Scooby-Doo (2002)

Directed by Raja Gosnell. Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Scott Innes, Rowan Atkinson, Isla Fisher. Warner Bros.

Decent Films Ratings

Overall
Recommendability
?D+
Artistic/
Entertainment Value
?
Moral/Spiritual
Value (+4/-4)
? -2
Age
Appropriateness
?Teens & Up

External Ratings

MPAA ?PG USCCB ?A-II

Content advisory: Giant monsters that may be scary to young children; some crass language; scantily clad women; brief sensuality; an extended flatulence sequence and other crude humor; depictions of a sinister cult; morally noncommital but cartoony depiction of voodoo; veiled drug-culture references.

By Steven D. Greydanus

A musical review, with annotations. To the tune of the "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!" theme.

  1. Scooby Dooby Doo
  2. And Shaggy too
  3. You both look and sound great.
  4. But Daphne, you’re too Buff
  5. Fred thinks he’s tough
  6. And Velma — wow, you’ve lost weight!

  7. I liked "Scooby-Doo" —
  8. The old cartoon
  9. With no guests stars or real spooks.
  10. But the movie Scooby-Doo
  11. Has real voodoo,
  12. Monsters — and gross-out jokes.

  13. Why did we need a belching-farting contest?
  14. And Scrappy-Doo, why do you pee
  15. On Daphne?
  16. And Fred in Daphne’s body fondling herself
  17. We didn’t have to see
  18. If you ask me.

  19. That’s my Scooby Doo review
  20. But get a clue:
  21. It’s all about the name brand.
  22. If your kids want Scooby-Doo
  23. What can you do?
  24. Rent Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.

Notes (by line number)

1. Scooby-Dooby-Doo: The famous talking dog is now a computer-generated character, voiced to perfection by Scott Innes, who’s been standing in for Don Messnick (the original voice of Scooby-Doo) since the 1998 direct-to-video cartoon Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.

2. Shaggy too: For all the CGI and stunt work in Scooby-Doo, the movie’s most amazing effect is Matthew Lillard’s impersonation of Shaggy — possibly the most perfect live-action realization of an animated character ever filmed. Not only does he look and move like Shaggy, he does so while perfectly reproducing Casey Kasem’s original voicework — and makes it all look effortless.

Lillard’s performance is so spot-on that he would have made his costars look like posers even if they’d been well cast (which they weren’t). If you’ve ever seen comedian Darrell Hammond on "Saturday Night Live" impersonating Bill Clinton or Al Gore next to any other comedian impersonating anybody else, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Lillard’s performance as Shaggy is just about the only valid reason to see this movie, unless perhaps you’re a rabid fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar or something. (Being a rabid fan of Freddy Prinze Jr. does not qualify as a valid reason.)

4. Daphne, you’re too Buff: Sarah Michelle Gellar leads the self-styled "Scooby gang" on TV’s "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," but she’s out of place in the real thing. She doesn’t look or act much like Daphne, and her wire-work kung-fu scene would have been more at home in the Charlie’s Angels movie than in this one.

5. Fred thinks he’s tough: "Hot stuff" would have been more accurate, but I couldn’t fit the syllables. As portrayed by Freddie Prinze Jr. (Down to You), Fred’s a jerk — a glory-seeking media hound who snubs his fellow gang members in interviews with such sound bites as: "Teamwork. I used a lot of teamwork to solve this case." The movie spoofs the cartoon Fred’s rather bland image, but without any affection.

6. Velma — wow, you’ve lost weight! In the cartoon, brainy Velma was a little on the stocky side. She’s portrayed here by Linda Cardellini, presumably because of her "nerdy" work in "Freaks and Geeks"; but even in bulky sweaters and horn-rimmed glasses it’s obvious that the curvy actress isn’t much like Velma. Nor is her petulant, resentful manner.

