Scooby-Doo (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner07/10/2002

Three out of five stars
Running time: 87 mins

Surprisingly enjoyable comedy, boosted by some great performances and an infectious sense of fun – a treat for nostalgia-buffs and kids alike.

Aside from the obvious comic / cartoon-to-live-action comparison, Scooby-Doo is similar to Spider-Man, in that a movie version had been on the cards for over twenty years. Now, however, the waiting is over and the movie is surprisingly enjoyable, despite the critical pasting it received in the States - not that audiences cared, as it sailed past the magic $100 million mark in just three weeks, meaning that we can definitely expect a sequel.

Old Man Smithers

There were, apparently, 310 episodes of the cartoon, which is astonishing when you consider that every episode followed the same ‘gang investigate haunted place, gang capture ‘ghost’, ‘ghost’ is actually Old Man Smithers-type’ structure.

True to form, the movie doesn’t stray far from that familiar template and, as a result, your enjoyment of the film will be much greater if you have a working knowledge of the cartoons.

Fred (Freddie Prinze Jnr), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar, aka Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Velma (Linda Cardellini, from TV’s Freaks & Geeks), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby are the ghost-busting team Mystery Inc. In the opening scene they capture a villain, as per usual, but their egos drive them apart and the group splits up.

They’re then reunited when they’re individually summoned to Spooky Island by Emil Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson, reining in the Bean-isms for once), to investigate some creepy goings-on. (This leads to the classic line “Now that we’re all back together again, let’s split up and look for clues…”)

Scooby Snacks

There are two main elements that make the film work as well as it does. Firstly, it’s obviously been made with a lot of affection for the cartoons and it manages to nicely balance cartoon-style humour for kids with the odd adult joke (Scooby Snacks as thinly-veiled dope-substitute etc) and more knowing references to how silly the original cartoons were (Daphne always getting captured, Velma always losing her glasses, Fred basically useless etc).

Secondly, Matthew Lillard IS Shaggy. The voice, the look and even the walk are all note-perfect – it’s hard to imagine any other actor in the role. (Which, given that both Mike Myers and Rhys Ifans were previous choices, must only be seen as a good thing).

Kick ass, Buffy-style

The other performances are good too. Both Lillard and Cardellini are ultra-faithful to their cartoon incarnations (catchphrases included), though the writers have had a bit more fun with Fred and Daphne, allowing Daphne to take self-defence classes (which, coincidentally, allow her to kick ass, Buffy-style) and turning Fred into an amusingly vain moron. This also enables real-life couple Prinze and Gellar to have a lot of fun with their teen idol images.

As for the animation, the U.S critics came down pretty hard on CGI Scooby, but it’s hard to see how it could have been done any better. A real dog wouldn’t have worked, and neither would a 2D cartoon. As such, the CGI Scooby takes a short while to get used to, but actually works really well. This is definitely aided by the fact that Neil Fanning nails the Scooby voice perfectly.

This isn’t to say that the film isn’t without flaws. For one thing, the soundtrack is intrusive and plays Crap Rock over some scenes where upping the cartoon sound effects would have been much funnier.

Similarly –though this is more of a complaint for adult audiences- a number of more risqué scenes were cut (a same sex kiss between Daphne and Velma; various drug references; shots of Velma in a bikini etc), which wouldn’t be quite so annoying if it weren’t for the fact that some of these scenes are clearly visible in the trailer. (That said, they’ll probably turn up on the DVD).

Farting contests

That said, there’s still a lot to enjoy and there’s an infectious sense of fun running throughout that works so well, you’ll even find yourself laughing at Shaggy and Scooby’s farting contest…

In short, Scooby-Doo is a lot better than anyone could have expected, although lowering your expectations before you go in will definitely help. It’s funny, it has some good lines and the performances are spot-on. There’s even a deliciously satisfying in-joke that rewards all those people who felt that Scrappy Doo ruined the original cartoons. Recommended.

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Content updated: 18/10/2017 08:41

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