Maybe I was wrong, but wasn't this movie supposed to be a live-action version of the classic (that's right, I said classic) cartoon? I mean, Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby are here, solving mysteries and getting into wacky hijinks, but long gone is the good natured fun and the craziness that made "Scooby Doo" (IMDb listing) such a beloved show are long gone. What we have left is a ridiculously tedious, studio-committee version of what passes for a family film these days. You don't have to be a fan to see what an atrocity this incarnation of the "Doo" franchise is.
"Scooby Doo" the movie basically picks up where the show left off: a roving gang of teenagers, including the dim pretty boy Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), the brain Velma (Linda Cardellini, "Freaks And Geeks"), hottie Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), and best buds Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and his dog, Scooby Doo, travel around solving scary mysteries in their van, The Mystery Machine. When invitations arrive to an island amusement park run by the mysterious Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson, "Mr. Bean"), the gang travels to the park to unearth why customers go in happy and go home zombies.
Simple enough, right? Well, not really. The plot is a little more complicated, touching on ghosts, ancient soul-sucking devices and Scrappy Doo, who, for some reason not quite understood by this reviewer, is a bad guy in the film (he also urinates on Daphne and curses). "Scooby Doo" is essentially over-thought gobbledygook designed to make you feel like the filmmakers took their time to bring the "Doo" team to the big screen in style. None of that cartoon nonsense here! I wish that were the case. "Scooby Doo" has all the bells and whistles of a cartoon, including the sound effects and a (badly) computer animated Scoobs himself, but yet, the movie is decidedly earthbound. It revels in self-referential bottom feeding. It derives childish glee from making crisply defined jokes about Velma's alleged homosexuality, Fred's ascot (twice, no less!) and Shaggy's much questioned love for marijuana (they even give him a girlfriend named Mary Jane for those of you who like to sit in the back row). The picture forgoes basic subtlety for the chance to make fun of the world they're spending millions on to bring to life. "Scooby Doo" the show is about being scared, laughing at good times and solving mysteries through team work. All the movie is concerned with are scattershot double-entendres, lame cameos (Pam Anderson and the band Sugar Ray show up, was Lou Bega busy?) and generally ripping apart all that makes Scooby Doo such a wonderful, warm character through shoddy, inexpressive animation and this insistence that today's kids won't be able to sit through anything that isn't crude.
And I won't even go into the farting contest that Scooby and Shaggy engage in mid-movie. Thank the heavens William Hanna isn't alive to see this abomination of his work, and I hope Joseph Barbera enjoys that paycheck.
To bring the animated characters to life, director Raja Gosnell ("Home Alone 3," "Big Momma's House") has made some shoddy casting decisions. Prinze Jr. makes for a weak and creepily blonde Fred (who also sports almost constant 5 o'clock shadow, as most teens do) and Gellar misses the vanity ideal behind Daphne, instead choosing to play up her bitchy attitude. Lillard gets the voice of Shaggy down pretty good, but after awhile, it becomes less Shaggy and more the "Matthew Lillard show" like his other movies. The only character the filmmakers do get right is Velma. Brought to life by the wonderful Cardellini, she gets the voice and frustrated genius of the character down perfectly. Unfortunately, Velma is still saddled with all the juvenile muck the screenwriters giggled over when they put this film together, but the character is still the most accurate realization of the group.
I thought we put all this family cartoon-to-live-action-bonanza nonsense to bed with the appalling "Rocky And Bullwinkle." Especially with the infinitely better family film "Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron" in theaters right now, I would suggest you do all the Scooby Doo fans out there a favor and just pass on this junk. There's a Scooby Snack in it for each one of you that does.
Filmfodder Grade: D-