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Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

  • review by Mary Lasse Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 26 Mar
Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

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Like, Scooby and the gang are back for another live-action adventure. Zoinks! Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, directed by Raja Gosnell and written by James Gunn—the same team that brought us the first installment of Scooby Doo—sort of works. The first Scooby (2002) was so bad that it's hard to imagine the sequel getting any better. But, instead of sending Mystery, Inc. on another Spooky Island adventure, Gosnell and Gunn returned to the formulaic (and predictable) story line that made the cartoon series a hit.

At the beginning of Scooby 2, Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Velma (Linda Cardellini), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), and Scooby seem to be at the top of their crime-solving game. They've got Mystery, Inc. merchandise, they've got groupies, Velma's got a love interest (Jinkies!) in museum curator Patrick, played by Seth Green, and they've opened the Coolsonian Criminology Museum, to which they've donated the costumes of monsters they've unmasked.

But, as the story goes, things have to go wrong for any crime solving to take place. So, at the very gala celebrating the opening of the museum, Pterodactyl Ghost comes to life (in a scene that might scare younger children) and steals several costumes on behalf of a mysterious masked villain who promises the ruin of Mystery, Inc. Now the gang's got some work to do—and their best piece of evidence is a Pterodactyl scale full of Randomonium that Velma finds after the museum mayhem. (For all of you non-scientists, Randomonium is a chemical used for bringing monsters to life. Of course.)

Mystery, Inc. is determined to solve the enigma, but there's division in the group. Fred, Daphne, and Velma don't realize that they've hurt Shaggy and Scooby by saying that the two goofballs botched the "immediate capture of monster" option while at the museum. With loads of self-pity, Shaggy and Scooby decide to act like "real detectives" for once. This decision leads the entire group into a series of capers as they stumble toward the answer.

Who's responsible for the devious plan? Could it be Old Man Wickles (Peter Boyle), mad scientist Jacobo (Tim Blake Nelson), news reporter Heather (Alicia Silverstone), or even Velma's crush, Patrick? A lot of villains have it in for our heroes. Think of how many times we've heard, "And I would've gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for those meddlin' kids!" (My apologies, but I just had to work that line in somewhere.)

The writing in Scooby 2 includes some chuckles (Shaggy: "We gotta make like your personality … and split!") and some groaners (Fred to the Black Knight Ghost: "Yo, Metalhead. Bring it."). Overall, though, Gunn captures the basic nature of each of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera's original cartoon characters.

Cardellini and Lillard bring Velma and Shaggy to life with great character performances. Cardellini nails Velma's accent (pronouncing Scooby as "Skubee") and awkward body movements (crawling around for her glasses). Lillard's voice could pass for Casey Kasem, the original voice of Shaggy, and his knee-locking, shoulder-sagging stance looks exactly like the cartoon Shagster.

But Fred and Daphne (the characters, not the actors) bothered me. They weren't dumb enough. I've always thought of Fred and Daphne as the looks of the group, which they are, but they were pretty smart and tough in this movie as well. And, that's just not fair to the rest of us average folk. I guess it's okay for Fred to come up with some of the ideas—after all, he is the leader of Mystery, Inc. But Daphne, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, seemed more like Buffy the Vampire Slayer than her usual role as the damsel in distress. I half expected to see Willow and Xander walk onscreen. In the scene at Old Man Wickles' mansion, you'll feel like you're watching a Buffy rerun as Daphne fends off the Black Knight Ghost while spewing out witty threats.

Gosnell and Gunn actually shot for a moral message here, sort of a "Thank you for letting me be myself" theme, as a song in the film tells us. Throughout the film, characters occasionally abandon their true personality: Velma pretends to be a cool jet-setter for Patrick, Shaggy and Scooby try to ditch their fun-loving personalities, and Fred puts up a façade of "talking is for wimps" whenever Daphne asks him if he's okay. The end lesson: Be true to yourself.

Alas, neither that message nor any amount of celebrity can save the Scooby films. The first had Pamela Anderson Lee and Mark McGrath with Sugar Ray. The second has Boyle, Nelson, Silverstone, and Green. Still, the cameos are fun and the adult audience members should enjoy seeing Nelson as the raving lunatic Jacobo. Tweens will probably find the movie grooviest, particularly because of the romance (onscreen and off) between Prinze Jr. and Gellar. Honestly, though, you could pass on both of the films unless you really have nothing else to do one day. And I mean nothing.

Talk About ItDiscussion starters Why is our culture fascinated with monsters?

There's a "be true to yourself" message in the film. What do you like about yourself? What don't you like? How should Christians define their identity? SeeGenesis 1:26-27 andPsalm 139:1-16 for some ideas.

Think about your closest friends. Do you encourage each other to pursue your talents? Do you build up each other in your conversations?
The Family Corner For parents to consider

Overall, the film's fairly family-friendly. In once scene, Velma dresses in a skin-tight leather suit in order to get Patrick's attention. In another, Scooby resorts to flatulence in order to get by a monster. And some scenes with monsters would be scary for young children.

Photos copyright © 2004 Warner BrothersWhat Other Critics Are Sayingcompiled by Jeffrey Overstreet
from Film Forum, 04/01/04

The big box office receipts generated by the first Scooby-Doo movie have led to the production of a sequel, which has likewise debuted at #1. This time around, Scooby-Doo and his crew of ghostbusters pursue a masked bad guy who is attempting to take over the city by generating a crowd of monsters. The heroes follow the clues to a museum managed by a strange curator (Seth Green), while a romance develops between Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) and a troublesome reporter (Alicia Silverstone).

Critics approached Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed with scowls, having had a miserable time at the first film in the franchise. This time, they emerged with surprising responses, admitting that this Doo was somewhat entertaining.

But some, like Phil Boatwright (Movie Reporter), are still distressed. He faults "the lame storyline and dull-witted jokes … [and] material not suited for family viewing, such as flatulence jokes and some rather adult sensuality. This is not only a bomb, it's a stink bomb."

Bob Smithouser (Plugged In) is not so bothered: "Some may argue that this spooky sequel is nothing more than another cinematic roller-coaster ride through a haunted house. True, but the company is better and the turns aren't as vicious and morally jarring. Scooby-Doo 2 … may be too frightening for elementary-age children, but tweens, teens and adults needn't be scared off."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says, "It is hard to get fired up over this film. I can say this. It is a marked improvement over the ill-conceived Scooby-Doo film of 2002. But seeing as that film was an unmitigated disaster, it is hardly a compliment."

Mary Lasse (Christianity Today Movies) says the filmmakers "shot for a moral message here … Be true to yourself. Alas, neither that message nor any amount of celebrity can save the Scooby films. You could pass on both of the films unless you really have nothing else to do … and I mean nothing."

Misty Wagner (Christian Spotlight) employs many exclamation marks in her review: "Slight drug references aside, this is an acceptable and entertaining movie for families. This movie can help younger audiences see that we all are special and all have special gifts! It is up to us to use them."

Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) offers a "review" that seems addressed to a specific section of the moviegoing public: "Let's be real, folks. I know it's our childhood here—and I realize that most of those childhoods, like mine, were obliterated by divorce, parents who prayed to the gods of sexual revolution and kids trying to sell drugs on the playground. And I sympathize, I really do. I understand that, like me, you attended the first Scooby Doo movie in a desperate attempt at nostalgia for one of your happier escape moments—TV watching—from those shattered childhoods. But guys, let's be realistic. Scooby Doo wasn't all that good to begin with. We may have liked it then, but we were just little kids. Remember: we also thought our parents were going to get back together."

She concludes, "Go if you must, but don't forget to take your pooper scooper."

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