Give Judge Clark Douglas a Scooby Snack and then back away slowly. He'll cut you, man.
Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. Crew get partial to martial arts in their all-new movie adventure!
Another day in the U.S. of A. means another new Scooby-Doo product. Though the world was hardly crying out for yet another straight-to-DVD animated film featuring Scooby-Doo and his four swinging pals, this latest flick isn't the worst thing to come out of the franchise in recent years. Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword is a relatively straightforward little adventure flick that offers the expected blend of action, comedy, and not-so-spooky ghosts and ghoulish figures.
The story begins in modern-day Japan. A museum curator (George Takei, Star Trek) is excited about the potential to bring in many new visitors with the arrival of the legendary Black Samurai armor! Alas, as the curator is preparing the exhibit for public display, the evil ghost of the Black Samurai returns to reclaim his armor! Fortunately for the museum curator, The Mystery Inc. crew of Shaggy, Daphne, Velma, Freddy, and Scooby-Doo just so happen to be visiting Japan. The gang is hired to look into the matter, and they find themselves in the middle of a very sticky situation. Can Scooby-Doo and the gang save the day?
You bet they can, and they oh-so-frequently have done so over the past 40 years. No one over the age of 7 will be surprised by the outcome here, but I suppose it's all about the journey, right? The usual comic goofiness is present throughout, but this one is perhaps more of an action film than the average Scooby-Doo adventure. The film supplies a new action scene every five minutes or so. The filmmakers are particularly fond of having the gang fight a group of robot ninjas (yes, robot ninjas), because it permits them to get all Kill Bill without actually shedding any blood. (Robot) limbs are sliced, (Robot) heads are lopped off, (Robot) stomachs are cut into to pieces, and to so on. In fact, Kill Bill seems to influence other aspects of the film as well, such as a sequence in which a goofy old Samurai puts Shaggy and Scooby-Doo through intense training (though mimicking Kill Bill actually kind of makes this film an homage of an homage). The Black Samurai is a typically dull Scooby-Doo "monster," offering little more than deep-voiced proclamations of death ("Hahaha! I am the Black Samurai! I will destroy you all!").
The expected trite life lessons are on display throughout here, with the primary message being something about the lazy young generation and the more traditional older generation learning to put aside their differences and get along. You also get a lot of dialogue exchanges like this one:
Evil Woman: "If you want to win in life, you must be prepared to do the things that others are not willing to do."
Daphne: "If you do things that a winner wouldn't do, that automatically makes you a loser!"
As in many modern Scooby-Doo outings, the characters just seem a little off-key here. Aside from Casey Kasem's Shaggy (who always manages to be precisely the same guy), the characters feel slightly awkward and unnatural. With all due to respect to Frank Welker, Freddy sounds a good 40 years older than he should. This tends to happen to a lot of children's animated franchises, whether it's due to actors aging or new actors attempting to imitate old ones (many of the Winnie the Pooh characters sound a little weird these days, too). As for the supporting characters, I'm a little disappointed by the stereotyping here. For instance, the Japanese characters are all either technology-obsessed computer geniuses or old-fashioned individuals living by a strict samurai warrior code. We also get some ooga-booga cannibals that appear in a misguided scene that probably should have been snipped.
The transfer is exceptional, with the rather solid animation being conveyed with clarity and depth. The bright color palette really sparkles here. No discernable flecks or scratches are onhand, and the level of detail is strong as well. In short, it's a fairly standard modern animated release. The 5.1 sound actually doesn't deliver as much in the action department as you might expect, but it gets the job done. The only extra is a brief featurette called "Scooby-Doo Dojo!" This piece offers a quick, kid-friendly examination of samurai traditions and martial arts history.
The kids will probably like it, but this one falls a Scooby Snack short of
being worth a recommendation. Guilty.
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