Scooby-doo

on June 14, 2002 by Michael Tunison
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   In a period of movie history when a "Lord of the Rings" film gets nominated for a best picture Oscar and "Spider-Man" has the critics raving, is a decent live-action adaptation of "Scooby-Doo" too much to ask? Apparently so. With a computer-generated abomination starring as the title pooch, painfully witless gags and a notable lack of punch in its action sequences, this particular piece of studio franchise maintenance is about as effective as the scheming fake ghouls that used to threaten the kids of Mystery, Inc. in the days of the '70s Hanna-Barbera "Scooby" cartoon.

   The storyline, a halfhearted attempt to poke ironic fun at the familiar characters à la "The Brady Bunch Movie," follows self-involved hunk Fred ("She's All That's" Freddie Prinze Jr.), capture-prone bombshell Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar of TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), brainy Velma (Linda Cardellini), eternal hippie Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and their food-focused Great Dane Scooby as intra-group jealousies trigger the breakup of their longtime mystery-solving partnership. Two years after they've gone their separate ways, however, the estranged sleuths are unwittingly brought together again by the proprietor of the Spooky Island resort ("Rat Race's" Rowan Atkinson) who wants to know why vacationing college students are leaving his theme park as robot-like zombies.

   The best thing director Raja Gosnell ("Big Momma's House") has going for him is his game cast, especially the lovable Cardellini (TV's "Freaks and Geeks") and the ever-uninhibited Lillard ("13 Ghosts"), who manages to simultaneously do a dead-on impersonation of original Shaggy voicer Casey Kasem and pump slapstick life into the film's otherwise leaden action set pieces. Sadly, the same can't be said of the flat-looking digital Scooby, an unfortunate throwback to CG animation's pre-"Toy Story" infancy. Neither humans nor virtual canine have much to work with in the humor department, which is the primary reason the big-screen "Scooby" makes the silly original cartoon seem smart and well-crafted in comparison. Starring Freddie Prinze Jr, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini and Rowan Atkinson. Directed by Raja Gosnell. Produced by Charles Roven and Richard Suckle. Written by James Gunn. A Warner Bros. release. Comedy. Rated PG for some rude humor, language and some scary action. Running time: 86 min

Tags: Starring Freddie Prinze Jr, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini and Rowan Atkinson. Directed by Raja Gosnell. Produced by Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Written by James Gunn, Warner Bros, Comedy
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