The kids of Mystery, Inc. are reunited at a spooky amusement park/college hot spot on an island to figure out why college students are turning into zombies--and discover who the real villain is.
When watching Scooby-Doo cartoons on Saturday mornings, we never thought about what would happen if the crime solving group at Mystery, Inc. was to actually break up. Well, the unthinkable happens in this big-screen treatment as Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Velma (Linda Cardellini) decide to call it quits. They each believe they can solve mysteries on their own without each other's help. Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby-Doo (that lovable, computer-generated Great Dane) are the ones left to carry on the name of Mystery, Inc. (and get to keep the psychedelic van), but they refuse to solve any cases associated with the word ''spooky.'' That is, until the owner (Rowan Atkinson) of an amusement park called Spooky Island, a favored hot spot for college spring breakers, calls upon the quartet to reunite and find out why the college students are leaving the island as well-behaved zombies. As far-fetched as things get, there are plenty of creepy goings-on to sufficiently freak Shaggy and Scooby out. Yet, all ends well as the gang happily remembers why it is they make such a super-duper, case-cracking team. As for the villain, those of us true Scooby fans will rejoice when he is revealed (mask and all) and gets his comeuppance.
When trying to bring beloved cartoon icons to life, the casting had better nail it right on the head. Luckily for Scooby-Doo, it does. Real-life couple Prinze and Gellar do a fine job as Fred and Daphne, and are given a little more to work with in the film than their animated counterparts were in the series. A terrible braggart, Fred is the handsome front man for the group while Daphne takes some self-defense lessons to move beyond the ''damsel-in-distress'' role. Most importantly, the two finally share a little lip-lock. (You always wanted them to on the cartoon show, but of course, it's a cartoon show--things like that don't happen.) It's Lillard as Shaggy and Cardellini as Velma, however, who truly hit it out of the park. Lillard has it all down--to the squeaky voice and the good-hearted hippie attitude, and Cardellini gets Velma's nasally, wisecracking retorts just right. As a bonus, these two find their own love interests as well. It makes sense when you think about it. The Mystery, Inc. gang are young and carefree--they deserve it.
Scooby isn't rocket science, folks. You know going in that it's going to be pretty outrageous most of the time, which it is. Yet, just in the way The Brady Bunch Movie worked by mimicking the TV show, the movie follows right along in the spirit of the original cartoon, so it becomes immediately comfortable. There were some reservations before the film came out, mainly in regards to how a computer-generated Scooby was going to hold up within a live-action movie. Interestingly, Scooby isn't really the star of the show like you might think, but rather just another integral part of the whole picture. He fits in just fine, but you have to have a great Shaggy to compliment him, which Lillard provides in spades. The real problem is that older fans might only be entertained by a few adult jokes (like the inference that drugs cause Shag and Scoob's endless hunger) and the fact that villain is a real surprise. This is really a film for the tween genre (8-12), with plenty of bathroom humor and slapstick comedy. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but knowing that Scooby has a fan base which covers a wide range, it would have been nice to have a few more in- jokes to make us adults fall out of our chairs--even if they went over the kids' heads at the same time.
Scooby-Doo stays true to its cartoon roots, with the performances by the young cast nailing their animated counterparts to a tee. Yet, it is truly for the younger set, even if us old folks wanted a little more adult humor.