7-9. I liked "Scooby-Doo" / The old cartoon / With no guests stars or real spooks: The slow, painful death of the "Scooby-Doo" franchise can make it hard to remember that the original "Scooby-Doo, Where are You!" cartoon was actually rather interesting and fun, with engaging if formulaic writing and clues that kids could put together to solve the mystery. (For a brief discussion of the promising beginnings and gradual descent of the "Scooby-Doo" franchise, see Jimmy Akin’s Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island review.)

10-12. But the movie Scooby-Doo / Has real voodoo / Monsters… Like the superior Zombie Island cartoon, Scooby-Doo puts the gang into a situation in which, after a long career of unmasking fake ghosts and monsters, they suddenly come face-to-face with "real" monsters and magic for the "first" time. (Both this movie and Zombie Island wisely ignore the dismal stage in late Scooby-Doo history when Scooby and company regularly faced "real" monsters.)

For parents concerned about this aspect of the story, I’ll give some details, though readers who want to remain spoiler-free should stop reading now.

The plot, such as it is, centers around a sinister cult-like group at a spooky island resort who literally steal the souls of island visitors (the souls manifest as floating ectoplasmic heads), replacing them with scary supernatural monsters who inhabit the bodies of the victims unless expelled by a returning soul.

Elsewhere on the island, we meet a scary-seeming practitioner of voodoo who at first seems to be in on the plot but later turns out to be trying to use his voodoo to protect himself from the cult’s evil magic. (This differs significantly from the use of voodoo in the Zombie Island cartoon, where it is clearly bad and used by bad characters for bad purposes.)

12-15. Gross-out jokes… The next few lines speak for themselves. In one scene, Scooby and Shaggy engage in an extended belching-farting contest. Later, much-hated Scooby nephew Scrappy-Doo has a brief cameo in which he does, yes, pee on Daphne — uttering his trademark line "Puppy Power," no less. This prompts Fred to remind Scrappy, as if it’s a recurring issue, not to "urinate on Daphne," which jealous Fred takes as an attempt at marking territory. Yes, it’s sexual rivalry between Fred and Scrappy-Doo. Yuck.

16. Fred in Daphne’s body fondling herself: The soul-stealing plot described above leads to a sequence in which the main characters’ personalities wind up switching bodies, a hackneyed device that serves to fill out story time without generating humor.

The first soul-body snafu results in Fred’s personality (to use the term loosely) winding up in Daphne’s body. "Heeey!" Daphne’s mouth says in Fred’s voice. "I could totally look at myself naked!" We then see Daphne’s hands running along her breasts and torso — at which point Fred’s body comes marching up, and out comes Daphne’s voice: "Get your hands off my body!"

This crass extrapolation of the cartoon’s subtle chemistry between Fred and Daphne is just one example of the movie’s clumsy attempts to play off of supposed sex and drugs subtexts in the cartoon. (The tension between Fred and Daphne is based partly on the fact that they are the two most attractive members of the gang, and also on their tendency, whenever the gang would split up in dark places to look for clues, to end up going off together.)

A similar example involves Shaggy’s characteristically dazed demeanor and ever-present hunger, which some have interpreted as symptoms of marijuana use. The film makes coy allusions to this notion — though Shaggy doesn’t actually smoke any pot, and Lillard, who portrays him, has rejected the Shaggy-as-stoner interpretation in interviews.

Then there are apparently those who claim — without any rationale I can imagine — that Velma is a lesbian. (Personally, I would have said she had a thing for Shaggy.) Scooby-Doo screenwriter James Gunn, who says he’s "pretty sure she’s gay," wrote a number of gags based on this interpretation (including scenes in which she ogles and kisses Daphne) — all of which, thankfully, seem to have wound up on the cutting-room floor. Instead, we now have a scene in which Fred confidently assures Velma, "Hey, I’m a man of substance. I’m turned on by dorky chicks like you, too!"

