There have been a few times in my life where I've been in the middle of watching a movie and have suddenly wished Death would walk in and relieve me of my suffering. Yes, that's right--some movies are so bad I've actually wanted to die right there is my seat. It doesn't happen often, but it occurs enough to be somewhat noteworthy. Anyway, it's been a couple of years since the last time I've experienced this feeling, and I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen again. Well, it finally did, and it's all because of those meddling kids and their stupid dog.
Two years have passed since Velma (Linda Cardellini), tired of having Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) take all of the credit for her ideas, quit Mystery Inc. Not wanting to be left out, Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) also walked away, which left Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby with no option but to take the Mystery Machine and move down to the beach. The former friends suddenly find themselves thrust back into action when each is summoned to Spooky Island, a popular Spring Break retreat owned and operated by Emile Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson). Seems that all of the rowdy college kids who arrive at the island end up transformed into well-mannered zombies by the time they leave, and Mondavarious wants our heroes to discover who--or what--is behind the nefarious plot. It won't be an easy task, especially if the gang can't check their egos at the door and learn to work together again.
Growing up I never was a fan of the various Scooby cartoons; I found the plots too repetitive, and I was somewhat offended by Scooby's redneck cousin and very annoyed by Scrappy. But I know enough about the series to know that this big screen version is more bastardization than adaptation. Unnecessary and illogical changes have been made to the characters, and the entire thing has been dumbed down because the filmmakers apparently thought the best way to entertain as many kids as possible was to appeal to the lowest common denominator. This movie is shrill, uninspired, and unfunny. And while it might seem like I'm just resorting to hyperbole, trust me that when I say this is quite possibly one of the worst movies I have ever seen (and I've seen both versions of Caligula), I'm by no means exaggerating.
I knew I was in trouble within the first five minutes. What can you say about a movie so desperate it trots out a Pamela Anderson cameo in the first reel? And it somehow manages to get worse as it goes along. I can't pretend to know what was going through their minds, but why in the world would the filmmakers turn Fred into a vain doofus? (You could argue that casting Prinze in the role necessitated a lowering of the character's I.Q., but that would just be mean.) And why is Daphne a vain bimbo? (You could argue that casting Gellar...oh, never mind.) Why do the effects look so damn bad? Scooby himself looks terrible, and the various monsters wouldn't cut it in you average SciFi Channel programmer. (Warner Bros. spent a big chunk of change on this flick, but I have no idea where the money went.) Does a kid's movie really need this much scatological content? It's bad enough to have Scrappy-Doo peeing all over Daphne, but did we really need a farting contest between Shaggy and Scooby as well? Why is Velma so much hotter than Daphne? Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? And a musical performance by Sugar Ray? Are you kidding me? What, was Color Me Bad not available?
Despite the fact that it's nothing more than a series of frenetic set-pieces strung together with no regard for coherence or logic, it's amazing just how dull and lifeless this movie is. Then again, given that director Raja Gosnell is also responsible for Home Alone 3 and Yours, Mine & Ours, maybe it's not. And I can only assume that screenwriter James Gunn was saving all of the good jokes for Slither. And do I even need to mention the performances? Lillard is actually quite good as Shaggy, and Cardellini does what she can with the underwritten Velma (and the sight of her in a tight orange sweater was really the only thing keeping me from slitting my wrists), but Prinze and Gellar are simply horrible. I think everyone knows why Gellar's lack of talent doesn't prevent her from getting work, but why the hell do people keep hiring Prinze? The guy's got the acting chops of a potted plant, but nowhere near as much presence. (I apologize for insulting potted plants.)
When all is said and done, it could be that I'm simply the wrong audience for this. My nephew, who's eight, can't get enough of this movie. Of course, he also can't get enough of those god-awful Disney sitcoms, so maybe bringing him into this wasn't such a good idea...
We're looking at another case of bad movie/sweet transfer here. The movie's visuals run the gamut from bright, vivid colors to garish, cartoon-like hues, and the 1.85:1 transfer captures this look extremely well. Blacks are deep and solid, and both depth and detail are very impressive.
The audio doesn't fare as well as the video. Given the movie's content, I was expecting an energetic, raucous aural experience, but that's not the case. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track (available in English, French, and Spanish) is very front-heavy, and it tends to become somewhat muddled as it gets denser. Dialogue sounds fine, and the various effects generally come through well, but throw in the music and the track becomes a bit of a bog. And the numerous songs that litter the soundtrack don't sound as punchy as they should (although given their quality, I suppose I shouldn't complain too much about not being able to hear them). English, French, and Spanish subtitles are included.
With the exception of the Trivia Game, all of the extras from the SD disc are included here.
The commentary by director Raja Gosnell, screenwriter James Gunn, and producers Charles Roven and Richard Suckle covers the basics: the project's beginnings, its evolution, the effects, and the logistics of the shoot.
The commentary from stars Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard and Linda Cardellini is far more jocular than the filmmakers' track, and it's also far more boring. (The packaging indicates that Rowan Atkinson is part of this commentary, but he's not. Guess maybe he saw the movie and changed his mind.)
Unmasking the Mystery Behind Scooby-Doo (22 minutes) is a bland making-of featurette. You get unenlightening interviews with the cast, the filmmakers, and the visual effects team. This would be pretty much worthless were it not for a straight-faced Prinze referring to the cartoon series as "classic American literature," which is undoubtedly one of the funniest statements I've ever heard.
Next you'll find four deleted scenes and an alternate opening (13 minutes total). Gosnell provides optional commentary for these scenes, explaining why each was cut. (For what it's worth, they should have stuck with that animated credits sequence.)
Scary Places (4 minutes) offers a closer look at the work of production designer Bill Boes, including some early ideas that were deemed too frightening for a kid-friendly flick.
The Mystery Van (1 minute) showcases the various designs the filmmakers considered for the gang's famous set of wheels. Lillard then opens the door and gives the viewer a glimpse at the van's interior.
Daphne Fight Scene (2 minutes) shows Gellar preparing for her big action scene. (Look closely and you'll see the stuntwoman who actually did most of the work trying to avoid the camera.)
Rain on the Set (1 minute) is nothing more than footage of the cast and crew complaining about rain on the Australian location.
You also get the music video for Outkast's "Land of a Million Drums" (definitely not one of their better efforts).
Lastly, there's the movie's theatrical trailer.
I hate this movie. And the more I think about it, the more I hate it, and I think that pretty much says it all.