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Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

01/05/2004. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed in the USA - or Buy Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed in the UK

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America's favorite cowardly canine and his crime-fighting cohorts are back for round two in the meager follow-up film, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. They would have got away with it too, if it wasn't for you damn meddling cinema goers!

Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004). Warner Brothers. 1 hour 33 minutes. Starring: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Alicia Silverstone, Seth Green, Tim Blake Nelson, Peter Boyle Directed by: Raja Gosnell.

Well, America's favorite cowardly canine and his crime-fighting cohorts are back for round two in the meager follow-up Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. Yes, that harried hound Scooby Doo - all in his CGI made-up glory - is back for more spooky adventures after the relatively successful original film made its splash back in 2002. Of course the live-action Scooby Doo flicks are based upon the popular 1970's Hanna-Barbera animated TV show that dominated the Saturday morning airwaves for millions of tykes everywhere.

Unfortunately for SD2: MU, it does try to clumsily borrow from the first installment in terms of trying to satirize the Mystery Inc. crew as youthful celebrity-seeking sleuths with a flair for investigating unsolved mysteries at a high price for their valued services.

This not only is a repetitive and lazy concept but it goes against the gamy spirit of the old cartoon series where Scooby Doo and gang were "meddlesome kids" that innocently traveled in their Mystery Machine van while stumbling upon mysteries and solving them in spite of their unconventional approach. Instead, there's this stubborn insistence that the Coolsville clan become media misfits for their detractors while inspirational Teen Beat icons for their adoring onlookers.

Although the direction to make Scooby and his human pals a bunch of desired detectives with big egos that accompanied their so-called self-importance ruled the course of the first film, it was a refreshingly different departure and twist for the Coolsville kids and their mischievous mutt Scooby in tow. But director Raja Gosnell (who was at the helm for the first Scooby Doo movie) and writer James Gunn try to awkwardly expound upon the Mystery Inc. mob's supernatural scope by indulging them in overwrought silly-minded encounters meant to spice up the proceedings. For instance, watching a goofy-minded Scooby sport a Linc Hayes Mod Squad-style Afro hairdo for comic effect feels like a desperate stretch to incorporate its slapstick mode.

Or having the group step out on the dance floor to the smooth tunes of heavyweight American Idol winner Ruben Studdard velvet-sounding voice seems like a shameless marketing ploy to pad the secured interests of the targeted kid-friendly moviegoers. Overall, the meandering mayhem to the shoddy sequel Scooby Doo 2: Monster's Unleashed is as untested, shaky, and crooked as pesky puppy Scrappy Doo's hind leg.

For the most part, the Mystery Inc. mystery solvers haven't changed too much since their first outing a couple of years ago when they were asked to look into the gory goings-on at Spooky World Island. The personalities are still in tact and the gang hasn't gotten over their taste for overexposed media recognition. Fred Jones (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) is the pretty boy leader with the vanity as neatly placed as his blonde follicles. Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is the clueless babe with the misplaced passion for wearing gaudy purple outfits.

Velma (Linda Cardellini from NBC-TV's hospital drama ER) is the cerebral-minded but adorable dorky doll of the operation. And then there's the petrified pair of the crew - goofballs Shaggy Rogers (Matthew Lillard) and his lovable four-legged flea-bitten sidekick Scooby Doo. Once again the individual members of Mystery Inc. are trying to distinguish themselves as a viable element in their celebrated mystery-busting union.

The premise is quite simple: Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby are given a hero's welcome home celebration from their hometown fans of Coolsville, USA. The gang returns to the venue as bona fide celebrities based on their ghost-busting experiences and their appreciative community wants to dedicate a special section of their past work in the town's museum. Every ghoulish and monstrous adversary that the Monsters Inc. crowd has confronted and defeated is being displayed as an exhibition. This event is very momentous for the mystery solvers and they are touched by the reception of the people and the spectacle in general.

But Scooby and the kids should know that trouble has a way of chasing after them based on past bizarre developments. It's not long into the grand opening ceremony that things go completely awry.

Specifically, a majority of the costumed displays miraculously come alive and start to trash the museum while causing havoc in the process. Soon, a spiteful TV reporter (Alicia Silverstone) responds to this devastating incident by accusing the befuddled Mystery Inc. bunch of causing this haunting happening. This accusation takes the wind out of the celebrated gang's sails and they soon are turned from coveted media sweethearts to unsavory sour notes.

Naturally, the Mystery Inc. members are bothered by the criticism of their fellow Coolsville brethren that turned on them so suddenly because a television journalist decided to point an unfair finger at them based on the blame game. Feeling rather down in the dumps about this avenging reporter looking to exploit this incident at the museum while crippling Mystery Inc. of its fleeting glory the kids must come up with a plan to tame the unleashed museum monsters and restore their notable reputation.

Being the seasoned detectives that they are, the group decides to split up and seek out different angles in an effort to get down to the bottom of this latest mystery. The comedy team of Scooby and Shaggy find themselves going undercover in the ghostly gallery as the remaining threesome of Fred, Daphne and Velma look to expose the Evil Masked Figure in hopes of clearing their good name. Plus, they all need to find a strategy in returning these creepy creatures to the costumes they previously escaped from.

For some inexplicable reason, the spark doesn't seem too energized the second time around for Scooby and his company. Gosnell has a jovial time in the way he flashes around the assortment of devilish demons all dressed up in its splashy special effects duds. However, as a kid-coated vehicle, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed probably has the needed ingredients to satisfy the kiddies with its nutty nuances coupled with scattered product placements.

But there's something so lacking and incomplete that fails to capitalize on the giddy magic that made the first film so flexible and enjoyable. The computer-generated images fly every which way but loose yet there's no initiative to make these images come alive as three-dimensional sources. Even Scooby Doo's CGI sluggish look has, um, gone to the dogs so to speak.

Besides the fact that SD2: MU is skating on thin ice as becoming the millennium-based juvenile version of Ghostbusters, the performances from the Mystery Inc. participants are suitable. Prinze is passable as the doltish boytoy Fred and his fling with damsel-in-distress dish Daphne (Prinze's real life companion Gellar) is a side track subplot worth some consideration despite its gimmicky connection. Lillard's fun-loving impersonation of beatnik Shaggy is undeniably right on the mark.

The interplay between Shaggy and Scooby in Monsters Unleashed isn't as inspired as their shenanigans in the film's first edition, though. Cardinelli's Velma has taken center stage in this creepy caper as she manages to make her geeky girl rather sexy and intoxicating. In fact, the physically enhanced Velma gives perky pin-up princess Daphne a run for her money in the Mystery Inc. babe-a-licious sweepstakes.

The resident museum curator (Seth Green from the Austin Powers movies) definitely has taken notice of Velma's girly goodies as he is quite smitten with the brainiac beauty. Peter Boyle (from CBS-TV's Everybody Loves Raymond) is also on board as a wasted villainous and cantankerous old coot that figures into the mixture of the kooky events.

No one can doubt the frolicking nature of Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed as some of the sight gags and in-jokes hits its stride effectively every once in a while. While the first session of Scooby Doo and his human buddies were mildly fun to watch as the campy chaos of monsters and human zombies unfolded around them, Monsters Unleashed seems like an overproduced and toiled undertaking.

Hence, reaching for laughs are as involved as solving one of the film's mawkish mysteries. Still, there's nothing Scooberific about this slight second presentation trying to rehash the flighty formula that gelled so effectively the first time around. Sorry, but there won't be any Scooby snacks to pass out regarding this latest lightweight loony tale of trick or (mis)treats.

Frank Ochieng

(c) Frank Ochieng 2004

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