It really came as no surprise when the live action SCOOBY-DOO ($27) proved to be critic proof and did a rather brisk business at the box office. Letís face it; SCOOBY-DOO the movie was made for the diehard fans of the three decade old Saturday morning cartoon show- and not the critics. By no stretch of the imagination is SCOOBY-DOO good cinema, which is probably what perturbed the movie critics, but the movie is amusing and seems to push all the right buttons for the TV showís fan base. If nothing else, the movie version of SCOOBY-DOO confirmed something that Iíve suspected since my teen years. Underneath those nerdy glasses and turtleneck sweater, Velma is a babe with a real nice rackÖ
The live action version of SCOOBY-DOO doesnít stray too far from the formula of the animated TV show, but it does put a new spin on things and isnít afraid to poke fun at the repetitive nature of the characters and situations. SCOOBY-DOO opens with the members of Mystery Inc. solving another one of their typical cases. However, a number of longstanding personal resentments cause the members of the Scooby Gang to go their separate ways. After two years apart, they are reunited by separate invitations to the Spooky Island theme park, where they are requested to solve a mystery involving ancient island spirits that has been transforming the resortís college age guests into seemingly brainwashed zombies.
All of the TV show's animated characters have been brought to life by some good to great casting choices. With his hair died blonde, Freddie Prinze Jr. is well suited to the role of Fred Jones, the self-absorbed leader of Mystery Inc. Sarah Michelle Gellar is perfect as the shallow and danger prone Daphne Blake, who tries in this movie to reinvent herself in the mold of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I donít think there is any other actor that could have brought Norville 'Shaggy' Rogers to life as well as Matthew Lillard. Not only does Lillard look and sound like Shaggy- he is Shaggy. As good as Lillard is, I have to say that I love Linda Cardellini as Velma Dinkley. Not only does Cardellini nail the character as portrayed in the cartoon show, she brings a new dimension to the roleÖ and confirms my long held suspicions about the character. Finally, we come to the title character- the cowardly canine detective that has been entertaining us for more than three decades. The CGI version of SCOOBY-DOO offers just the right mixture of real dog and cartoon canine, so he fits into real life settings, while still being recognizable as the character that we have all grown to love. The cast of SCOOBY-DOO also features Rowan Atkinson, Isla Fisher, Miguel A. NķŮez Jr., Charles Cousins, Steven Grives, Sam Greco, Nicholas Hope, as well as the vocal talents of Neil Fanning and Scott Innes.
Warner Home Video has made SCOOBY-DOO available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. Warner is also releasing a separate full screen version for those individuals who could care less about seeing the movie as it should be seen. Warnerís wide screen transfer looks great- boasting an image that is sharp, bright and very nicely detailed. Colors are quite vivid, and the deep saturation produces a nice cartoon like palette. No matter the intensity, all of the hues are reproduced cleanly and without smearing. Blacks appear nice and deep, plus the whites always appear stable. Shadow detail is very good, although the film is lit in such a way that the darkest sequences never become too dark and shadowy. The film element used for the transfer is virtually blemish free and rarely displays any kind of noticeable grain structure. Digital compression artifacts have been well concealed on the cleanly authored DVD.
SCOOBY-DOO features a good sounding Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. While not the most aggressively mixed soundtrack on the market, the sound designers do a good job of invigorating the films action oriented moments. Even the cartoony comedic moments get sound effects play, which certainly add to the movieís fun. However, the mix tends to favor the forward soundstage more than I liked, leaving the rear channels underutilized, except for ambience and musical fill. Dialogue is always clean and crisp sounding, as well as being reproduced with complete intelligibility. The bass channel is very solid, adding a full-bodied whomp to the film's sound effects. A Spanish 5.1 channel soundtrack has also been encoded onto the DVD, along with English, French and Spanish subtitles.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís amusingly designed interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as some supplemental materials. Two commentary tracks are featured on the DVD; the first includes director Raja Gosnell, producers Richard Suckle and Charles Roven, while the second features cast members Freddie Prince Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard and Linda Cardellini. As you might have guessed the filmmakers' commentary cover the technical end of the production, while the cast commentary is more laid back and fun.
Also included on the DVD is about thirteen minutes worth of deleted scenes, which can be viewed with or without director's commentary. For the most part, deleted scenes usually belong on the cutting room floor, but some of the material here I wish had been included back into the body of the film. I am particularly partial to the alternate opening credit sequence, which featured the animated versions of the characters. Unmasking The Mystery behind Scooby-Doo is a twenty-plus minute featurette that takes a look behind-the-scenes at the making of the movie with a CGI Scooby-Doo, as well as offering interviews with the creators of the original Saturday morning cartoon show and the cast members, who talk about bringing these classic animated characters to life.
Scary Places runs under five minutes and focuses on the production design and sets that bring this creepy Scooby-Doo mystery to life. The Mystery Van looks at the final design of The Mystery Machine in the movie, as well as glimpsing more than fifty optional versions that the production designer came up with. Daphne Fight Scene is a two-minute program that focuses on Sarah Michelle Gellar being strapped into a harness on wires for her Hong Kong style martial arts sequence. The Outkast music video for the song Land Of A Million Drums is also provided on the DVD. Finally on the video side, there is the Spooky Island Arcade Challenge, which is a one or two player interactive game that has the players answer questions about certain details of the movie. SCOOBY-DOO is also DVD-ROM enabled, offering access to other on-line content.
If you are like me and are a longtime fan of the Saturday morning cartoon, I think you will enjoy SCOOBY-DOO. Sure, its not great cinema, but it is amusing fun. Warner's wide screen DVD looks and sounds terrific, plus it offers a good supplemental section. If you missed it in the theater and want to see SCOOBY-DOO at home, don't wait for pay-per-view; the wide screen DVD is going to be a whole lot better.
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