Case Number 20269


Warner Bros. // 2002 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG
Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
Warner Bros. // 2004 // 93 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // December 7th, 2010

The Charge

Shaggy: Who's your best buddy?
Scooby: Raggy.
Shaggy: That's right. And who's my best buddy in the whole wide world?
Scooby: Rooby-Doo!

Opening Statement

To be honest, the lasting appeal of Scooby-Doo is a bit mystifying. The talking canine and his mystery solving teenage pals debuted on CBS's Saturday morning cartoon line-up way back in 1969 in the Hanna-Barbera produced Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! In the decades since, no fewer than 10 television series starring the pooch have been produced in various formats and venues -- each featuring cheap animation and formulaic storytelling. Still, Scooby remains enormously popular with today's generation of pint-sized TV viewers, as well as maintaining a nostalgic place in the hearts of his now middle-aged original fans.

Given the character's lasting popularity, it should come as no surprise that Warner Bros. decided to make a live action feature film adaptation of the pooch's adventures. The result was 2002's Scooby-Doo, a film almost universally reviled by critics, but financially successful enough to warrant 2004's Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.

Scooby-Doo was treated to an HD DVD and Blu-Ray release back in 2007, when there were still two high definition formats. Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed has never seen a high definition release -- until now. Scooby-Doo 1 & 2 Collection is a budget release that repackages the original Scooby-Doo Blu-ray with a second disc containing its sequel.

Facts of the Case

As in Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, the Scoob flicks follow the adventures of Mystery, Inc., a paranormal detective business run by a quartet of teenagers and their speech impediment inflicted Great Dane, Scooby-Doo. Fred Jones (Freddy Prinze Jr., I Know What You Did Last Summer), the team's leader, is a clean-cut, blond-haired, (and in the case of these films, entirely egocentric) all-American boy. Daphne Blake (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is a rich, beautiful, miniskirt wearing redhead skilled in martial arts as well as being captured by the team's various nemeses. Velma Dinkley (Linda Cardellini, Freaks and Geeks) is a nerdy, bespectacled problem solver. Shaggy Rogers (Matthew Lillard, SLC Punk) is an easily-spooked and always hungry hippie, perpetually dressed in brown bell-bottoms and a green T-shirt. His best friend is the equally cowardly, hungry, and bumbling Scooby-Doo. The gang travels around in a custom van called the Mystery Machine, meddling in and ultimately unraveling the schemes of criminals who use the paranormal to bilk the gullible and unsuspecting.

The gang's first live-action adventure begins in the Wow-O toy factory as they wrap up the Case of the Luna Ghost. In the wake of their successful investigation and unable to deal with each other's personal quirks, the team calls it quits. Two years later, each member of the gang is approached by Emile Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson, Mr. Bean), proprietor of an amusement park called Spooky Island. Mondavarious believes that the young people visiting his park are being put under a spell that renders them mindless and compliant. He wants the gang to investigate. Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby are reluctant to work together, but must team up if they are to unravel the mystery of Spooky Island.

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
Reunited after their adventure on Spooky Island, Mystery Inc. is being honored in their hometown of Coolsville with the opening of the Coolsonian Criminology Museum. The museum's curator, Patrick Wisely (Seth Green, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) has created an exhibit featuring costumes worn by culprits in the many cases the gang has cracked. All hell breaks loose during the museum's grand opening when the costumes come to life. The mayhem prompts dogged reporter Heather Jasper-Howe (Alicia Silverstone, Clueless) to trash Mystery Inc. in the press. To save their reputation, the gang must figure out who's bringing these old monsters back to life.

The Evidence

To the extent that Scooby-Doo deserves the critical drubbing it received, it's because director Raja Gosnell and Warner Bros. executives didn't decide until the eleventh hour what kind of film they were making. In trying to appeal to two different audiences -- young children and nostalgic adults -- they ended up making a movie that doesn't quite work for either. The original screenplay, written by James Gunn (Tromeo and Juliet), was pitched squarely at adults who loved Scooby-Doo Where Are You! when they were kids. Aggressively self-aware, it included overt drug use by Shaggy and Scoob, as well as a little girl-on-girl action between Daphne and Velma. Gosnell eventually softened his approach, making the film more appropriate for a younger audience. The result is a ton of inane, family-friendly silliness (including a farting contest between Shaggy and Scooby) laced with eyebrow-raising double entendres likely to make parents showing the flick to their kids squirm with discomfort. Worst of all, the movie culminates in a Scrappy-Doo slamming finale that is jarringly out of place since its originally intended postmodern sense of humor is largely neutered otherwise.

Where the movie has taken some undue flak is in its use of a CGI Scooby-Doo. Once the dubious decision to make a live-action Scooby flick was made, a 3D computer-generated version of the pooch was really the only viable approach. And the special effect itself is quite good -- as realistic as an anthropomorphized talking dog should be. More important than the quality of the effect, perhaps, is that Gosnell and voice actor Neil Fanning (who'd never previously voiced Scoob) nail the dog's personality. The heart and soul of Scooby's animated adventures is always the genuine warmth of his friendship with Shaggy. In Scooby-Doo, the duo gets plenty of screen time, and Fanning and Matthew Lillard (whose performance as Shaggy is eerily accurate) exude heartfelt camaraderie throughout. If the rest of the movie captured the essence of Scooby-Do Where Are You! as effectively as it does the friendship between Shaggy and Scoob, it would be easy to recommend.

