Scooby-Doo (2002) movie review
The first of (so far) two live-action theatrical releases for the Scooby-Doo franchise, Scooby-Doo follows the titular character and the gang as they are brought back together to investigate mysterious goings-on at a theme park run by a peculiar man named Mr. Mondavarious. Starring Neil Fanning as the voice of Scooby-Doo, Freddie Prinze Jr. as Fred, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Daphne, Matthew LIillard as Shaggy, Linda Cardellini as Velma, Isla Fisher as Mary Jane, and Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Mondevarious, the film opened to below average reviews, with a mere 5.0 on IMDb and 35 on Metascore.
The story has its moments, but throughout much of the film it falls flat and highlights the many issues in the movie. One of these issues is the way that the characters of the gang themselves are written. Instead of being largely reminiscent of the beloved characters from the show, they are like a bleak shadow of themselves. It is almost as if the writers took the worst elements of them and put them under a spotlight for this film, neglecting the better and more fun elements of their characters. For example, Shaggy and Scooby have always been goofy and the source of much of the comedy, but when that comedy results to potty jokes and just stupid humor derived from the characters rather than the situations they are in, it does not feel like Scooby-Doo anymore. Another example is the whole aspect of Daphne consistently being in trouble, which is something largely ignored in the original show, but this film features it very heavily and amplifies it to the point where she is not even a likeable character anymore, and this shows in the way she treats everyone, not just Fred, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby. The same extends to Velma’s brains and Fred’s leadership skills. In emphasizing these negative traits of the usually enjoyable and quirky characters and taking them one step further without stressing the positive ones as well, the filmmakers have turned them into characters that are hard to relate to and difficult to root for. I found myself annoyed through most of the film at the way the characters were behaving and the decisions they were making, in regard to their own character arcs as well as the ways that they interacted with each other on-screen.
Now that I’ve said all that, it is not entirely a bad film. Everything I just complained about, kids probably would not notice or care about. In fact, most likely those not as familiar with the show and its many interpretations may not notice the significant character changes and may not really care. However, I think the choices they made in creating the characters plays into the other negative aspects of the film. Without getting into specifics, because it actually has a somewhat complicated plot that in the end does not really make much sense, the gang is brought to an island, investigates a few strange occurrences, finds themselves on the run from monsters, and in the end works together to catch the bad guy and unravels the twist ending that is a staple of Scooby-Doo in nearly all of its iterations. The characters do not have much chemistry at all, even when they are playing nice and actually working together. Actually, most of the acting is very subpar, with the exceptions of Isla Fisher and Rowan Atkinson, who give it their best despite the lackluster elements they were given to work with. Rowan Atkinson in particular was very enjoyable to watch whenever he was on-screen, perfectly infusing the mysterious and gullible nature of his character with his own quirks and personality that make him as good an actor as he is.
So, all those are probably the only big things I have to complain about. Beneath the rough character choices and confusing story, there are some genuinely comedic, entertaining, and well-orchestrated moments throughout the movie that are very reminiscent of the show and that audiences of all ages can enjoy. We still get to see the gang working together to solve a mystery, albeit they are often still doing it separately and in their own way. Scooby-Doo is (for the most part) the same silly, charming, food-loving great dane from the show, and the effects work used to bring him to life (and throughout the film as well) is pretty decent considering this is an early 2000s movie. The ending also has a few pretty great moments, despite the twist ending being a rather poor story choice, at least in my opinion.
This was one of my favorite childhood films, and I did not want to be so harsh on it, but re-watching it I realized just how poorly this film was executed all-around. From the writing to the character choices to the lackluster action sequences and confusing plot, there is not much to praise in the film. I’m sure kids who grew up on the show and love the characters, like I did, will enjoy it and be able to ignore the glaring mistakes. And if you are a big Scooby-Doo fan and you can put all that aside to sit back and enjoy it for Rowan Atkinson’s performance, the fun moments, and the unique story, then that’s awesome! As much as I will still watch this film from time to time for nostalgia’s sake, every time I do it just makes me want to go back and watch the show or one of the earlier animated movies, so stay tuned for all of those reviews coming soon (as well as Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed)! 5/10
-review by Rachel Grosselin
So, Scooby-Doo? Have you seen it? What did you think? Worth it for the nostalgia or not because of the over-all quality? Any other Scooby-Doo movies in particular you’d like to see reviews for? Whatever your thoughts, please leave a like and a comment below and let us know!