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Buffy The Vampire SlayerAll-American Teenagers in Pursuit of Pseudospirits
By Dave Kehr
Friday 26 March 2004, by Webmaster
NYtimes Scooby Doo 2 Review.
All-American Teenagers in Pursuit of Pseudospirits
By DAVE KEHR
Published: March 26, 2004
Packed with extensive and expensive digital effects, "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" appears to represent Warner Brothers’ effort to produce a homegrown rival to its wildly successful, feverishly Anglophilic "Harry Potter" franchise. Adapted (like the first film, released in 2002) from a short-lived (1969 to 1972) Saturday morning cartoon series produced by the Hanna-Barbera factory, "Scooby-Doo 2" features a gang of all-American teenagers (played by actors well into their 20’s) whose mascot is the semitalking, computer-generated dog Scooby. Their mission: to battle the seemingly supernatural apparitions that constantly beset the back-lot town of Coolsville.
Where "Harry Potter" offended some conservative Christians with its apparent endorsement of witchcraft and sorcery, "Scooby-Doo" threatens to do the same by steadfastly denying the existence of any transcendent dimension. In the strictly secular-humanist world of "Scooby-Doo," there are no real ghosts, but only humans desperate for attention who disguise themselves as supernatural figures. The episodes end with a ritual unmasking, in which a feared apparition - like the Pterodactyl Ghost, the Black Knight Ghost, Captain Cutler’s Ghost and the 10,000-Volt Ghost - is revealed as a mewling fraud.
All of the above pseudospirits are back for "Scooby-Doo 2," which begins with a tribute to the ghost-busting gang - handsome Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), perky Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), brainy Velma (Linda Cardellini) and spacey Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) - at the Coolsonian Criminology Museum. On display are the ghost costumes captured from various miscreants, which suddenly come to life on the orders of a mysterious masked figure who appears in the exhibition hall and seriously poops the party. It’s time for our friends, who call themselves Mystery Inc., to strike back and reclaim their damaged reputations.
Who is the mysterious masked figure? Among the suspects are the guest stars Seth Green, Peter Boyle, Tim Blake Nelson and Alicia Silverstone, all of whom seem to have signed up for a maximum of two days’ work.
"Scooby-Doo 2," which opens today nationwide, is, like its predecessor, directed by Raja Gosnell, a protégé of and former film editor for Chris Columbus, who made the first two "Harry Potter" films. Mr. Gosnell does his best to recreate the Potter blend of mild spookiness and kiddie comedy, but the material just is not as psychologically rich as J. K. Rowling’s shrewd combination of adolescent self-pity and violent revenge fantasy.
"Scooby-Doo 2" looks like a Saturday morning cartoon (the characters all wear color-coded costumes) and unfortunately feels like one, too, with its thin characterizations, largely arbitrary action and feeble jokes. (A few flatulence gags, probably too tasteless for television, have been added to the theatrical version.) Kids will find "Scooby-Doo 2" a place holder at best, a way of staving off impatience while waiting for "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," to be released on June 4.
"Scooby-Doo 2" is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested) for some dimly frightening situations, some gross humor and at least one covert drug reference. (Keep your nose out of those aerosol cans, Shaggy!)
Directed by Raja Gosnell
PG, 91 minutes