Monsters on Parade
Mystery Inc. is back. Lead by the loveable pooch with a speech impediment, that zany gang of flower-powered crime fighters returns to the big-screen. Although it's not the first sequel of 2004 with a colon in its name, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed is the most appropriately titled movie of the year. Warner Brothers opens the vault on its monster arsenal, flooding the screen with many of our favorite villains that we remember from the wildly popular cartoon series. We get to see the real life incarnation of the Miner 49er, The Creeper, Captain Cutler, the Black Night Ghost and more. The introduction of several new evildoers, and the blessing of a delightfully brisk pace, promise frenzied action for the kids and a surprisingly bearable 91 minutes for the adults.
Did you ever wonder what happened to all those unmasked criminals who would've gotten away with it had it not been for those meddlin' kids? Seems they've all been holed up somewhere in Coolsville, while their costumes are being enshrined into the Coolsonian Museum. Our beloved ghoul-busters, ascot-wearing Freddy (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) brainiac Velma (Linda Carellini), fashion-minded Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), and the bumbling duo of Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby are on hand to christen the new exhibit. The occasion turns a little less than joyous when the exhibit's opening is interrupted by the Pterodactyl Ghost and many of the other villains that Mystery inc. has disposed of throughout the years. It seems someone has created a device capable of bringing all the ghoulish costumes to life and wants to use them for…like…evil!
We scroll through the suspects one-by-one. Could it be the nerdy museum curator Patrick (Seth Green) who ignores the fleeting advances from Velma? Or perhaps the snooty TV reporter Heather (Alicia Silverstone) is more than she seems. Wouldn't any of the unmasked villains from episodes past have reason to sully the squeaky-clean image of Scooby's gang? Old Man Winkles (Peter Boyle) seems the most likely suspect with his criminal background and shady dealings with theme park developers. It's as if returning director Raja Gosnell polled the fans of the original and heeded their advice. Scooby-Doo 2 features more monsters and less plot than the first installment.
Appropriately, the short attention span of kids is kept in mind as we rip through the paces while the monsters are paraded at breakneck speed. The film's lack of a rigid structure actually plays to its favor, but screenwriter James Gunn brings the action to a screeching halt several times as he attempts to add some complexity to the characters. Do kids really want to know about Daphne's lack of self-confidence? Do we really care about Velma's hots for Patrick the museum curator? No. We just want more monsters! The monsters are the film's lifeblood and it's energy, so keep 'em coming.
Scooby-Doo 2 is by no means a great movie, and with the baby-boomer curiosity factor dialed down a few notches this time around, it's unreasonable to recommend this movie for adults. But the filmmakers properly recognized their juvenile target audience and hit a bulls-eye. Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed closely follows the templatized means of storytelling that made the cartoon series so popular. If you don't remember the formula, or if you weren't a fan of the cartoon, it went something like this: a crime is committed; the gang looks for clues; a chase scene plays out to rock music; Mystery Inc. captures the crook and removes a mask revealing the true perpetrator. It must be true that familiarity breeds content. Watching Scooby-Doo movies is kind of like eating at McDonald's -- you never expect too much, but it's always consistent and it's always fast. Scooby-Doo 2 is a light-hearted romp through nostalgia that never offends but always entertains. The cast members don't take themselves too seriously, and neither should the audience.
(Released by Warner Bros. and rated "PG" for some scary action, rude humor and language.)
Review also posted on www.franksreelreviews.com.