Scooby Doo
***.6 BM
Starring: Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Rowan Atkinson

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I always thought the Scooby Doo cartoon was crappy. The same lame hokey stuff every show, annoyingly bland characters, stupid shenanigans, never as funny or interesting as the upper echelon of cartoons - your Bugs, your Daffy, your Transformers. But it was inexplicably popular and omnipresent, and it wasn't until I saw Eddie Izzard's "Dress To Kill" that I realized the amazing literary importance of Shaggy and Scooby - two constantly upbeat cowards that you root for all the way - a rarity in storytelling, no matter what form it's in. Eventually, some of it began to grow on me, and I appreciated the ridiculous chase scenes set to lame attempts at popular music of the time, and the fact that they're always scared of whatever stupid monster costume a guy's got on in each episode, yadda yadda. Then there's the fun of Casey Kasem's Shaggy voice. I would still rather watch other stuff, but if I flip channels 400 times and Scooby Doo's the only thing on, I won't wise up and flip off the TV to read or something - I'll watch the antics.

So it was with a shrug of the shoulders and a lackadaisical optimism that I strolled into the screening of the "live-action" version of it. In the interest of eventually getting a totally bitchin' live-action "Transformers" movie, I may attempt to support creations like this. True, you've got iffy stuff like "Space Jam" and "The Flinstones" to look back at and go "Um, do we want to do this again?," and you've also cast Freddie Prinze Jr. in a prominent role, so there's plenty of trepidation to go around. However, it's just the freakin' "Scooby Doo" movie, so there's no potential travesty afoot. The BEST episode of "Scooby Doo" is mildly amusing at best. So kick back and hope to see how they make real people eat a sandwich that's taller than they are.

Unfortunately, that's about the ONLY thing from the cartoon that doesn't happen - along with the leaping into a filing cabinet, then having the monster look into the drawer they jumped into, and then they come flying out of one of the other drawers, hover with their legs spinning in the air for a moment, and then zipping off. The rest of the film is almost perfectly adapted from the show - the same goofy slapstick, the same dopey jokes. But in order to stretch it into an hour and a half, they actually had to do the unthinkable - and give the other characters personalities. Fred, Daphne and Velma had no character to speak of - they're defined mostly by their looks and dopey clothes. This is extrapolated into Fred being a cocky asshole, Daphne being flighty and superficial - but of course, she's also pissed about always being a damsel in distress, and so she learns to kick ass, and Velma being nerdy and overshadowed. It just takes some getting used to.

Freddie Prinze Jr. is a tool, so you'd think he'd be perfect to play a tool like Fred. He still kinda sucks. Sarah Michelle Gellar is passable Daphne. I'm in love with Linda Cardellini. Matthew Lillard is pretty much spot on as Shaggy, getting that hard-to-do voice down pat. The CGI Scooby Doo is actually pretty good, and somehow it's very stupidly amusing to watch it go through the standard screwball hijinks.

I'd feared that this movie would be nothing but a lame set of "hip" weed jokes, due to the ceasefully hilarious stoner trend of noticing all the drug references and allusions in the old cartoon. Thankfully, it kept them to a manageable number and did not make the joke trite and pathetic. It could have been riddled with really bad in-jokes, but instead it kept to its light-hearted roots, and what few in-jokes there WERE resulted in some good bits - like the complete derision of the "red-headed stepchild marketing ploy" that was Scrappy Doo, the annoying 'puppy' that was obstinate, courageous and unwatchable when introduced into the cartoon's formula. Nobody liked Scrappy Doo, and they wisely did not attempt to pretend anyone did.

So it's a fun time, as long as you don't expect much out of a loyal adaptation of a crappy cartoon. Some people might take offense to the little belch-fart contest that Shaggy and Scooby have, but c'mon - these are guys that have disgusting eating contests - it only makes sense that they battle about the digestive results of said contests as well. Yes! Logical explanations for fart jokes! Huzzah!

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