Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
The first film has been dubbed “a blockbuster summer hit.” So really, folks, we have ourselves to blame; not Warner Brothers, who have made what can be defended as a logical assumption based on box office receipts that we *like* insipid, thoughtless films with barely adequate CGI work and a hip factor that reads like yesterdays news. Hell, “Scooby Doo” was based on a popular television cartoon – they’re all the rage today, aren’t they?
Well, aren’t they?
“Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed” picks up with our teenaged sleuths (and their digital dog) being serenaded at a gala event celebrating their newfound status as heros in Coolsville, USA - presumably for their most excellent work solving the mystery of the Spooky Island Theme Park. But a secret villain with a nefarious plot crashes the party, then uses a monster machine to rehash some of the gang’s deadliest former enemies – including the Black Knight Ghost, the Skelemen, the Pterodactyl Ghost, Captain Cutler’s Ghost, and Miner 49er. It’s up to the kids at Mystery Inc. to foil the plot and save the day… all the while trying valiantly to keep the film spicy enough that we don’t nod off from sheer detachment.
The irony here is that the film mocks a villian’s ill-fated attempt to revive monsters from the past, when the film does nothing but attempt to revive the ingenuity of the original cartoon series. Both plots fail, their creations nothing but shallow reflections of their progenitors. Even the cheeky, occasionally adult, humor of the first film is absent here. Two subplots – one wherein Shaggy and Scooby attempt to justify their position in the group and the other where Velma becomes smitten with a curator played by Seth Green – valiantly attempt to create moral subtext for the overwrought spine of the tale, but instead they provide deadweight to the enterprise, further bogging the film into the quagmire of ennui.
“Scooby Doo” is most effective when it’s lighthearted and silly, the moral overtones limited to the values of teamwork, no matter how quirky or individually-inept the individuals within that team happen to be. Taking this franchise to the “next level” has failed to capture that essential message – which incidentally helped bring a generation of kids into self-acceptance in a world dominated with negative realities. It might have helped if the producers and screenwriter James Gunn (repeat offenders, all of them) had delved into the mythology of the series; they might then have discovered what made it successful. Because the first film leeched from that success to box office gold; this one is yet more ridiculous than the first, and with less cash dedicated to the work. The deficiency of both its budget and its heredity is right there on the screen.
The cast – Freddie Prinze, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini, Alicia Silverstone, Matthew Lillard – do their best to overcome the built-in deficiencies of the movie. But their on-film personas have been pulled in uncomfortable ways thanks to the evil demons of “character development” – Fred has been made more humble, Velma more sensual, Daphne more erotic, Shaggy more serious. In other words, the group approaches that which undermines their collective values to their audience: homogeny. What were they thinking?