You can always count on death, taxes, Freddie driving, Daphne getting kidnapped, Velma losing her glasses, Shaggy’s empty stomach, Scooby Doo doing anything for a Scooby Snack, and Mystery, Inc. pulling the masks off the mystery. Hanna-Barbera’s longest continually running cartoon series, “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” is a love affair with predictability cranked by five and a half (if you count Scrappy Doo) quirky personality-fashion statements, and now, finally, a live-action film (aside from computerized Scoob).
I’d tell you the story, but you know the plot. It’s the same one they’ve regurgitated for years. Only this time hidden resentments emerge in a power play between Velma and Freddie, and Daphne is all of a sudden self-aware of her damsel-in-distress-cliché-persona. This causes a cartoon personality clash and split, leaving Shaggy and Scooby licking up the crumbs. Not until Emile Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson) pulls the gang together to de-haunt his Spooky Island theme park do they reunite their demystifying powers.
As a whole, the cast portrays their cartoon counterparts well. NBC’s “Freaks and Geeks” star Lindsey Cardellini captures the monotoned voice and monochromatic turtleneck and skirt of Velma; Matthew Lillard’s face is a little bright for Shaggy, but his excitable gravel voice is right on; Sarah Michelle Gellar (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and Freddie Prinze Jr. look their vacant parts as Daphne and Freddie.
But quite frankly, Scoob and Shag don’t eat enough during the film. They have a nice grilled-eggplant burger feast in the Van before the big Spooky job, but if this was Hanna-Barbera time, they’d have been gnawing on Freddie’s legs by the time they finally got their next meal. And I’m not sure I agree with Freddie’s added self-obsessed vanity. I always thought Freddie’s neckerchief represented a dainty yet bold fashion statement, a window into his alternative sexuality or a subversive allegiance to Charles Nelson Reilly. And who needs to know about Scrappy Doo’s dirty little secrets? Some things are better left unsaid.
Of course, things were bound to get a little more complex for the crew in order to hold your attention for a whole hour and a half — and they do, but not much more. And everyone retains that refreshing Saturday morning attitude in the midst of ravaging midnight hell-spawn.
If you can handle a half hour of the cartoon, then you’ll have no problem sitting through Scooby-Doo the film. We can only hope it garners enough success to finance the “Hair Bear Bunch” movie.
Anita Schmaltz writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.