Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
Posted 06/25/02 19:38:14

"Another contemptible piece of dreck from the Eternal Marketing Machine."
1 stars (Total Crap)

Sigh. Here we go again. Well-remembered cartoon gets the big-budget silver screen treatment. Not because the source material screams for a revisit, but because rehashing a name product is infinitely more profitable than creating something new. I'm not saying that Scooby-Doo couldn't have been a good time; I'm saying that the movie these hacks came up with isn't fit to line the litter box of an obese and diahrretic feline. Then again, this pile of flop made 100 million bucks in less than two weeks, so obviously I'm the one who's insane.

When reviewing an 'adaptation' movie, it's best to divulge your knowledge of/interest in the source material. To that end, I'll simply mention that I've always disliked Scooby-Doo. Even as a hyperactive and sensation-addicted child, I knew my time was better spent with Bugs & Daffy, Fred & Barney, Popeye & Bluto, or even Tom & Jerry than yet another carbon-copy Scooby adventure.

When word first got out that WB was planning a big-screen version, I ingested the news with equal parts revulsion and mystical wonder; how in the name of all things not retarded, I wondered, could they turn such a one-dimensional cartoon into a film worthy of my eight bucks. I needn't have racked my brain, becasue - simply put - this movie isn't worth your 50 cents. When cineplexes start accepting postage stamps in exchange for movie tickets, a movie like Scooby-Doo may be worth seeing.

Then there was all the scuttlebutt about who was to be playing whom. When the husband-wife-sidekick team of Prinze/Gellar/Lillard were announced to play Fred, Daphne, and Shaggy...every portion of my body not vomiting immediately shut down from sheer cinematic shock. By the time interesting young actress Linda Cardellini was cast as Velma, I could barely bring myself to blink my eyes in response. Surely this was the stupidest idea in the eternal line of Stupid Hollywood Ideas.

Raja Gosnell was the director awarded the reins to this inevitable eyesore, most likely due to his depressingly profitable work on Martin Lawrence's migraine-inducing Big Momma's House. Gosnell hasn't directed enough movies to be awarded the New Worst Director of All-Time award (awarded bi-weekly), but based on what Scooby-Doo looks like, he's pretty damn close. Imagine the world's dingiest flea market surrounded by tiki torches, fake rocks, and neon carnival rides - Scooby-Doo looks worse than that.

The plot seems like something created in one of those "whisper down the lane" games: The famous Mystery Inc. gang, coming off their latest adventure...has an argument and decides to call it, then um, 2 years go by...and they're all invited to a haunted island theme park village place!...(pause)...and there's this brainwashing machine that turns all the teenagers into zombies...and...can we stop this game now? This story makes no goddam sense.

And yet that's what Scooby-Doo is about. But let's be honest here; the 'plot' of this film is nothing more than a clothesline on which dangle A) several pop songs to boost soundtrack sales, B) a half-dozen product placements that help defray the production costs by about 25%, C) a whole lot of garish sets, ugly costumes, ridiculously overbaked CGI effects, and D) a handful of performers who think they're actors, when the truth is that they're just some very expensive set markers used to gauge where the CGI should go.

If I seem as if I were gunning for this movie all along, well that's because I definitely have been. But I'm not a liar, and I will admit to two positive aspects: Matthew Lillard as Shaggy is the best thing in the film (for whatever that's worth), and I did laugh during one scene in which a computer-generated dog urinates angrily on Sarah Michelle Gellar's chest. It's stunning that a movie this bad could leave me with something nice to say about the generally infuriating Lillard, but his work here is tenuous proof that - when given an actual character to create - Lillard is willing to jump in with both feet. I've bashed him mercilessly in the past, but the guy gets a tentative pat on the back for his Shaggy bit. It may not be great acting, but it's an entertaining enough impersonation, and in a shitstorm like Scooby-Doo, one should find anything at all worthy of praise and cling to it like a lifejacket stuffed with money.

I'll lay off Gellar because she's given virtually nothing to do until the finale - in which she has a "Buffy joins Charlie's Angels" fight sequence that's as unexciting as it is silly. Cardellini also gets little of substance to do, although she's clearly the best actor of the four. (File THAT under the ultimate "damning of someone with faint praise"!) If there's one massive black hole of suckitude that the entire insipid affair gravitates around, it's the robotic Freddie Prinze Jr. as Fred. To be completely honest, I don't have the words to describe how consistently bad Prinze has been over the past few years. Suffice to say that his performance in Scooby-Doo did nothing to raise my opinion of this obviously talent-free cipher.

Which brings us to the title character. I just never got Scooby. He's a cowardly talking dog with a speech impediment who eats a lot. Hardly the stuff of classic fiction, but apparently the clueless canine struck a chord with a generation of kids too lazy to change the channel and watch Speed Racer instead. The movie version of Scooby, aside from looking very little like the animated incarnation, is a boggle-eyed bore. The CG effects of Scooby go from mildly effective to fairly atrocious at the drop of a hat, while every bit of the doofy dog's mumble-mouthed dialogue needs to be immediately repeated by the nearest available cast member. (Riss Rooree Rucks!)

Nothing I say will keep you away from Scooby-Doo if you really want to see it. Pre-packaged product like this comes with a guaranteed built-in audience, so those who may generally avoid the truly wretched movies will be duped into seeing it. Indeed, the sequel has already been green-lit. Like any other Hollywood cycle, these low-minded, money-grubbing "adaptations" will eventually dry up when moviegoers simply stop feeding the meter.

I'm absolutely certain that those who spearheaded this project were never once interested in making a "good movie". When a film is created SOLELY because it's a marketable product, soulless and ugly-looking movies like Scooby-Doo are the result. Let your silly childhood nostalgia slumber unmolested.

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