Scooby Doo
review by Cynthia Fuchs, 14 June 2002

Pass the boombastic!

The first single off the much-promoted Scooby Doo soundtrack CD is OutKast's "Land of a Million Drums," a vivid, sinuous, fast-beat delight. The video for the song includes a few scenes from Raja Gosnell's movie, mostly having to do with the implied stoner activities of Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and digital Scooby (voiced by Scott Innes), producing much smoke in the Mystery Machine. As Big Boi puts it, "Stuck in this green mini-van with my lungs in a chokehold. / Shaggy, pass the boombastic!"

The video shows Big Boi and the irrepressible Andre 3000, along with featured guest Killer Mike and someone wearing ghoulish whiteface, in a series of haunted-housey-mysteries-in-need-of-solving scenarios, all the while explaining just why they're caught up in all this corniness. For one thing, they're making art for their kids: as Big Boi raps, "I pick up the mic and rock it while I'm sober, / For the rated G exposure, if you listen what I'm tryin' to told ya, / We fathers with seeds of our own."

Amen to all that good dad business. Sadly, OutKast's latest bit of brilliance has precious little to do with the live action incarnation of Scooby Doo, currently making scads of money at the box office. Indeed, Warner Bros.' film, with script attributed to James Gunn, appears to be a gigantic marketing concept, or, more precisely, an amalgamation of concepts, tied in with AOL, Six Flags Theme Parks, assorted bakeries who sell Scooby Snacks, InStyle, Entertainment Weekly, and of course, MTV, among others. The result is a promotional vehicle that vaguely resembles a movie, that is, including a series of mostly unrelated escapades, compiled soundtrack, CGI sets and effects, and young actors who must have better things to do with their time.

It hardly seems worthwhile to complain about Scooby Doo's narrative incoherence. As such, it follows, more or less, the formula laid down by the cartoon series, whose longtime admirers (and their young children) are the presumed consumers of this product. The first scene is probably the sharpest, as Gang appears mid-episode, in which they are solving a mystery, the "Case of the Luna Ghost." Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has been captured by the titular Ghost, which mostly means she's being hauled around an abandoned warehouse or factory of some kind, fretting that she's playing damsel in distress yet again. Meanwhile, Scooby and Shaggy pursued, scaring themselves as much as anyone is scaring them. And oh yes, charmingly closeted Ken-doll Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and slightly less closeted smarty-pants Velma (Linda Cardellini) are paired off per usual, eventually saving the day, so that Fred can take credit and Velma can feel frustrated by his self-loving routine.

That he takes said credit before a gaggle of fans led by Pamela Anderson is one of the film's few straight-up pleasures -- for the bizarre reason that Pam appears as a welcome human element amid all the preposterousness surrounding her. Maybe it's a matter of scale.

No matter: she spends under a minute on screen before the film moves on to what passes as its "plot" (Bye, bye, dear Pam! We miss you!), namely, that the Gang breaks up, due to boredom with their samey-same roles and jealousy of one another. You know, it's Behind the Music, for cartoons (an idea that The Simpsons has already covered, nicely). Cut to "2 Years Later," on some beachfront, as Scooby and Shaggy are roasting eggplant patties and buns (so as to motivate the smoke puffing from the Mystery Machine) and they get word that a dire mystery is brewing, a mystery in need of their special ghost-busting skills.

As it turns out, all the ex-Gang members are receiving the same summons, from the very creepy Emil Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson), owner of a spring-break resort called Spooky Island (certainly named like the place I'd want to spend my spring break!). Sullenly, the kids agree to work together one more time, each insisting that he or she is doing so only to prove to the others just how splendiferously independent he or she has become in the time they have been apart. Just so, the newly kung-fu-trained Daphne informs her skeptical compatriots, "I've transformed my body into a dangerous weapon." More power to her.

On the island, the plot descends still further into murky nonsense. The mystery to be solved ostensibly has to do with the ooky way that young visitors arrive seeming like regular, self-involved, obnoxious kids, and leave like zombies, their mindless sameness and frightening willingness to obey all orders marked by the fact that they all speak in some slang approximating hiphop, saying things like, you know, "Word!"

Resolute in their mission to best one another, the rather ignores the rather alarming body-painted voodoo-priest-type-villain who lords over the all-night "party." Daph, Fred, Velma, and Shaggy then do what they always do, which is to "split up," so that each can run into his or her own particular danger, before they come back together and proclaim their loyalty forever (or, as Shaggy puts it, again and again, "Friends never quit"). Thus, Scooby heads into a dark forest in search of a promised bag of hamburgers, Velma and Fred go in different directions inside the haunted mansion, and Daphne wanders a beach until she stumbles on a voodoo-man (Miguel Nuñez, Jr.) midway through a chicken ritual. As it happens, his chicken is store-bought, pre-plucked and ready for roasting, a detail she can't help but note. Voodoo-man hits back, ominously: "Go home before evil befalls your skinny little aerobicized booty."

Okay, so you get the idea -- Spooky Island is a place where white kids are menaced not only by turning into hiphop-speaking automatons, but also by any number of voodoo-inclined rapscallions, at once sinister and goofy. The Gang discovers that this is all part of a scheme to steal kids' souls -- a lot like what happened in Josie and the Pussycats, actually, though here the organization of events is considerably less clever. No doubt the most alarming moment comes when the Gang is beset by the chief vehicle for soul-theft, who is none other than Sugar Ray. The band performs for a bit and then Mark McGrath leaps off the stage, leading his boys in hot pursuit of poor Velma. Now that is some scary sh*t!

It turns out that McGrath and company are only flunkies for a needlessly elaborate plot to steal kids' souls, in order to grant Mondavarious some kind of world-dominating power. Or something like that. It's actually hard to care much about any of the details, since the larger picture is so dull. Where are those million drums when you need them?

Aside from the completely lame hiphop-slang gimmick (white kids turning black: ahhh!), the film's major disappointment is the decision by someone to omit the lesbian kiss between Velma and Daphne. The occasion does present itself, when the souls stolen from the Gang's bodies all fly about and land, momentarily in one another's, allowing for comic references (mostly by the boys in girls' bodies, of course) concerning breasts and ensuing titillation. But for whatever reason, Velma is not outed, even as a feeble transgender joke. Instead, she's paired off with a boy, as Fred and Daphne get to smooch, and Shaggy finds a girl, all leaving poor Scooby out in the cold.

Directed by:
Raja Gosnell

Sarah Michelle Gellar
Matthew Lillard
Freddie Prinze Jr.
Linda Cardellini
Rowan Atkinson
Pamela Anderson
Mark McGrath
Miguel Nuñez, Jr.

Written by:

PG - Parential
Guidance Suggested.
Some material may
not be suitable
for children.





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