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Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
Director: Raja Gosnell
review by Eric Turowski
I'm a fan, and I still do the 'Doo' when I see a rerun of the old cartoon (the original, mind you, "Scooby Doo, where are you!?" not the ones with the horrendous Scrappy, the new ones with real monsters, or even the 'movies' with special guest stars like Phyllis Diller). When I was a youth, Scoob and the gang thrilled and frightened me, believe it or not, with the likes of Captain Cutler's ghost (a guy in a glow-in-the-dark diving suit) and Mano Tiki Tia, a Hawaiian legend come to life. Bearing in mind that the cartoon first aired when I was three, I can still hear the moans, groans and roars of the monsters, the pop tunes ("Seven days a week, you've even got me talking in my sleeeeee-eee-eeeep") and to this day, occasionally say 'zoinks' (though never 'jinkies'). And in the intervening decades (almost four? Can that be?), I've balked at the stereotypes heaped on Norville 'Shaggy' Rogers (pothead), Velma Dinkley (lesbian), Freddy Jones (obviously gay - he wears an ascot) and Daphne Blake (Fred's beard and general airhead), instead preferring to consider the complexity of character that would make a coward consistently return to reportedly haunted houses; a genius fooled by monster and ghost costumes, and a leader ask his followers to set up elaborate Rube Goldberg traps that inevitably failed. The unwritten spirit of friendship, cooperation and loyalty was the glue that made the Scooby gang stick to the collective unconscious of American youth like ice cream and pepperoni pizza.
When the first Scooby-Doo movie rolled out, I had the misfortune of my girlfriend's niece spoiling a truly apropos ending. I watched the movie anyway, on video, still enjoying the film on a nostalgic level. But I had hopes for the second installation. Monsters Unleashed does just that, bringing back many memorable scary-suited villains, in this case as part of a museum exhibit of vanquished Mystery Inc. foes. Yet at the exhibit opening, the monster suits come alive. The gang's usual antics are caught on video by a TV reporter (Alicia Silverstone), making Mystery Inc. look like chumps (although the audience knows that this is MI's usual modus operandi, apparently the general citizenry of Coolsville do not).
The masked villain resurrecting these monsters is more insidious than the average Scooby baddie, as he leads each member of the group to question his or her abilities, with help from a probing TV reporter Heather (Silverstone). Shag (Matthew Lillard) and Scoob go on a quest to become real detectives, Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr) keeps having his soundbites edited in embarrassing ways, Velma (Linda Cardinelli) falls victim to a crush on the museum curator (Seth Green) - a prime suspect, and Daphne (Sara Michelle Geller) wonders if she contributes to mystery-solving with anything beyond her looks (and fashion sense).
Much plot ensues, including Scoob and Shag's undercover mission to the den of failed Mystery Inc. villains (The Faux Ghost); Velma in a Pleather jumpsuit (orange of course, but still, zoinks!); a haunted house spectacularly reminiscent of the opening sequence of the cartoons complete with a flock of bats; Scooby-Doo in drag; Peter Boyle as Old Man Wickles, the original Black Knight antagonist; a giveaway ending and a grand unmasking (of course). The bottom line? If you like Scooby-Doo, and all the canine stands for - including camaraderie, pigging out on junk food, and ghost-busting, you'll like Monsters Unleashed. If you're too obsessed with the pending fall of western civilisation and ask the question 'why would anyone waste perfectly good celluloid on 1970s' cartoon characters', you'll hate it.
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