening credits. Flash ahead two years later, and a reclusive billionaire named Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson) succeeds in drawing them back together one last time to solve the mystery behind what’s happening to the vacationing college students visiting his theme park/resort, Spooky Island. As each finds themselves in over their heads, they eventually realize that only as a team can they survive and learn the island’s secrets. Who’d have guessed? A tougher question that can only be answered by actually watching the movie would be, “is it as bad as we think?”
Actually, no, it’s really fairly entertaining. The filmmakers have the conventions of the original show down, and know when to mock them mercilessly. Scooby and Shaggy are the only two characters that really matter anyway, and if Lillard was born to play any role, it’s Shaggy. Overall, the movie has a good heart, and a lot of eye candy. What else would you really want in a summer flick? It even confirms my long-held belief that the members of the band Sugar Ray are really hideous evil monsters, so I gave it an extra half a star, just for that. At least the 20 people who saw it with me (in a theatre built for around 1500, on a Saturday night) found it hysterically funny. On the other hand, they all seemed pretty stoned, so use your own judgement for, uh, pre-film preparations.