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Scooby-Doo
(Widescreen)

review by Zach B.

 

Rated: PG (Some Rude Humor, Language and Some Scary Action)

Running Time: 86 minutes

Starring: Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini and Rowan Atkinson

Screenplay by: James Gunn
Story by: Craig Titley and James Gunn

Directed by: Raja Gosnell

 

Studio: Warner Bros.

Retail Price: $19.98

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Raja Gosnell, Producer Charles Roven and Producer Richard Suckle, Audio Commentary with Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard and Linda Cardellini, Additonal Scenes with Optional Commentary, Unmasking The Mystery "Behind Scooby-Doo", Two Player Spooky Island Arcade Challenge, Outkast "The Land Of A Million Drums" Music Video, Scary Places, The Mystery Van, Daphne Fight Game, Scooby-Doo Soundtrack Info, DVD-ROM

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Index (13 Scenes)

Released: October 11th, 2002

 

 

For every good and successful film based on a popular 1960s cartoon ("George Of The Jungle"), there always has to be a bad one that flops at the box office ("Dudley Do-Right," "The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle") since our studio executive friends tend to get greedy. Many were skeptical with "Scooby-Doo," despite its teen-based stars, summer tentpole release date and rather large budget. Still, the real question was if fans of the show - young and old - would actually care. Apparently, they did, as "Scooby-Doo" broke box office records for June and was one of 2002's greatest summer successes (a sequel is in the works for summer 2004).

So how does "Scooby-Doo" fare when it comes to feature film adapatations based on 1960s cartoons? I'd say somewhere in the middle. Yes, it's certainly not a great movie, but it gets points because it was such a big hit. The first live action feature opens with those meddling kids from the Mystery INC. gang solving yet another mystery. However, tension in the group has been building and comes to a boiling point after the mystery gets solved.

So the gang goes their separate ways, only to be reunited a few years later when each of them are called to Spooky Island to help solve a mystery. Some crazy ongoings, which can probably only be described as "evil" are happening (during Spring Break no less). I don't know what monsters want with drunk, sexy college kids... but Mystery INC. must find out and see if the theme park is supposedly haunted. Naturally, if they don't, the whole world might be doomed.

No, I was never a "Scooby-Doo" cartoon fan or anything, but I've seen it a few times and that's enough to get a feel for the show. It's simple to say that this movie does not capture the feel of cartoon... not in the least bit. Though fans of the show might be clamoring that they now have a live action, big budget version of their show... this movie's humor resorts to the lowest common demoniator for big laughs: fart jokes. Ugh. Like we haven't been exposed to that.

James Gunn's screenplay is rather pitiful. Besides it's rather ridiculous, overdrawn plot (yes, even at 79 minutes!)... it's really not that original. With it's Gremlin-like monsters, spirit changes, love interest for Shaggy... everything is what'd you expect here (characters included), but in an inferior manner. A lot of it just feels murky and stumbling through, like the film doesn't know where it's going. It's really a mess that feels overdone. But I guess it's hard to extend out a 22 minute cartoon in a film four times the length.

Raja Gosnell, a director who has been successful with more mainstream comedies... is successful here again for the mainstream audiences and was the right person to pick to make a movie that would make over 150 million dollars at the box office. His direction isn't as bland as I would expect given his past comedies (okay, I did really like "Never Been Kissed" to be fair), and the visuals are interesting to an extent... but it really didn't cut it for me. It's really uneven and mismashed.

David Newman's score is uninspired and contrived, but I will give credit to the movie in what it does right. The CGI Scooby, which was rumored to be a quarter of the film's total budget, is seamlessly integrated and resembles the cartoon Scooby we all know and love (besides the fart jokes). The look of Scooby is cartoony, but it has realistic elements to it (like the furt). Still, he's Jar Jar effects good. Other special effects are decent, I guess. And I suppose when the film's humor makes references to the show itself as far as implications of Shaggy's drug use, assumptions of Velma being a lesbian and Scrappy-Doo... it is pretty amusing, all until they overdo it at the end. Come on, we all hated Scrappy... but he was never TOO malicious.

"Scooby-Doo" might be more like a teen movie actually than a family film... you got bands teens love doing songs for the soundtrack and who appear in the movie (Sugar Ray), plus its cast of teen stars. Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar play themselves more than anything and are by no means true to their cartoon incarnations (the roles seem to be written that way anyway). Linda Carellini, who was brilliant on the underrated NBC show "Freaks and Geeks" does a good job as Velma, making her even nerdier than in the cartoon. Still, I finally figured out why Matthew Lillard was put on this earth: to play Shaggy. He's brilliant in the role, capturing the knacks of a true cartoon incarnation and he NAILS the voice and mannerisms. My hat's off to Lillard, and if there's a reason to watch this movie, it's probably him (I never thought I'd say that). Mr. Bean himself, Rowan Atkinson, is also in the film and good for his very tiny role. Too bad Atkinson's acting finese is never shown off in the least bit (well, perhaps slightly in the end).

