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Scooby-Doo (2002)
Director: Raja Gosnell

review by Porl Broome

Split asunder due to a serious of major personality mismatches, the various members of Mystery Inc. are living their own lives - Velma researching for NASA, Fred touting his book ('Fred On Fred') on the US lecture circuit, Daphne training to be a kickboxing champ, and Shaggy and Scooby just kicking back in the 'Mystery Machine' and refusing to visit places with the words spooky or creepy in their names - when they each receive letters from Emile Mondavarious, the reclusive owner of the popular student holiday destination 'Spooky Island', requesting their urgent assistance to investigate a problem. And so the unwillingly reformed Mystery Inc. set off on their latest mission, each hoping to solve the mystery alone, and claim the kudos.
   Having been a fan of the original cartoon series for the past 30 years - man and boy - it was with some trepidation that approached this big screen live-action adaptation. The promotional stills weren't incredibly convincing - especially the canine CGI - and the choice of actors was´┐Ż should we say 'imaginative'. So you can imagine my surprise when, within the opening five minutes I was completely sold. This was the Mystery Inc. gang, and that was Scooby. The film opens with the gang in the process of trying to capture a 'ghost' in a toy factory (owned by Pamela Anderson - playing herself, in a fortunately brief cameo), a scene which perfectly recaptures the hapless (and hopeless) traps which the gang set in every cartoon - Shaggy and Scooby used as bait, the trap backfiring, and ultimately working due to dumb luck - and even features the usual villainous unveiling and cry of "you pesky kids."
   The characters are filled out in a very astute manner, with each one's traits pushed to the limits - for example Fred's narcissism, Daphne's vanity, and Shaggy's, well, hippiness - and all of the in-jokes are played out very well. Isn't strange how Fred and Daphne always get paired off when the gang splits up? Why does Daphne always get kidnapped? The plot does everything it needs to do - and even features a truly hysterical twist - and the special effects are well up to scratch (the monster's coming across in a real Men In Black style). But it's the actors who should be commended, especially Matthew Lillard and Linda Cardellini both of whom are instantly unquestionably Shaggy and Velma. True, it takes a little longer to not regard Sarah Michelle Gellar as 'Daphne the Vampire Slayer', but her and real-life beau Freddie Prinze Jr eventually make the other roles their own. The interaction with the constant CGI is seamless, with Scooby as solid as any of the flesh actors. The supporting cast including Rowan Atkinson (as Mondavarious), and Isla Fisher (of TV's Home And Away) as Shaggy's love-interest, are also very good. As cartoon adaptations go, this is one of the best and provides all the camp romp-ness of the original animated series.
   All in all, a film which older kids will enjoy, though some of the monster images may be unsuitable for younger kids (again, think Men In Black), but which adult fans of the original cartoon series will get a whole lot more from. A lot of the humour will be lost, even wasted, on kids, especially anyone who always hankered a yearning to 'bitch-slap' Scrappy-Doo. But I'll say no more about that.
Scooby Doo
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