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SCOOBY DOO
Widescreen

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Rowan Atkinson
Director:  Raja Gosnell
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  86 Minutes
Release Date:  October 11, 2002

“Let’s get jinky with it!”

Film **

Like a lot of people my age, I grew up with Scooby Doo on television, though my generation was hardly the last.  Thanks to the Cartoon Network, the misadventures of that loveable scaredy-cat of a dog and his comrades have continued for more than thirty years now.  A live action movie seemed not only probable, but inevitable as well.

I enjoyed that live action movie as a spoof aimed at the die hard fans, which made fun of not only the cartoon itself, but fans’ perceptions of that cartoon over the years.  We all thought Fred was basically an inept dumbass, that Daphne was a ditz, that Velma could take over the group and possibly the world if she wanted to.  It didn’t matter if those concepts were true…that’s how we looked at them.  And Scooby Doo, the movie, does the same thing.

The problem is, when you get right down to it, Scooby Doo was amusing, but not very substantial.  It didn’t leave much to build on for a feature film other than some characters we knew well and a lot of in jokes.  I laughed at the movie, and I really enjoyed some of the performances, but it’s impossible to disguise the fact that this film is a magician with nothing up its sleeve…or anywhere else, for that matter.

The most inspired casting choice is the manically funny Matthew Lillard as Shaggy.  He steals the film with his dead-on accurate voice and physical mannerisms.  He gets most of the hard work, too, sharing the majority of his scenes with the computer generated Scooby.  The dog is a hoot, too, but credit the flesh and blood Lillard for really melding the two characters into a solid comedy team.

I also loved Linda Cardellini as Velma…another perfect physical and vocal representation!  Real life couple Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. don’t fare quite as well, but it isn’t their fault.  Daphne and Fred weren’t very interesting in the cartoon, and they simply don’t translate any better to the big screen (though Ms. Gellar does get a hysterical fight scene near the end!).

The film looks good, with eccentric art direction and set designs that really bring an instant familiarity to the fans of the cartoon.  The problem, as with all of the Scooby cartoons, is that the plot is clothesline and the mystery ultimately unsatisfying.  Every episode of the television show was pretty much the same…the movie isn’t a whole lot different.  The story is an excuse for comedy, not much else. 

That being said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say fans will get a big kick at who the villain ultimately turns out to be…a secret I wouldn’t divulge even for a Scooby Snack!

Video ****

No complaints in the DVD delivery, starting with another flawless anamorphic transfer from Warner Bros. (full frame version also available).  This is a visually stylistic film that ranges from the bright and colorful to the dark and moody, and every frame comes across with clarity, natural tones, high definition and sharpness, and absolutely nothing to mar the effect.  Reference quality all the way!

Audio ****

Likewise, the 5.1 audio is a slam-bang funfest, which adds to both the physical comedy and the spookiness!  The music soundtrack comes across with strength, and the .1 channel delivers the bottom end to both the songs and the action.  There is plenty of frantic panning action, from side to side and front to back…these effects are smooth, clear and well utilized.  Dynamic range is very good, and dialogue is clean and clear throughout.  A fun listening experience!

Features ****

Zoinks…what a package!  For starters, you get two audio commentaries…the one by the director Raja Gosnell and crew is the more informative one, for those who want to know the what, where, when, how and why, while the cast commentary, featuring Prinze Jr., Gellar, Lillard and Cardellini, is the more fun listen (though occasionally sparse).  Lillard even does his Shaggy voice from time to time!

There is also a 22 minute making-of featurette, with cast and crew interviews (including the man behind the voice of Scooby Doo!), about 15 minutes of deleted footage with or without director commentary (including the abandoned animated opening titles and the amusing character flashback scenes), featurettes on the set design, Daphne’s big fight and the new Mystery Machine van, a trivia game featuring Lillard’s voice that can be played by one or two players (it leads to an extra mini-featurette), a music video, seven interactive DVD ROM challenges, and some Easter eggs (hint:  watch the animated screens for when Scooby drops his snacks!).

The animated menus are kind of cool, but a little frustrating, because the choices are often mixed in with signs and other words that don’t mean anything.  Still, a top notch collection of extras overall!

Summary:

No need to ask Scooby Doo, where are you…he’s here on a fantastic reference quality DVD offering from Warner Bros.  The film is aimed at fans who know what to expect and don’t expect much else…on that level, it’s entertaining, but not exemplary.  The disc, however, is superb, and makes for a fun filled addition to any home library!