Friday, September 29, 2023

Lillard makes perfect Shaggy, but flick fails to deliver

June 17, 2002
Matthew Lillard as Shaggy and Scooby-Doo star in Warner Bros. Pictures’ live-action comedy “Scooby-Doo.” —

Look who’s back. Yes, it is I, the one and only. I just couldn’t stay away - not when there’s a movie out that not only includes a childhood fave, Scooby-Doo, but also my arch-nemesis, Freddie Prinze Jr. So full of hatred am I for this evil purveyor of filth such as “She’s All That” and “Summer Catch,” that duty called, and I found myself in a theater watching the new release, “Scooby-Doo.”

To start, I’ve gotta give props where they are due, and I must say Matthew Lillard does an amazing job as Shaggy. He’s perfect, and if I were to become king, he would be spared. He just plain owns the role, and it’s a joy to watch.

Prinze as Fred and Sarah Michelle Gellar as Daphne are both wooden caricatures, especially in comparison to Lillard’s all-out performance.

Another problem - Velma (Linda Cardellini) is hot. She’s not supposed to be hot, especially compared to Daphne. But in contrast to Gellar’s emaciated, twiggish frame, Velma has feminine curves and a face that looks as though she’s eaten something in the last decade. I gotta say, I wouldn’t mind getting “jinky” with her, if you know what I mean.

The biggest problem of all, however, is the story. There’s talk all over the Internet, and even from the actors, that the final product isn’t at all like what the original script resembled - an intelligent, modern take on a classic cartoon full of wit and insight that’s great for those of us who grew up with the show and still fine for the younger kids who are catching up through reruns.

But the final cut is all for kids, with nothing risky or tantalizing. I’m not saying I wanted a bunch of rehashed jokes about Velma being a lesbian or about the gang smoking ganja like fiends, but something more than spending $80 million to simply put teen idols into a typical cartoon story.

The movie begins with the gang solving a mystery. Reporters show up to interview the hipster detectives, and as usual, Fred takes all the credit. This pushes Velma over the edge and she quits. So does Daphne, for some reason, followed by Fred. They all head their separate ways.

Fade in two years later, and all of them receive invites to solve a mystery on “Spooky Island,” an amusement park that may be, oddly enough, haunted. All five believe they’re the only ones being invited, and each goes.

It becomes clear pretty quick that all of them were invited for a reason and, at first, they decide to solve the mystery - something about brainwashing college partyers - on their own. But the fates and Hollywood hacks intervene, and before long, they’re reunited. On and on it goes, until the plot is revealed and the mystery is solved.

So, what about the CG-creation of Scooby? Well, it looks like CG. That’s because it’s a talking dog, and I don’t think anyone going to see a movie based on a cartoon show about hippies solving mysteries had better complain. If you want realistic, you’re in the wrong theater.

No, it’s not the special effects that really drag down “Scooby-Doo.” It’s the lack of ambition and an obvious hack job to the script that leaves all the meat out of the equation and turns it into a weak, mellow effort. The kids will probably love it, and if you’re like most people I know, who plan on going to see this more stoned than Jim Morrison in a bathtub, then I’m sure you’ll get a good few giggles out of it.

It’s nothing spectacular, but try as I might, I couldn’t really loathe it. Don’t get me wrong, when Prinze was on screen, I was angrier than a hobo when the store’s out of cheap wine, but thanks to a playfully energetic performance by Lillard and Velma’s general hotness, I made it through unscathed. It is what it is, and that isn’t saying much. But it is better than those lousy “Flintstones” movies. Watch at your own risk, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.


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