October 13, 2002 -- "Scooby-Doo" is a live action adaptation of the old TV cartoon show which provides some diversion for kids. Except for some gross humor (belching and flatulence jokes) it is mostly harmless, ultralight fun.
Freddie Prinze Jr. of "Down to You") stars as Fred and Sarah Michelle Gellar of "Cruel Intentions") stars as Daphne in this very light comedy action romp. The talking dog, Scooby-Doo, is a computer graphic animation construct. Matthew Lillard of "She's All That" stars as Shaggy and Linda Cardellini of "Legally Blonde" stars as Velma, the brain of the bunch. We pick up our heroes after they have solved a major case. They get into a squabble and close their detective business, Mystery Inc. Years later, they all get invitations to solve a mystery at a place called Spooky Island from the owner of the island, Emile Mondavarious (played by Rowan Atkinson of "Bean"). The former crime-fighting partners are reunited.
The mystery of Spooky Island is that college kids coming to the island are transformed into sullen, mean, strong beasts by the time they leave. They still look the same, but they do not act the same. Mondavarious suspects the transformation has something to do with an evil magic spell. The intrepid crew of detectives sets off to solve the mystery, using the most hair-brained methods they can muster. They stumble onto the secret of the island, but find themselves in a trap. They must escape before a dastardly plan of global dimensions can be unleashed upon the world.
The film, directed by Raja Gosnell ("Big Momma's House") succeeds in creating an off-kilter alternate universe where a giant dog who acts like a human is hardly worthy of notice. This brightly-colored cartoon-like world offers some amusement in the form of some slapstick humor. It is mainly aimed at kids. At least the kids in the screening I attended found it funny. They laughed often during the show. I could have done without the belching and flatulence. That is pretty low humor, even for a brain-dead movie like this. At least the flatulence was limited to one or two scenes. There is some violence in the form of fights, but no one gets seriously hurt or injured. Sarah Michelle Gellar gets to use some of that martial arts experience she got from all those years on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Her martial arts segment looked like a Buffy spoof of sorts.
The art direction by Bill Boes ("Sleepy Hollow") is colorful and lively. The cinematography by David Eggby of "Pitch Black" has a bright, cheery cartoonish look to it. The costume design by Leesa Evans ("Josie and the Pussycats") fits very well into the cartoon-like alternate universe look of the film. Some critics have panned this movie because it isn't like the original cartoon. I never watched the original cartoon series on television, so I'm not married to that notion. I just didn't think the movie was nearly clever enough to engage adults. It doesn't have, for instance, the multiple levels of meaning that "Spy Kids" had, so it really isn't that good of a family film. It is fine for kids though. For kids, it rates a B. For adults, a C.
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