|When you walk into a movie whose tagline is "Doo Happens," you know you won't be witnessing an apex of cinematic achievement. No, you figure it'll be the by-now-standard ironic romp through a childhood standby, chock full of winking references to the subtext that you and your friends have been discussing for years, maybe a little too modern but still sly enough to acknowledge the hokeyness of its roots: an apple falling close to the tree but managing to take out a squirrel or two on the way down.
And you'd be so very wrong.
Scooby-Doo might've been that smart when the idea was thrown around a couple years ago, but not after going through the meat grinder known as "a major studio." The finished product not only feels like it was made by people with lobotomies for people with lobotomies, it made us want to run out and get our very own lobotomy, if only so we could forget having watched that godawful movie.
We refuse to believe that anyone who clicks here has never seen even one episode of Scooby-Doo, but for the sake of form, here goes. The original animated show tracked four teenage dorks and their huge Great Dane mix as they solved mysteries that all invariably involved grumpy old men determined to succeed in the financial marketplace through mass intimidation. Fred was the bland blond leader; Daphne was the babe; Velma was the only one with a working brain stem; Shaggy was the stoner; Scooby was the dog. This was what passed for diversity on TV thirty-odd years ago.
The film version begins with a pretty cool send-up of a classic SD episode: Daphne gets kidnapped, Scooby and Shaggy screw up the carefully-thought-out trap and the "ghost" proves to be a crotchety noodge in an elaborate get-up. But then the gang breaks up due to long-simmering conflicts over who thinks up the plan (Velma), who gets used as bait (Daphne) and who gets the credit (Fred). The three combatants stalk off, leaving Shaggy and Scooby to spend the next two years making lame stoner double entendres. Suddenly, an invitation from a guy known only as "Mr. Mondavarious" (Rowan Atkinson, buying a beach house) to investigate the bizarre goings-on at his theme park Spooky Island gets the gang back together, even if it's not on speaking terms at first. Re-bonding ensues, due to the evil paranormal forces at work on the island.
Ruh??? Revil Raranormal Rorces??? But aren't Scooby-Doo villains always old coots in masks?
Yup, that's what we thought too, but this time around, there's genuine evil afoot. Unfortunately, we'd be hard-pressed to explain exactly what's going on or what machinations the evil is using or even why at times, because director Raja Gosnell spends as little time as possible on the plot, while lingering over what should be hit-and-run sight gags like Scooby in drag. Ha.
When we weren't gritting our teeth over the constant barrage of irritating pop songs, we managed to notice that Matthew Lillard's performance as Shaggy is creepily good. Linda Cardellini does a similarly spot-on Velma, but as Daphne and Fred, Sarah Michelle Gellar and fiancÚ Freddie Prinze Jr. are just plain vapid. Surprised?
We've heard that the weekend take on Scooby-Doo is expected to break the record for June, and that seems in line with the applause (!) that followed the screening we attended. Which means that somewhere out there, lobotomy surgeons across America are cleaning up.