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Film

Scooby Don't, Part II

If you need to kill an hour and a half, this is one option. Otherwise, skip it.

By PHILIP BOOTH
Published March 25, 2004

  photo
[Photo: Warner Bros.]
Matthew Lillard reprises his role as Shaggy and a computer reprises Scooby-Doo in the sequel Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.
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The good news about Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed: The second movie inspired by the animated series about the crime-fighting pooch and his human companions is merely a bland time waster. The first installment, released two years ago, was aggressively awful.

The bad news: The new flick is nearly as heavy-handed as the first, with overblown special effects, random plot turns and hammy performances, not to mention blatant product placement, with a burger chain pushed hard twice in less than 10 minutes. How about that gratuitous cameo by an American Idol star, going through the motions on Earth, Wind and Fire's Shining Star?

Director Raja Gosnell (Big Momma's House) and screenwriter James Gunn are inexplicably back on board, this time opening with a sequence focusing on the celebrity status of Mystery Inc. This is the outfit composed of Scooby, a computer-generated creation again voiced by Neil Fanning; Shaggy, played by Matthew Lillard in the characterization that best reflects the spirit of the original; handsome, egotistic leader Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), dim all-American blond cutie Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and brainy, nerdy brunette Velma (Linda Cardellini).

The gang's all here, and in good cheer, getting the red-carpet treatment for the opening of an exhibition at the Coolsonian Criminology Museum in hometown Coolville, where bespectacled curator Patrick (Seth Green) has assembled a display of assorted monsters. In a funny touch, each member of the gang has a contingent of fans. Inside the museum, one fumble leads to another, powers are unleashed, etc., and the beasts are set free.

So the fab five, dressed in retro Day-Glo outfits and sharing a Day-Glo van, are back on the case, searching haunted mansions and other creepy locales in an effort to stop the Phantom of the Opera-looking evil masked guy who's apparently orchestrating all the chaos.

There's plenty of scrambling around to escape the likes of the Black Knight Ghost, the Miner 49er, the Zombie and the animated Tazmanian Devil. As a matter of fact, it is the Scooby equivalent of 1968 beast fest Destroy All Monsters.

You want subplots? There's a budding romance between Velma, who declares "mystery is my mistress," and Patrick, who may or may not have something to hide; a smear campaign conducted against our canine hero and his pals by a hotshot television reporter (Alicia Silverstone); and the mysterious activities of mad-scientist types and former convicts Old Man Wickles (Peter Boyle) and Jacobo (Tim Blake Nelson).

There's a big production number, too, set at a colorfully ramshackle bar packed with baddies unmasked by Mystery Inc. For those viewers forever longing to see Scooby up on hind legs, wearing an Afro and a gaudy disco suit and grooving to Sly Stone's Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin), Monsters Unleashed has to count as the movie of the year.

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

Grade: C

Director: Raja Gosnell

Cast: Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Seth Green, Peter Boyle, Tim Blake Nelson, Alicia Silverstone

Screenplay: James Gunn

Rating: PG; crude humor

Running time: 103 min.

[Last modified March 24, 2004, 10:24:22]


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