Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
review by Cynthia Fuchs, 26 March 2004

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed is amongst us, a live-action sequel to the 2002 live-action movie, but does anybody know of anyone who actually LIKED the 2002 movie? The studio trumpeted that it made a lot of money, but ticket prices have gone up, too. Anyway, in this installment, Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr., with blondined hair), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), Velma (Linda Cardellini), and their faithful hound Scooby (courtesy of CGI) are in the first ten minutes eaten by zombies that have escaped from the showing in the next auditorium of  Dawn of the Dead -- sorry, must investigate why ghosties and ghoulies they have confronted in the past are once again shaking the cobwebs from under their arms and gone on the march and on the loose in Mystery, Inc.'s home town of  Coolsville.

Anyway, probably the best way to respond to this movie is as if you were plunked-down in front of the television set on a Saturday morning -- although I always changed the channel when Scooby-Doo came on, so I will have to take the filmmakers' word for it that the new picture offers a rogue's gallery parade of monsters, ghosts, and creepy, crawly things that figured in the cartoon series. Along with the cast members, director Raja Gosnell and screenwriter James Gunn have also reconvened from the last picture. Prinze and Lillard once again seem ideally cast in their roles, although it doesn't seem like much of a compliment, and it's not as if it's much of a stretch: Prinze purses his lips, lowers his eyelids, and looks obsequiously in our direction (he's ALWAYS done that, though); Lillard affects an ingratiating, loose-limbed, doofused amiability, then grimaces to the point where the veins pop out of his neck (it's more masochistic than funny). Gellar, who was ferociously good during parts of James Toback's recent film Harvard Man, still looks like an actress who's waiting to connect with the right film role. Still, you have to remember that these people are playing characters based on cartoons -- with the possible exception of The Flintstones and The Jetsons, which were made for prime-time viewing, the Hanna-Barbera cartoons were primarily time killers, with places for commercials that tried to sell us cereals that weren't good for us, and toys that were probably too expensive for our parents to afford but which everyone had to have.

The rowly-yelping CGI Scooby is just as unintelligible as the animal on TV, except that he sounds like he's possibly talking dirty part of the time ("Wrowl you!" and "Reer rue ups., for instance). There's also some intelligibly-spoken nonsense talk about a chemical element named "randymonium" and, if my notes are correct, "chedqueries" (that's what it looks like), although I don't know if it would have made any difference if they got David Mamet to do the screenplay, with all the characters speaking in "What I mean, I mean, what I mean is" Mametese. Like the show, the film is content to serve as a set-up for lots of cowardly clowning, mugging, stumbling, things going "crash, and plot resolutions that come out of the blue. The exception is that everything looks a lot, lot, lot more expensive. There are some gracefully-executed chases, a voltage monster that recalls the Id creature in Forbidden Planet, a doozy of s shot showing a full-scale ghost pirate ship majestically floating down, and above, a congested city street, and the CGI Scooby is remarkably and seamlessly integrated with the live actors (including a scene involving a choreographed dance number).

On the other hand, Alicia Silverstone appears as a cruel TV reporter -- she looks into the camera and talks about people being knocked from their pedestals, and you wonder if her casting was some sort of a sick joke, given that everyone knows her career took a fierce tumble in the second half of the 1990s. (Her appearance here isn't going to do her any help, either.) But the one thing that must be highlighted is the appearance of Seth Green, playing a museum curator who looks into the eyes of Linda Cardellini's Velma, with her geometric spectacles and huge pageboy hairstyling, and instantly falls in love. (And you may recall that Velma was the one on the TV show that everybody speculated about.) Green's face, which is almost as rubbery as Matthew Lillard's, softens in these somewhat fleeting sequences, and his tone becomes surprisingly tender and touchingly heartfelt. I thought that Green was the best thing to be found in last year's The Italian Job, but who would've known that the comedian who played Dr. Evil's son had a romantic side that was just waiting for the chance to come out?

Directed by:
Raja Gosnell

Starring:
Freddie Prinze Jr.
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Matthew Lillard
Linda Cardellini
Seth Green
Peter Boyle
Tim Blake Nelson
Alicia Silverstone
Neil Fanning

Written by:
James Gunn

Rated:
PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be inappropriate
for children under 13.

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