I can't believe there's going to be a sequel to this movie. I for one am curious how that's going to be pulled off. It seems this first incarnation used the best of Scooby culture, so I assume it's probably going to be rehash. But hey, chances are a lot of you are going to pay ten bucks to see it in about two years, and then another 20 for the DVD. Perhaps the next live action Scooby adventure will be superior to the first. But given the rule of sequels, I doubt it.

 

 

Being released in two separate editions, the widescreen version of "Scooby-Doo" is rather lackluster and disapponting, especially considering how recent the film is. It's not horrendous or anything, but it doesn't seem to be up to Warner's usual standards. Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (anamorphically encoded), the first thing I noticed is how soft this transfer looked. Nothing stands out at all, not to mention how grainy and seedy it looks. Unfortuantly, those elements and some rather unfulfilling color saturation brings this transfer down a lot. Detail is decent, and there is some edge halos, blemishes and noise to be found too, but given how this film has a very strong color scheme in its production design, it's a shame this transfer doesn't show it off properly. Oh well.

 

For a big budget film that does pack a good deal of action, I was incredibly surprised and disappointed in how weak and meager the 5.1 Dolby Digital track sounded. The film's opening scene has plenty of opportunities for great surrounds, and I was rather amazed at just how uninspiring, straightforward and low key it really was. From then on, things didn't improve much either. Fidelity is on the low side, while there really isn't much dynamic range to speak of. Dialogue is clear and quite audiable, but sorry... this really is kept too much to the front speakers. More balancing on the rear side would have been nice, as would have more ample use of the subwoofer.

 

No ground is broken in the supplements department, but given the success of the film, it's definitely not ignored and should please fans of the film. Those who check out the disc will have the option to check our two commentaries. The Audio Commentary with Director Raja Gosnell, Producer Charles Roven and Producer Richard Suckle is decent. It's more on the technical side in far as the effects, look of the movie and how a lot of the technical challenges were met. The two are chatty and quite friendly, and did seem to hav a good time making the movie, even sharing some laughs. So if you're a fan and want to know all you can, go nuts here.

Unfortunatly, I found the Audio Commentary with Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard and Linda Cardellini to be quite disappointing. Actor tracks on DVD have seemed to redeem themselves in the past year or two, but I was surprised in all the silence. I was expecting more here since I think the actors needed to become somewhat close (well, Gellar is married to Prinze and Lillard is Prinze's confidant, so I guess Cardellini was more or less out of the Prinze loop in the first place)... but their comments range from all complimentary and really obvious. They're somewhat chatty when there is no dead space, and seemed to enjoy making the film. I guess I was just expecting much more as far as comments and what they were bringing to their roles.

There are several Additional Scenes, totalling thirteen and a half minutes. Presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, there is also Optional Commentary on these with director Raja Gosnell. Gosnell explains why he made the cuts, and they're good choices I think. The scenes are all completed too, so enjoy.

Unmasking The Mystery "Behind Scooby-Doo" is your typical promotional fluff piece lasting about 22 minutes... the perfect length to be shown on television without commercial breaks. Behind-the-scenes footage, film clips and interviews with producers Charles Roven and Richard Suckle, director Raja Gosnell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini, Freddie Prinze Jr., Matthew Lillard, the production designer of the original show Iwao Takamoto, visual effects producer Kurt Williams and a few more talk about the challenges of the film, their jobs in the movie and the like. Quite fluffy and annoying... no real insight can be gained here.

Two Player Spooky Island Arcade Challenge is a simple trivia challenge based on the movie, there's the Outkast "The Land Of A Million Drums" Music Video (the song is pretty catchy) and Scooby-Doo Soundtrack Info (cheap soundtrack plug) and some DVD-ROM features some weblinks and games that kids should enjoy.

There are three featurettes for this DVD. The Scary Places featurette discusses the production design in translating the cartoon to film, complete with clips from the cartoon, sketches, behind the scenes interviews and interviews with the cast and filmmakers. The Mystery Van is a very short, one minute featurette that talks about the van featuring Matthew Lillard and some production design guys. The Daphne Fight Game is the third featurette discussing the Daphne fight scene, with interviews from Guy Norris (the stunt co-ordinator), Raja Gosnell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sam Creco, Tung Wai and Stephen (the last two are some Kung Fu team from Hong Kong). This is also somewhat interesting, and has good behind the scenes footage to give a good idea in how the scene was accomplished. Overall, these aren't bad and fans of the movie should like these. This last one lasts a bit over two minutes.

 

I can bash this film all I want, and a lot of you still probably won't care and will still like it... even if the cartoon wasn't so brilliant in the first place and you're a giant fan of it, you still probably won't care how far away the film does stray in tone. This DVD is slightly above average, and nothing more. The transfer and 5.1 mix are rather disappointing, but the supplements included are fine help justify a purchase if you're interested. Still, given the film's popularity over this past summer, it'll be a big seller no matter what.