24. Rent Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island: The 1998 animated direct-to-video adventure, though too scary for some young children (see the full review for more information), is a worthwhile substitute for this dismal live-action mess, and actually respects and develops the classic cartoon tradition instead of sending it up and exploiting it.

Tags: Reviews in Verse (Written), Comedy, Family, Reviews In Verse

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Mail: Re: Scooby-Doo

I wanted to thank you for all of your helpful reviews on these movies. I’m a teenager who absolutely loves watching movies and it helps to come here and see which are good movies and which are bad. Their is one movie I don’t agree with you on though. Scooby Doo. I don’t understand why you gave it the review you did. I’ve been watching it since I was like six and have loved it since.

I expect readers to disagree with me sometimes. There is no one right answer on all films, and no one has to agree with me.

Any review I write is intended to offer you one perspective on a movie that is (a) informative, (b) thought-provoking and (c) worth reading in its own right. From there, you’re meant to arrive at your own decisions as to (a) whether or not to see a film and (b) if you do see or have seen it, what you think of it. Hopefully my review gives you something to think about; I certainly never want to tell anyone what to think.

I’m afraid I can’t offer any further justification for my Scooby Doo review than the review itself. If you love the film, my review probably makes no sense to you. All I can say was that it was fun to write. It’s the only review I ever sang on the air, too.

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Mail: Re: Scooby-Doo

I enjoy hearing you on Catholic Answers and don’t know where else to ask this. My young children are big Scooby Doo fans, and I recently watched the Scooby Doo movie with them on DVD. It dawned on me that there is so much reference to ghosts, monsters, and witches and spells in all of the Scooby Doo movies and shows. Should I be keeping my kids away from Scooby. I grew up myself in the 80’s watching the cartoon and it never really dawned on me until recently that I might be doing harm to my kids. Any insight would be appreciated.

My Scooby Doo review in verse, to the tune of the “Scooby Doo” theme song, is one of my favorites. As the review points out, in the original cartoon the ghosts, monsters and witches always turned out to be fakes. It was always some schemer in a costume trying to scare people away while he searched for the treasure, or whatever (and he would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids).

I don’t have a problem with any of this. The old “Scooby Doo” TV shows are fine in my book, although they don’t set the highest possible standard for kids’ entertainment, and it wouldn’t be my choice for my kids to watch it every day for months on end or anything, just because there’s better stuff out there.

The 2002 live-action movie, with its “real voodoo, monsters and gross-out jokes,” is a different story. It’s not the first first time the monsters turned out to be real — later iterations of Scooby’s cartoon world did the same — but the movie ignores these and acts as if this is the first time the Scooby gang has encountered actual paranormal phenomena. The animated movie Scooby Doo on Zombie Island did the same.

I don’t necessarily have a problem with real magic, witches or monsters in a story. In the case of magic of a certain kind, such as voodoo or the kind of witchcraft that involves divination or seances and such, I don’t have a problem if the magic is clearly presented as bad and dangerous. The fantasy magic of Gandalf, Glinda the Good Witch and Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother is not a problem to my mind (see my essay “Harry Potter vs. Gandalf” for more).

The cartoon movie Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, according to my friend and guest critic Jimmy Akin, did depict voodoo magic as clearly bad and dangerous. So did the live-action Scooby-Doo movie — up to a point. The main magical force in the movie is an evil cult that is stealing people’s souls. However, according to my review (I no longer remember this in detail), there was also a voodoo practitioner who seemed to be trying to use voodoo techniques to protect himself from the cult. That’s problematic (for a similar partially problematic depiction of voodoo, see Disney’s recent The Princess and the Frog).

Honestly, though, I have a bigger problem with Scooby Doo’s crudity as explicated in lines 13-18 of my review (and the corresponding commentary). I’m also not fond of snarky remakes that deconstruct without affection, as the 2002 film does by making Fred a jerk (the 1995 Brady Bunch Movie did the same sort of thing).

Finally, if you’re looking for suggestions for family viewing, try these links.

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