I am on record as absolutely loving “Scooby Doo.” I know, I know, the show was formulaic and cheaply animated. And yet I’ve loved almost every incarnation (I really liked “A Pup Named Scooby Doo” because it was a good parody of the rest of the franchise). So imagine how excited I was in 2001 when I saw trailers for a live-action “Scooby Doo” movie. Well, ‘excited’ probably wasn’t the right word. Intrigued, maybe, or worried. I thought how could Hollywood turn a 22 minute (or 44 minute if we’re talking about the “Scooby Doo Movies”) television show into a 90 minute full-length movie? But then again, several direct-to-DVD full-length animated movies had already been made, so how hard could it really be? I had watched a few and even enjoyed them, with several employing the twist that the supernatural was in fact real (to be fair, that ceased to be much of a twist pretty quickly).
You may wonder if I don’t like this movie why I’m not working on a “Storytelling Failures” for it. Well, it’s just not worth that kind of effort. This was mindless summer blockbuster entertainment fun. Yes, it could be argued that’s what Man of Steel was, but that movie was trying to tell a story if for no other reason than to get people back for the sequel. Scooby Doo was more like, well, Transformers. The movie was meant to capitalize on a successful TV franchise and nostalgia; it was meant to be disposable. Frankly, expecting a story that was anything but lazy and/or contrived was expecting too much.
Anyway, I wasn’t expecting too much. I was expecting, I think, a high-budget version of one of the animated movies. The casting choices seemed good. I figured with all the advances in CGI technology that a CG great dane would be a fairly easy creature to render. And I figured that since “Scooby Doo” was such a long-running franchise that adapting it to live-action couldn’t be that hard. Even knowing this movie was disposable, I did not actually expect it to be bad.
And I was wrong. So wrong. While the casting choices were fine, and some of the set design was really pretty good, most everything else was completely wrong. Here is all the movie required:
a) four friends and their talking dog stumble across something weird
b) they investigate by splitting up the group with Shaggy and Scooby (and sometimes Velma) inevitably finding the monster and Fred and Daphne (and sometimes Velma) not finding the monster
c) hijinks ensue, perhaps with a musical chase scene and a celebrity guest star
d) the monster is caught and the mystery solved
e) also, the CG dog should look like a dog
So instead I end up watching a movie that immediately splits up the group in a bout of spitefulness, doesn’t seem to have any idea what the show was about, or how the characters act, or what the hell foreshadowing means (seriously, if they’re going to get Fred and Daphne together, then why the hell was the whole movie practically spent with Fred and Velma hanging out) and to top it all off, the dog looks awful! Good grief, the toons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit were better integrated into the movie, and they were supposed to be toons! Also, Tim Curry declined to be the villain because of Scrappy Doo. While Rowan Atkinson did as good a job as could be expected, well, Tim Curry is just so perfect to be a Scooby Doo villain (and has lent his voice to an animated movie) I’m sorry that didn’t happen. Oh, Scrappy Doo, is there nothing you don’t ruin with your very existence?
There were scenes that certainly didn’t belong (like a flatulence contest between Shaggy and Scooby), but what really put the hurt on me was the spitefulness. Freddy thumps Scooby on the nose (even though in the shows no one really treated Scooby like a dog), Scooby punches Freddy in return, they all abandon Scrappy Doo by the side of the road, Shaggy suggests abandoning Fred and Velma to the monsters, and at the end Scooby smacks Scrappy into a wall. I hate Scrappy Doo. I really do. Scrappy Doo puts the hurt in my soul he’s so terrible. But Scooby was Scrappy’s uncle, and Scrappy was just a puppy. No one in the Mystery Machine gang was cruel enough to abandon Scrappy or cause him physical harm, no matter how annoying he was. And Scrappy is not so awful as to actually be a villain (seriously, though, how could they screw that joke up). Hell, I wouldn’t actually abandon Scrappy Doo by the side of the road and I feel nothing but loathing for that trope-naming hound. The gang’s behavior all around was spiteful and unnecessary, and just makes me sad.
I theorize that because this movie was meant to be disposable that no care was given to it. Zero [expletive]s were given about this movie, and it showed. Even disposable media should be watchable that first time, and this just wasn’t. Ultimately, there wasn’t much fun about this movie and some scenes were downright painful to watch. Really, what is Scooby Doo if not fun? In this rare case, the sequel is actually superior to the original. Is the sequel good? It’s passable, and more than that, it doesn’t hurt to watch.