Music, Mystery, and Australian Mythos
Zoinks! Having grown up with the television series and followed with interest the late '90s direct-to-video revival, Warner's fifth feature length release Scooby-Doo and the Legend of the Vampire is by far its poorest. Let's just say Nickelodeon's Rugrats and Spongebob Squarepants are more intelligent and artistically impressive than this blunder down under.
The Mystery Inc. gang travels to Australia on vacation. While checking out the Vampire Rock Festival in the Outback, they stumble upon their old friends The Hex Girls (Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost) and the mysterious disappearance of Matt Marvelous—the odds on favorite to win the unsigned band competition. Local legend says the legendary Vampire Yowie Yahoo owns the hallowed ground around Vampire Rock and is responsible for the disappearance of last year's Festival runners-up "Wild Wind" (think KISS meets Marilyn Manson). The stage crew who witnessed Matt's disappearing act swears it was the missing glam rockers turned vampires that abducted him. Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shag, and Scoob go undercover as a rock band, competing against new favorites "The Bad Omens," in the hopes of baiting the vampires into kidnapping them. Can the gang solve the mystery and capture the bad guys before the Festival is cancelled?
Let me state, for the record, that I am a Scooby-Doo fan. That being said, watching this film was an exercise in futility. I kept waiting for it to get better and it never did. On the positive front, Legend of the Vampire is faithful to the original series, as well as being both self-referencing and self-deprecating. In terms of character designs, the traditional costumes are back, including Fred's ascot, as is the original Mystery Machine. In terms of voice casting, the entire original cast has been reunited, with the exception of the late Don Messick whose unique talents gave life television's legendary canine detective. Casey Kasem (Shaggy), Heather North Kenney (Daphne), Nicole Jaffe (Velma), and Frank Welker (Fred and Scooby) pick up right where they left off, without missing a beat. Impressive, considering Heather and Nicole have been out of the business for more than 20 years. Even composers Gigi Meroni and Rich Dickerson have revived the show's original memorable musical score and sound effects. Cap all this off with the "Case of the Sea Serpent Smugglers," an homage to the series' 1969 animated opening title sequence, and you would expect this movie to be an adventure Scooby fans young and old would treasure. Unfortunately, this puppy is a dud from the word go. Writer Mark Turosz (Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase) and director Scott Jeralds (Freakazoid!) present us with a plot that is amazingly both convoluted and transparent. The story doesn't even kick into gear until the 18:00 minute mark, after subjecting the audience to an animated commercial for Australian tourism compounded by ridiculous and irrelevant interactions with indigenous wildlife. Things go from bad to worse as the laughable discovery of clues, wireless access to the Internet in the middle of the outback, and an unexplained backstory for the existence of the central villain converge into the most inane climax of any Scooby-Doo mystery to date.
From a technical perspective, Warner Brothers appears to have started a disturbing trend. This pre-release screener disc is presented in 1.33:1 full frame format with a Dolby 2.0 audio track, stripped of any menus or special features. To make matters worse, every five minutes or so warning text is brought up on the bottom of the screen stating "Property of WHV. Not for Sale or Rental. If you have rented or purchased this disc, please call 1-800-NO-COPYS." Needless to say, this was more than a little distracting. Of course you won't see this on the street release. Regardless, the picture is crisp, the animation retains the Hanna-Barbera style, and the colors are vibrant. The Dolby 2.0 soundtrack was not anything impressive, nor was the series theme "Scooby-Doo, Where are You?" by Krystal Harris or the other lame rock songs performed "The Hex Girls" (fronted by former Go-Go Jane Wiedlin). While I am unable to fill you in on the quality of the planned bonus materials, I will strongly recommend you save your money and stay away from this release. If you haven't already done so, purchase a copy of Scooby-Doo's Original Mysteries or Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island to see more enjoyable adventures of Mystery Inc.
This court finds Warner Home Video guilty of milking a franchise with dollar signs in their eyes and reckless disregard for quality. WHV is sentenced to 1000 hours of watching the best episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, in order to understand the difference between quality Warner animation and the crap they are currently peddling. This court now stands in recess.
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