by Marty Demarest
So let's get the good news out of the way first: the words "Scooby" and "Doo" appear together in the title. But that's as enjoyable as it gets. The rest of this atrocity of a film screws up its beloved franchise in every possible way. What the makers of Scooby Doo have done is not only drop the ball; they've molested it -- violating all the sweet memories of the Scooby Doo mystique. This film is not only devoid of the wit, humor and effervescence that characterized the original series; it's full of dullardry, crude jokes and lethargy.
The story revolves around the famous "Scooby Gang" of teenage sleuths and their talking Great Dane. Starting with the group's break-up (which seems to have something to do with Pamela Anderson's otherwise inexplicable appearance), they're unwittingly reunited years later to help solve a mystery at a spooky theme park. Okay, so rich plotlines were never a Scooby trademark. The problem here lies with director Raja Gosnell, who has no sense of cartoon. Instead of using his budget to create the characteristic antics of Scooby and Shaggy, Gosnell films them flailing about in space with neither momentum nor character, his inert cameras seemingly held from easy-chairs somewhere in the vicinity of the set.
As for the cast, plastic Freddie Prinze Jr. mouth-breathes his way through the role of Fred. Buffy's Sarah Michelle Gellar is far too charismatic to play the vacant Daphne. And Linda Cardellini does little more than fill out Velma's tighter sweater. It's only Matthew Lillard who keeps our interest, and that's largely because he eerily sounds exactly like Casey Kasem, the original voice of Shaggy.
Even as a DVD it doesn't succeed: instead of a single disc that features both theatrical wide-screen and full-screen modified versions, Warner Brothers has opted to release two separate editions. As if one incarnation of this live-action abomination weren't enough.
In one of the disc's suitably inconsequential special features, Lillard talks about how hard it is to perform "when there's nothing, anywhere, to react to." After seeing this movie, you have to sympathize with him. There's nothing here. Instead, fans should check out the feature-length cartoon Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, also available on DVD. It has all of the magic and charm that the live-action film annihilated.