Review: “Scooby-Doo”

“The Flintstones”, “Josie and The Pussycats”, “Casper” – some of these films made it big at the box-office but as films they were really pretty dire. Now, you can add “Scooby” to that list. This was a film that many were going in thinking it would be horrible and the truth of the matter is it isn’t as bad you expect – in actuality its so bland that you’d be hard pressed to find anything offensive or off-putting here and it works for the age bracket (under 8’s) that its aiming for. The production design and sets are superb, some of the cast are quite good and most important of all – Scooby himself is a quite lovable (albeit overly animated) CG creation which you can’t help but like. Pity the human counterparts aren’t so convincing.

The casting is quite erratic. Matthew Lillard easily steals the show of the human crowd, normally his over the top antics in other flicks can get a bit irritating but here they are perfect for the character (he’s actually calmer than usual) and he seems to have channeled Casey Kasem’s voice – for a Shaggy they made an excellent choice. Linda Cardinelli also does a solid job as the quirky brainiac of the bunch Velma. However both Gellar and Prinze especially prove utterly flat as Fred & Daphne.

Granted they were the least interesting characters in the show too (at least cartoon Fred has some brains), and one has come to expect rather wooden performances from Prinze, but Gellar has continued to prove herself time and time again on “Buffy” which makes this turnout just that much more disappointing. Atkinson does decent but utterly ordinary work as Mondavarious, a bunch of Aussie soap actors can be spotted in the various background scenes and Isla Fisher is sweet but totally forgettable as a love interest for Shaggy. Look out for a fun cameo by Pamela Anderson too.

What’s really missing here is humour. Details of various comedy sequences in the original script have leaked out all over the Net long before the film came out, whilst some of the newer gags that were filmed got cut at the last moment in order to get a US PG rating (down here the gags were deemed so tame they got a G). Because of this we now know that only 2-3 workable gags made it into the final cut including a surprisingly funny flashback involving Scrappy-Doo, and god help me for admitting this – the Shaggy/Scooby farting contest did make me laugh.

Still that’s nowhere near enough – there are plenty of G and PG rated films with much more risque and smarter material than this, and hell even “The Brady Bunch Movie” scarily enough had some great comedy in it – that’s an adaptation that worked because the writing was surprisingly satirical and yet it honored its roots, it was a good script which is the key thing ‘Scooby’ is lacking.

The dud writing is a real shame because the sets are excellent, costuming and pacing is well handled, and considering how much was cut out its quite surprising how smoothly the story flows (there’s not a single hint of the lesbian subtext jokes with Velma in the final print). The blame can’t be levelled at writer James Gunn though, whilst some sequences of his thankfully didn’t make it (eg. “the Scooby-Poo line”), other character developing moments and pretty good gags are nowhere to be seen and I’m sure even Director Raja Gosnell wanted to keep some in but the studio probably didn’t let him.

Some of the sheer manic antics of the cartoon do come out here and some moments or shots you will remember for their visual appeal more than anything, but still this is a very lacklustre attempt. Its a film designed for parents who want to dump their kids in front of something that’s quite safe and inoffensive for 90 minutes whilst they go out and do some shopping or socialising – and for the primary/elementary school kid audience it works. Anyone who counts their age by double figures though, you’ve been warned.