Though the movie flopped, Gosnell and Gunn are much more successful in walking the fine line between kid-friendly shenanigans and shameless pandering to nostalgia-hungry adults in Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. Gone are most of the double entendres and hyper-obvious references to Shaggy and Scooby suffering from marijuana-induced munchies (though there is an extended sequence in which Velma sexes it up in skin-tight orange vinyl). Instead, the movie shoots self-aware winks at the adult crowd by featuring a rogues' gallery of baddies from Scooby-Doo Where Are You!, including Miner Forty-Niner, the Black Knight, the ghost of Captain Cutler, the Creeper, the Tar Monster, the 10,000 Volt Ghost, and the Ozark Witch. It's a surprising amount of fun for fans of the old series. Kids will love the Day-Glo production design (heavily influenced by the old cartoons), army of digitally rendered villains, and light smattering of fart jokes. Lillard continues to do an admirable job of acting alongside a cartoon dog, though his Shaggy impersonation isn't quite as convincing here as it was in the original. Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed is, at best, disposable fun -- better than the original, though that ain't saying much.

The two films land on DVD in excellent 1080p/VC-1 transfers. Colors are bold, blacks are deep and satisfying, and detail is superb. Grain is tight and controlled to the point of being almost non-existent, even in the many sequences set in the dark. Scooby-Doo's audio mix is an old school Dolby Digital 5.1 (a concession to the fact that the movie was simultaneously released on HD DVD, a format that lacked the disc space for high definition video, uncompressed audio tracks, and supplements). It's not a bad track, but nowhere near as bright or dynamic as the DTS-HD master audio track that accompanies Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.

Disc One of the set is identical to the original Scooby-Doo Blu-ray. It includes an impressive list of supplements along with the main feature:

There are two commentary tracks -- one with Gosnell and his producers, the other with the film's cast. Both are decent, though plagued by long gaps of silence -- surprising considering the number of participants on each track.

"Unmasking the Mystery" (22:10)
An above-average electronic press kit, this featurette offers the standard fawning interviews with the cast and crew, but also delves into the history of the characters and creation of a 3D CG version of Scooby-Doo. Moments of unintentional hilarity include Sarah Michelle Gellar talking about playing Daphne as though the role is as challenging has Hamlet, and Freddie Prinze Jr. claiming (with a straight face) that Scooby-Doo cartoons are literature and should be taught in schools. On the other hand, Rowan Atkinson's explanation of the difficulties of acting alongside an invisible dog is actually interesting.

"Scary Places" (4:22)
This is a brief piece that offers a behind-the-scenes look at Bill Boes' production design for the movie. Boes discusses how he tried to work within the visual style established by Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!j.

"The Mystery Van" (1:02)
Bill Boes returns to discuss the design and creation of the movie's Mystery Machine. In addition to a brief tour of the van used in the movie, Boes provides a glimpse of the many design options explored by the artists working on the movie.

"Daphne Fight Scene" (2:28)
Stunt coordinator Guy Norris talks about the wire-fu fight choreography involved in Daphne's throwdown with a burly lucha libre wrestler.

"Rain on the Set" (1:18)
Members of the cast and crew gripe about how the location shoot in Queensland was plagued by frequent torrential rain showers.

In addition to the commentaries and featurettes, there's also a reel of deleted scenes with optional commentary; a music video for Outkast's "The Land of a Million Drums"; and a theatrical trailer as well as an advertisement for the movie's soundtrack.

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed isn't lavished with as many extras as its predecessor, but Disc Two does offer some supplemental content.

"Scooby-Doo's Triple Threat" (10:20)
This is an electronic press kit that covers Bill Boes' set designs, the stunts coordinated by J.J. Markaro, and the digital and practical effects designed by Peter Crossman.

"True Ghoul Hollywood Stories" (5:47)
This featurette gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the Cotton Candy Glob, Redbeard's Ghost, the Ozark Witch, and the actors who portray them.

"Scooby-Doo is The Dancing Dog" (5:30)
This featurette deconstructs the special effects involved in a scene in which Scooby disco dances.

In addition to the three featurettes, the disc contains a reel of deleted scenes, and music videos for "Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Again)" by Big Brovaz and "Don't Wanna Think About You" by Simple Plan.

Closing Statement

Fans of Raja Gosnell's Scooby-Doo movies will find little to complain about in Scooby-Doo 1 & 2 Collection (Blu-ray). The transfers for both films are excellent, the set is priced to move, and there's a solid slate of extras despite it being a budget release. But those just looking for a little Mystery Inc. entertainment would be best served by sticking with the cartoons -- these are not good movies.

The Verdict

Guilty as charged.

Review content copyright © 2010 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice, Scooby-Doo
Video: 95
Audio: 75
Extras: 70
Acting: 88
Story: 60
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile, Scooby-Doo
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

* English
* English (SDH)
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, Scooby-Doo
* Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes
* Music Video
* Trailer

Scales of Justice, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
Video: 95
Audio: 90
Extras: 25
Acting: 88
Story: 70
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)

* English (SDH)
* French
* Spanish

Running Time: 93 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG

Distinguishing Marks, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurettes
* Music Videos

* IMDb: Scooby-Doo

* IMDb: Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed