It has been quite some time since I last did a “One from the Shelf” entry, but I was thrilled when I opened the random number generator this week, plugged in the necessary choices, and the 2002 live-action, Raja Gosnell-directed, “Scooby-Doo” movie came up. I saw the film in theaters and may have checked it out once or twice since, but it really hasn’t been all that much on my radar, so the opportunity to revisit it was great. Plus, it was short enough that I could watch it with my daughter on a school night.
Now, if you ask me, this adaption (which features a screenplay by James Gunn), is just about a perfect live-action take on Scooby and the gang. The cast—Freddie Prinze Jr. as Fred, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Daphne, Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, Linda Cardellini as Velma, and Neil Fanning voicing Scooby—is pitch perfect. They exhibit all the traits of the cartoon characters while simultaneously noting the intrinsic silliness of said characters. Lillard, in particular, is fantastic. He completely nails Shaggy, making him a living, breathing, cartoon that could almost exist in the real world.
If you ask my daughter, she would describe the film as “weird.” I know this because when the credits rolled she said it was “weird.” She has never been that into the gang from Mystery Inc., but she will respond, “rover here” if you say, “Scooby-Doo where are you?” That doesn’t stem for a deep knowledge of the series, it’s just good parenting.
So, why did she find it “weird?” I think that really comes from the movie leaning heavily into the comedy and going over-the-top on the depiction of the creepy monsters and bad guys. It is the old cartoon, but with the volume turned up to 11. The sets are big, the costumes loud, the bad guys broad, the acting huge, and the animated creatures larger-than-life. To my mind, and knowing the cartoon, that makes it great fun, but if you’re unaware of the history of Scooby and the gang, I think it could come off as weird.
One of the things that always strikes me about the movie is just how much I would love to go to a place like Spooky Island, where the story takes place. Or, to be fair, I’d want to go there without all the college students there to party on spring break (nobody needs to be around those shenanigans). The whole island is one big amusement park, decorated in garish fashion. How would that not be enjoyable? Plus, it has Rowan Atkinson running the affair (Isla Fisher is in the movie as well), and he’s someone I’d like to meet.
Does the movie then, to my mind, have any failings? It does indeed. I don’t like the inclusion of Scrappy in it. I know that he’s there as a joke and to show just how silly Scrappy is as a character, but I think that’s one particular skid they didn’t need to steer into.
Beyond that, as odd as this may sound, I wanted more. I wanted the mystery to go deeper and for the film to run longer. I didn’t want it to end and felt a little sad when it did. I actually almost popped in the sequel, “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed,” once the credits stopped on this first one. Sadly, I didn’t have time that night, but I do see a viewing of it coming down the line in short order.
Taking a quick look at one of the Scooby Wikipedia pages, it becomes clear just how many Scooby adventures have been made. Go to the bottom of this pageand you’ll see a massive list including the TV shows, specials, direct-to-video movies, and the other live action Scooby movies (who knew!).
So, in conclusion, “Scooby-Doo” is a wonderfully funny film… if you like Scooby and the gang. If you’re not a Scooby person, there’s no amount of Scooby Snacks that’ll get you into this.
photo credit: Warner Brothers