Scooby fans will enjoy this affectionate live-action tribute to the unquenchably popular cartoon series.
Wisely abandoning the first version’s wobbly attempt to appeal both to children with silly scares and older teens with self-aware irony and double entendres, this one is a straight-on re-enactment of the cartoon classic, with some of the series’ most memorable bad guys, including The Pterodactyl Ghost, The Black Knight Ghost, Captain Cutler’s Ghost, and The 10,000 Volt Ghost, uniting in a sort of all-star reunion of a scarefest.
The Mystery Inc. ghostbusters — Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Geller), Velma (Linda Cardellini), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), and Scooby-Doo (computer graphics plus the rowlfy voice of Neil Fanning) — are being feted at the gala opening of an exhibit devoted to their adventures at the Coolsonian Museum. As they walk down the red carpet, they are greeted by television reporter Heather (Alicia Silverstone) and each of them has a group of devoted fans. But the gala is distrupted when what they thought was a replica of The Pterodactyl Ghost turns out to be the ghost itself.
Before long, the all of the costumes from the exhibit are stolen and Heather has made the MI-ers look incompetent and arrogant.
Each member of the gang feels responsible. Shaggy and Scooby in particular want to show the others that they can be heroes, too. It will take all of their courage and skill to vaporize the ghosts and un-mask the culprit. Is it Old Man Wickles (Peter Boyle), his one-time prison cellmate Jacobo (Tim Blake Nelson)? Or could it be Patrick, the Coolsonium Museum curator (Seth Green)? The skills and loyalty — and appetite — of the whole crew will be necessary to save the day.
The special effects are fun, especially a silly disco dance number starring Scooby in a huge Afro wig to a cover of Sly Stone’s “Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Again),” and the action sequences have energy and humor. But the characters are, well, cartoonish, and for anyone but hard-core fans who will recognize every reference to each of Scooby’s many cartoon incarnations, any charm in seeing them played by actors on the big screen wore off sometime ten minutes into the first one.
Parents should know that the characters are in frequent peril that is intended to be comic but that may be overwhelming for some children. No one is hurt, but the ghosts and monsters are ghoulish looking and some kids may find them more scary than silly. A kick in the crotch is intended as humorous. The movie has some crude potty humor and some mild language (“butt,” “screwed up”). There is a particularly annoying product placement for Burger King. Parents will want to make sure that kids do not try some of the stunts in this movie, including squirting whipped cream directly into their mouths. There are endless myths about hidden meanings in “Scooby-Doo,” especially drug references or innuendos. People looking for such references may think that after Shaggy squirts whipped cream into Scooby’s mouth, he then “huffs” the nitrous oxide. However, there is no evidence that this is the intent of the scene.
Families who see this movie should talk about what it means to use a comment “out of context.” What did Heather do to make Fred’s statements seem as though they meant something other than what he intended? Why was it hard for Velma to believe that Patrick liked her? What do you think of Daphne’s comment that “The object of a healthy relationship is to never let them know you have flaws?” Why did Shaggy think he was not helping his friends? What did he learn? Why was it so easy for Heather to change so many people’s minds about the Mystery Inc. folks? What helps you decide what you think about people in the news?
Families who enjoy this movie can find out more about Scooby and the rest of Mystery, Inc. at the official website. To find the original appearances of some of the ghosts in this movie, check out this episode guide. And families will enjoy some of the Scooby-Doo classics, like Scooby-Doo’s Original Mysteries, with the series pilot featuring the Black Knight and Old Man Wickles.