Some people hate the English. Appellate Judge Michael Stailey doesn't. He says they're just wankers.
"Well gang, it looks like we've got another mystery on our hands!"—Freddy
Riding high off the release of the franchise's second live-action film, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Warner unveils the latest installment in their line of highly successful animated features, Scooby-Doo and the Loch Ness Monster.
With the Blake clan playing host to the inaugural Highland Games, Daphne and the gang are in Scotland to help her cousin Shannon host the event. Just north of the quaint fishing village of Drumnadrochit, on the infamous Loch Ness, lies the recently renovated Blake Castle.
True to form, where the Mystery Machine goes, so goes a mystery.
The games have stirred trouble in the village and, it seems, in the Loch. First-hand sightings of Nessie, the legendary Loch Ness Monster, have the locals spooked, the games in jeopardy, and the gang itching to get to the bottom of things.
Let's have a look at the suspects:
• Professor Fiona Penbrooke (voiced by rocker Sheena Easton)—Noted author and expert on Nessie, her career has been jeopardized by her rabid and unwavering belief in the mythic creature.
• Sir Ian Locksley (Jeff Bennett)—Curator of the National Museum, Head Field Judge for the games, and prolific debunker of everything Nessie.
• The Haggart Clan—Father Lachlan (Frank Welker) owns and operates the Loch Ness Inn, whose patronage is due in large part to the monster. Sons Angus (Phil LaMarr) and Colin (John DiMaggio) are meatheads who want nothing more than to win the games and torment the other contestants with their incessant practical jokes.
• Del Chillman (Jeff Bennett)—An American post-modern hippie conspiracy theorist and Harry Knowles look-alike (minus the beard) whose life purpose is proving the existence of the monster.
• Duncan MacGubbin (Michael Bell)—Drumnadrochit's Dock Master and record holder for the most number of Nessie sightings.
Could the culprit be yet another self-focused, malicious man or woman in a rubber costume, or is the gang about to uncover the truth behind this 1500-year-old mystery?
Last year, Warner refocused the Scooby-Doo franchise into semi-educational entertainment. Part history lesson and part travelogue, Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby have traveled to Australia to take on a mythic vampire, Mexico to unravel the fabled El Chupacabra, and now Scotland and the ancient legend of Loch Ness.
I must admit the new formula is working. Each release has grown more engaging and entertaining than the last.
This time around, director Scott Jeralds is partnered with Joe Sichta (What's New Scooby-Doo?), upon whose solid story the film is based. The writing team of George Doty IV, Ed Scharlach, and Mark Turosz has given us much more than cookie cutter Scooby-Doo. With homages to Jaws, Jurassic Park, Godzilla, and even Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the film operates on multiple levels, satisfying both the kids and the adults.
The animation has evolved as well. The Hanna-Barbera team has wisely embraced the stylings of their eastern brethren, and the anime influence is clearly evident. The enhanced facial expressions give the characters more life and the varied camera angles give the film more depth. The chase sequences are a perfect example at how cinematic the franchise has become. Even the CGI elements (most notably Nessie herself), often troublesome and blatantly out of place, blend seamlessly into the action.
True, the cheese factor is still here—but it's greatly reduced.
The vocal performances are a mix of old guard and new. The ageless Frank Welker continues to tackle a thousand different voices (Fred, Scooby, and Lachlan Haggart); the rapidly aging Casey Kasem's voice is beginning to show signs of cracking in Shaggy's higher register; Facts of Life's Mindy Cohn once again steps in Velma's knee socks with tremendous ease; and Grey Delisle gives life to a stronger, more intelligent, and more confident Daphne, as well as her cousin Shannon.
Presented in 1.33:1 full frame, this direct to digital print is spotless. The lush greens of the Scottish Highlands, the deep blues of the murky Loch Ness, and the tartan purples of the Clan Blake combine for a visual treat. The Dolby 5.1 audio track is always welcome but quite underutilized, coming across as nothing more than a strong 2.0 Surround. There just isn't enough action to warrant the full Monty, err, Dolby.
The collection of bonus materials is surprising for a Scooby release. First up is National Geographic's Inside Scoop, a brilliant eight-minute collaboration that finds Shag and Scoob seeking the counsel of the mysterious Kid Y and his insight into the legend of Loch Ness. Apparently, the National Geographic team has created quite the hip and informative animated slant on science and technology for the junior set. Definitely worth checking out. Next, is a smart feature for the little ones called How to Solve the Mystery, in which our dynamic duo point out the clues that led them to the truth. This is followed by a five-minute featurette entitled How to Speak Scottish, which fills us in on those colorful Highland words and phrases, and a fun cursor driven mystery for the kids to solve, Case of the Missing Scooby Snacks. From here it drops off into the depths of lame DVD padding—Bloopers, the joke is old and tired guys; Catch Nessie, Velma's video scrapbook which is nothing more than a Reader's Digest version of the film; Studio Trailers; and DVD-ROM features.
If you can get past the bad Scottish accents, you'll find Scooby-Doo and the Loch Ness Monster to be a fun, engaging, non-formulaic adventure the entire clan will enjoy. Now if anyone wants to stick around, we're having haggis for dinner. Yum!
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