While not as terrible as the trailers would lead one to expect, I'm still at a loss as to whether or not to call this live-action update of "Scooby Doo" a movie, especially when it often seems more like a noisy jumble of scenes loosely tied together. Of course, the film reunites the Mystery, Inc. crew: Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), Velma (Linda Cardellini, too cute to be Velma), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard). After an opening action sequence, the gang realizes that they aren't working together as well as they once were and go their separate ways, if only for a little while.
Soon enough, they're invited by Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson) to his fantasy island to investigate why teens on their spring break end up turning into zombies. From there, the movie evaporates into a series of awfully thin chase sequences through CGI backgrounds and enjoyably surreal (if somewhat too plastic looking at times) sets. The CGI isn't particularly good at all - while it's probably ment to look cartoonish, it likely wasn't meant to look cartoonish and bad. While CGI Scooby works because because of the personality in the vocals, there are several other CGI creations here that look pretty terrible. Part of me felt as if this film could have done a lot more with some imagination, a better screenplay and half the film's reported $90m budget.
While the film was a ridiculous success in theaters, the film seems unsure of its target market: there's one scene that stops for a few minutes simply to have a farting contest, while some of the adult references and one scene with Sugar Ray that turns the film into MTV Spring Break for a few minutes suggest more of a teenage movie. Some of the scenes may be a bit too scary for the youngest kids. The wall-to-wall soundtrack, however, suggests that we're actually watching an infomerical for the CD release.
The performances are mixed, at best. Lillard does a fairly remarkable job recreating stoner Shaggy, reminding me of the inspired take on Barney Rubble by Stephen Baldwin in the otherwise awful "Flinstones" sequel. Cardellini nails the brainy Velma, while Gellar and Prinze, Jr. bring little to their already thin characters. Gellar's character suddenly turns into an action hero late in the picture after seemingly only fighting with attitude for the remainder.
This is harmless, silly stuff; it never really decides on its audience and most of it is utter nonsense, but there's a few decent performances and it moves along quickly enough. While the youngest audience members might be a bit scared, the early teen crowd will probably enjoy this most. I suppose I was hoping for something a bit sharper, along the lines of what director Betty Thomas did with the "Brady Bunch" movie.
VIDEO: "Scooby Doo" is presented by Warner Brothers in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a superb transfer that falls a little short of reference quality. Sharpness and detail are excellent, as the picture clearly captures all of the small details of the sets and does justice to David Eggby ("Pitch Black", most of director Rob Cohen's films)'s cinematography.
The image quality doesn't run into problems very often, but I do have to note a few little issues that did arise: some very slight print flaws were spotted on occasion, as was a hint or two of edge enhancement. While neither problem was too distracting, they did briefly appear. The film's bright color palette is certainly the highlight of the presentation, as the image renders the vivid colors beautifully, with no smearing or other faults. An excellent transfer.
SOUND: While the picture quality is stellar, the Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation leaves a lot to be desired. The cartoonish-looking picture certainly offers some nice visuals, but the sound mix remains fairly uninspired, with hardly any surround use to back up the film's occasional action scenes. Most of the film is clearly front-heavy, with the soundtrack fighting for space with the dialogue and sound effects. While audio quality manages to be clear, there's nothing very remarkable about this soundtrack, which clearly could have been more creative.
MENUS: The DVD's very busy animated menus are fairly easy to navigate, but certainly seem like a bit much.
EXTRAS: The DVD offers two commentary tracks: the first with director Raja Gosnell and Producers Richard Suckle and Charles Roven. The second commentary offers thoughts from Freddie Prinze, Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard and Linda Cardellini.. The participants of both tracks have been recorded together. The cast commentary is a little better than the usual actor tracks (aside from any including the brilliantly sarcastic Ben Affleck, whose comments on this picture would likely have been hilarious), as the four seem to be having a decent time joking about the making of the picture. The filmmakers track is generally enjoyable, as Gosnell as the two producers thankfully provide actual information rather than simply retelling the story or talking about how wonderful everyone was.
Deleted Scenes:13 minutes of deleted scenes are included, with or without optional commentary from director Raja Gosnell. The scenes are a mixture of footage deleted because it was too intense/edgy for younger viewers (a locker room sequence with Cardellini) or simply did not work for the pacing/story (a song/dance number with Cardellini that was choreographed by John 'O Connell, who also worked on "Moulin Rouge").
Featurettes: "Unlocking the Mystery" (21 minutes) is a general "making of" with interviews from the director, producer and the cast as well as a fine amount of "behind-the-scenes" footage; "Scary Places" focuses on the production/set design; "The Mystery Van" shows some of the concepts for the car's update and "Daphne Fight Scene" shows Sarah Michelle Gellar getting ready for the fight late in the picture.
Also: A clever interactive movie trivia game, "Land of a Million Drums" music video, soundtrack information (big surprise) and DVD-ROM games and more.
Final Thoughts: Those who saw the film in the theater and are fans should pick up the very well-done DVD. Others should rent this one first.
The Film **