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March 2004

By Julian Roman
Scooby Doo 2 Monsters Unleashed

Scooby Doo 2 - Monsters Unleashed can be thought of as a greatest hits retrospective from the cartoon. Everyone's favorite ghoul bad guys from back in the day return to make life very difficult for the gang in Mystery Inc. This will probably be the first in an avalanche of sequels, but the film is actually entertaining and an improvement on the original. It's a children's movie from start to finish, but succeeds in dropping some very adult themes over the heads of younger viewers.

The gang from Mystery Inc., Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Velma (Linda Cardellini), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), and Scooby (voiced by Neil Fanning) are invited to an opening gala at the Coolsonian Museum. This is, of course, in Coolsville. It's a costume exhibit of the famous bad guys they've caught during their career as investigators. The top baddies are all there on display, the Pterodactyl Ghost, Captain Cutler's Ghost, the 10,000-Volt Ghost, and the Black Knight to name a few. Just when the gang is showing off their famous captures to the press, the Pterodactyl Ghost comes to life and destroys the museum. Then it steals the costumes from the exhibit and flies off into the night. Afterwards, a sinister masked figure appears on the museum's roof vowing to destroy the gang and bring devastation to the citizens of Coolsville. The gang swings into action to discover who's behind the fiendish plot.

There are two primary story arcs in Scooby Doo 2. The first involves Shaggy and Scooby trying to prove that they belong in the gang. They come to the conclusion that they're total screw-ups, which is true, and must solve this mystery on their own. Velma has fallen in love with the museum's curator, Patrick (Seth Green), but is unsure if he'll like her for the dorky little fox that she is. The emotional parts of Scooby Doo 2 are a complete and utter waste of time. It's just out of place and dampens the spirit of the movie's fun parts. There were a bunch of children sitting in front of me during the screening. They laughed when it was funny, laughed harder when it was silly, and groaned loudly during the "let me tell you how I feel" scenes. The kids got this one right. The filmmakers should have cut out the gooey emotional stuff. It's out of place in the film and unheard of in the cartoon.

Linda Cardellini and Matthew Lillard steal the show as Velma and Shaggy. They've absolutely nailed the characters from the cartoon. It's uncanny how good they are. Lillard was great from the first film, but Linda Cardellini shines as Velma. She's the most interesting character and fleshes her out beautifully on screen, right down to how she says "jinkies!" The same cannot be said for the other principals. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. are vapid in their characters. Fred and Daphne didn't really have a lot of personality in the cartoon, but something should have been done to make them more interesting.

Neil Fanning is the voice of Scooby. He deserves some credit because Scooby is much better the second time around. The CGI looks good, as it did in the first film, but that's expected. What was surprising was how much Scooby was given to do in this film. The filmmakers use his character more effectively and it pays off. Scooby has a dance scene that's so infectious, you have to like it. A CGI dog is wearing an afro-wig and polyester jump suit, breaking it down old school on the dance floor. You have to laugh at that, no matter how cynical you are about the film.

Scooby Doo 2 is worth watching. It's good family entertainment that adults and children will like. It has its flaws, but turns out to be much better than expected. That's an achievement considering how terrible this film could have been. Look out for those adult-themed comments, especially from Shaggy. They're pretty funny.