The Gods of Cinema have not been kind to us, their loyal acolytes, and so it is that there is SCOOBY DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED, a film in which much time, money, and effort was expended so that a computer-generated dog could fart. Its not just a bad movie, it is one that, considering SCOOBY DOO 1, is completely uncalled for.
The whole gang is back, preppie Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), winsome Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), brainy Velma (Linda Cardellini), shaggy Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and, of course, the CGI Scooby, and theyre dressed up in suitably day-glo cartoon colors. Actually, the whole film is bathed in a day-glo brightness, that, along with blaring music and sets that try way too hard on their way to going over the top, is about all we have going on here. Except when, every so often, something spoooky pops up, everyone screams and then much running around ensues. There is a hint of a plot here, which involves a whole passel of past monsters being resurrected and threatening to take out Coolville, where the Scooby Gang plies their trade of busting ghostly mysteries. Its not important. Its just a reason for everyone to scream and run around. Theres also a museum curator played by Seth Greene who provides some romantic relief for the brainy Velma. Greene is, well, Greene, and sometimes, as in this case with no real script to work with, that can be enough, and so we cling to him and wish that he were onscreen all the time. Alas, part of his screen time is given over to Velmas flirtation with the Madison Avenue idea of beauty, one that results in one of the more disturbing screen makeovers of late, not to mention the egregious use of orange pleather.
Mostly what goes splat across the silver screen is merely annoying, rife as it is with obvious jokes, inept direction, and good actors wasted and, yes, as in my review of SD I Im talking about Lillard, who is so much better than this and if you dont believe me, I refer you and every casting agent out there once again to SLC PUNK.
But I digress.
There is one lucid moment, when evil television anchor Alicia Silverstone asks Daphne what exactly her contribution is to the Scooby team and concludes that it must be incoherent babbling. There is the poignant moment, too, when Daphne, babbling as usual, performs some sort of strange fu-like martial arts to subdue a monster, evoking nothing so much as Gellers glory days as Buffy. We even have Velma thrown in doing the Willow thing of looking up in a dusty old occult tome how best to kill the beastie. I never realized before how much I miss Buffy and believe me, I miss Buffy a lot.
Eventually, after shrugging off the prominent product placement less than a minute into things and reinforced mere minutes later, I found myself focusing on Velmas trademark knee socks. Actually, it was more like wondering how often shooting had to stop so that Cardellini, an actress whose talents are as wasted here as Lillards, could pull up Velmas socks. Was some sort of adhesive used to help keep them in place? Did Cardellini suffer any sort of skin irritation because of it? Its called amusing yourself and in this sort of situation, it can mean the difference between surviving this toxic mess unscathed and with your faith in the art of filmmaking intact and foreswearing all things filmic forever.
I can all but guarantee that the makers of SCOOBY DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED have carefully considered the merchandising jackpot that a film like this can hit, especially if it becomes a franchise. Yet somewhere between prototypes for the action figures, concepts for the t-shirts, and the beta testing of the video games, the concept of a watchable film, the thing that actually drives the franchise, obviously got lost. Weve seen this sort of thing before, we will, undoubtedly see it again, but, people, we can put a stop to this wannabe cash cow right now. And if we do, it wont just make us all feel better, it will actually make the world a better place.