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by Willie Waffle

Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

Much like many of you reading, Scooby Doo is one of those programs I watched religiously when I was a child. Recently, I caught a couple episodes on cable, and I have come to realize that the show I thought was so cool when I was 7 years old is very bad television (especially the episodes with Scrappy Doo). It doesn't matter because I'll always remember those cartoons with a certain fondness. However, I am also willing to mock them because I have grown up and understand the camp value of what they were doing. Unlike the much better Starsky & Hutch or The Brady Bunch Movie, the Scooby Doo movies try to take this too seriously  and "re-imagine" the series in some pitiful attempt to be relevant in modern pop culture and acquire a new fan base. Once again, Hollywood wants everyone over the age of 25 to feel as if we don't matter.

As the movie opens, Mystery Inc., known much more affectionately as the Scooby Gang or "those meddling kids", is being honored like rock stars as Coolsville's biggest museum is displaying costumes worn by the villains whose plots have been foiled by the young detectives. Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Velma (Linda "I love her on ER" Cardellini), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby Doo (a computer animated dog that doesn't look like the original, hand drawn Scooby) are being feted by the town's elite, fans who have gathered outside the museum to worship their heroes, and the local media. However, trouble is afoot (you don't have a movie unless trouble is afoot).

As the party proceeds throughout the evening, one of the costumes has come to life to wreak havoc on the celebration. A mysterious figure has vowed to get revenge on Mystery Inc. and destroy them for ruining his dastardly plans. With the town of Coolsville in a panic, an enterprising TV reporter, Heather Jasper-Howe (Alicia Silverstone), criticizing the investigation, the mysterious figure bringing other costumes to life and Shaggy joining forces with Scooby to solve the case on their own in an attempt to prove they are real detectives too, Mystery Inc. faces its biggest challenge to date.

Can the Scooby Gang stop this madman before it's too late? Will Coolsville forgive their heroes and start to love them again? Will Mystery Inc. fall apart under the pressure?

I have to admit that Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed is better than the first movie, but I still think Warner Brothers is missing the boat due the movie's tone. Starsky & Hutch is one of the funniest movies of the year because they take a similar 70's staple that is out of date and campy in 2004, and parody it for everyone to enjoy the joke because it is done with affection. We have all heard the Scooby Doo jokes, and I'd like to see that become the movie's centerpiece rather than this attempt to re-imagine Scooby Doo for a new generation. The jokes would be funny, the audience would enjoy it more, and the movie would be memorable. As for the film they have made, it's OK, but not great.

Aside from a couple good moments, Director Raja Gosnell and writer James Gunn rely on slapstick comedy more than wittiness or intelligent jokes. Luckily, they tried to avoid the gross out and potty humor (but couldn't resist during the last 30 minutes), so it's more palatable for those of us with some class and decorum. The story is solid with a good plot that takes advantage of great special effects and a few (but too few) winks to those of us who remember the classic cartoon villains (Miner Forty Niner!). The ghosts have come to life in a way that only can be accomplished by big budget Hollywood movie making, which is thrilling for the audience and makes the mystery more exciting and real for us. However, you might notice some character changes that have a profound impact on the movie and the Scooby Gang.

All of the sudden, Daphne has gone all Buffy the Vampire Slayer on us! Those familiar with the original Scooby Doo will remember that Daphne was quite vanilla and almost non-consequential, but Scooby Doo 2's version of Daphne (maybe with some input/demands from Gellar?) has become the smartest and toughest member of the gang. She is kicking butt, dispensing valuable advice and solving the mystery right along side Velma and Fred. It's a surprise, but a good one since it gives Gellar a chance to be the kind of good actress she can be. She adeptly goes from the most physical action to the daintiest behavior with ease and grace. Gellar might be the best actress in the movie as she shows us her action star ability, love story ability and all around strong acting chops. Along with Cardellini, who gets one of Velma's first important subplots, the women have moved to the forefront of the story.

Most of Scooby Doo 2 is kind of dumb, and the last 30 minutes has too much gross out humor, but it's a passable movie with some bright spots.

2 Waffles (Out Of 4)

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