Judge Patrick Bromley would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids.
Scooby-Doo and the gang run for their mummies as ancient mysteries unravel!
In his review for the 2002 live-action film version of Scooby-Doo, the great Roger Ebert spent a great deal of time explaining that since he had not been a fan of the cartoon upon which the movie was based, he was not exactly the most qualified to judge the merits of the film. I find myself in a similar predicament now as I attempt to review the new animated release, Scooby-Doo in Where's My Mummy?. It's not that I'm unqualified—any reviewer worth a damn is qualified to review just about anything. It's just that the Scooby-Doo cartoons have never held a particularly special place in my heart (in the interest of full disclosure, actually, the live-action film ranks high on the "worst 90 minutes of my life" scale), and, as such, I won't be bringing any kind of fan's affinity to the movie. So, if you're going into this review wanting to know where I stand on the whole Scooby-Doo thing, the answer is: far away. Just wanted to get that out of the way. Now we can proceed.
Scooby-Doo in Where's My Mummy? (the fact that there aren't any quotation marks around the "Where's My Mummy" part of the title may never stop bugging me) follows the Mystery Gang—the bespectacled Velma, the legged Daphne, the scarf-ed Fred, the stone-ed Shaggy, and the talking dog—in an Egyptian mystery involving a the hidden tomb of Cleopatra and a pharaoh's curse. There's a bunch of mummies, too. A lot of sexual tension. And some mystery solving, too. Will a mummy pull away its bandages to reveal itself as Old Man Witherspoon? I wouldn't dream of giving it away.
It's kind of a waste of time to describe the plot of a Scooby-Doo cartoon, which is why I haven't gone to great lengths to do so. The plots are always the same: a mystery, some supernatural goings-on, a mystery solved, and the supernatural goings-on revealed to be smoke and mirrors. Where's My Mummy? makes no attempt to break from the established formula, but I think that's not why we watch Scooby-Doo. I think audiences (especially kids—I hope) are drawn to the show for the characters and for the talking dog that says funny things. If that's the case, then Where's My Mummy? shouldn't disappoint. The talking dog says funny things.
Non-fans might even be able to appreciate the movie, too (I'm really, really reaching here, so bear with me), if only for the inherent oddness of having celebrity voices on board. There's Mindy Cohn, better known as the chubby-and-therefore-funny Natalie from The Facts of Life; there's Oded Fehr from The Mummy (1999) (demonstrating a real lack of creativity on the part of the casting department), there's Jeremy Piven (Chasing Liberty) and Ron Perlman (Hellboy) and Virginia Madsen, who I'm hoping signed on for this project before experiencing the career resurgence of Sideways. None of these celebrities bring anything particularly special to the table (except the frustration of trying to figure out "why do I know that voice??") and most are cast in fairly small roles. Still, it's pretty much the only thing setting this feature apart from the original animated series. Well, that and the too-slick, ultra-cartoony animation style that I suppose is meant to make this look more contemporary. I, for one, prefer the style from the late '60s. I'm totally retro that way.
The DVD from Warner Bros. looks and sounds great. It's a lively, colorful presentation of a lively, colorful movie; if nothing else, that ought to keep the kids engaged for 75 minutes. There's a healthy offering of special features included, too, most with young audiences in mind—at least those folks at Hanna-Barbera know where their bread is buttered. There's an interactive game that's fairly thrill-less, a featurette on the celebrity voice actors (Look, kids! That's Ari Gold from Entourage!), some deleted scenes, and insufferable "rap" music video performed by Scooby-Doo (and I thought listening to him talk was annoying), and a decent National Geographic-sponsored piece that at least pretends to be an educational tour of Egypt. The extras may have left me cold, but like I said—they're not there for me. I'm just glad to see Warner Bros. taking the time to include this many special features for a DVD aimed at children. It keeps this thing from being a thrown-together hack job and makes it almost like a real package.
So, I really haven't said anything about Scooby-Doo or Where's My Mummy?. That's because I can't. Like a number of kid-oriented releases—especially those built around long-lasting, beloved characters—this movie is critic-proof. Of course there are better movies out there for the little ones. There's also much worse. At least this one stresses the value of friendship, of using one's intellect, and of learning something about other lands and cultures. And, of course, the value of having a funny talking dog.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• National Geographic's "Scooby-Doo: The Curse of the Lost Lunch"
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