Among the most enduring cartoon franchises ever, Scooby Doo has also been the most abused. In production just about continuously since the late 1960s, the big, brown talking dog has suffered through the indignities of an annoying sidekick, Scrappy Doo, and being thrown into a bunch of really bad celebrity pairings in the '70s (like Scooby Doo Meets Laurel and Hardy). Even the recent live-action version was a disaster (except for Matthew Lillard's dead-on Shaggy).
But in recent years, Warner Bros. has treated the franchise with the respect it deserves, with a series of feature-length adventures, most recently Scooby Doo and the Monster of Mexico. Yes, those old original mysteries are cheesy, but they set the template that any good Mystery Inc. lover wants.
The archetypal plot goes like this: While recreating, the gang -- Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne -- winds up embroiled in a caper. Fred then announces, "Well, gang, it looks like we've got a mystery on our hands!" They split up, with brainy Velma discovering clues and Fred looking on; then Daphne somehow manages to get captured. Shaggy and Scooby, while seeking out munchies, always wind up encountering the villain. There's a peppy musical interlude, with lots of hijinks from the gang. Then comes the denouement, with Daphne saved and the setting of a trap. After the villain is caught, he or she is unmasked, the plot to scare people off the property is mentioned and, then, the best line of all: "And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for these meddling kids and their dog!"
In the recent features, they've gotten back to basics, dutifully following the above template. The animation is crisp, and they've got the original voice talents back -- including Kasey Kasem as Shaggy. On the first three new ones -- Alien Invaders, Zombie Island and Cyber Chase -- they had the gang updated for the '90s. But in the last two -- Monster of Mexico and Legend of the Vampire -- they're back to 1969, even down to Fred's ascot.
Out of the five, I'd have to rate them this way: 1) Vampire; 2-tie) Cyber Chase (classic villains and the B-52s singing the theme song); 2-tie) Alien Invaders (hints of X-Files); 4) Monster of Mexico (not enough chills); and 5) Zombie Island (too scary for young kids. This is the only Scooby Doo where there's no rubber mask -- these are real zombies.) But kids aren't this picky -- they even like Scrappy Doo.
Publication date: 10/23/03