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Violent action dogs 'Scooby-Doo 2'

Nonstop special effects tend to overwhelm the actors in the sequel to last summer's film, but its cartoonish quality blunts the mayhem.

March 26, 2004|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

Last summer's "Scooby-Doo," a live-action feature derived from the animated TV series, found the Mystery Inc. gang solving supernatural goings-on that plagued the Spooky Island theme park outside their hometown, Coolsville, U.S.A.

At the opening of "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed," the Coolsonian Criminology Museum is honoring the Mystery gang -- Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.), Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar), its glamorous, high-style leaders; Velma (Linda Cardellini), a brilliant squeaky-voiced nerd; Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), a sweet-natured klutz; and his equally goofy pal, the computer-animated Great Dane, Scooby-Doo.

With all the fanfare of the Oscars, the museum is opening an exhibit featuring the costumes of the monsters that Mystery Inc. dispatched the first time around, such as the Black Knight Ghost, the Skelemen, the Pterodactyl Ghost, the pirate Captain Cutler's Ghost and Miner 48er. As a glittering crowd surveys the display in the museum's vast main hall, the Pterodactyl Ghost shows signs of life, and "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" is off and running. It seems some unknown villain has created a monster-making machine to bring all these creatures to life to wreak havoc on Coolsville and bring down Mystery Inc.

A special effects bonanza that plays like an incredibly elaborate theme park ride, "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" could be a tough go for those not already Scooby-Doo fans. It has a totally artificial quality, starting with Prinze's blond wig and extending to the creepy mansion of Old Man Wickles (Peter Boyle) and his immense old mine, which he intends to turn into a working operation using the labor of summer camp kids. Visually, it's frequently dark and dense, but director Raja Gosnell and production designer Bill Boes haven't been able to give the film, written by James Gunn, a strong, unified sense of style. Add nonstop fantasy special effects, and it's no wonder the film can seem garish, bombastic and, for some adults, not just a little tedious. It's also quite violent, but in a cartoon-like way that seems to disarm audiences who might otherwise find the mayhem objectionable.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday March 27, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
"Scooby-Doo" release -- The review in Friday's Calendar section of "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" incorrectly said the original feature version of "Scooby-Doo" came out last summer. The film came out in summer 2002.

The torrent of special effects action tends to flatten the film's characters, who possess more dimension in the production notes than on the screen. Prinze and Gellar have been pretty much bleached out, literally and figuratively, and Cardellini's nerdy shtick grows tiresome. Lillard manages to retain some of the antic, comical charm that has shone through more brightly in other films. Best of all is Seth Green, the Coolsonian's young director, who actually manages to keep one guessing whether he's the bad guy. Boyle's and Tim Blake Nelson's appearances are so brief they barely qualify as cameos, and a zesty Alicia Silverstone is an especially overbearing TV newscaster.

Children are likely to go for "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" in a big way, but it's probably a good idea for parents to consider whether their offspring are mature enough to recognize when scary, even brutal make-believe is supposed to be all in fun.


'Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed'

MPAA rating: PG for some scary action, rude humor and language

Times guidelines: Strong cartoon violence

Freddie Prinze Jr....Fred

Sarah Michelle Gellar...Daphne

Matthew Lillard...Shaggy

Linda Cardellini...Velma

Neil Fanning...Scooby-Doo voice

A Mosaic Media Group production, released by Walking Tall. Director Raja Gosnell. Producers Charles Roven, Richard Suckle. Executive producers Brent O'Connor, Kelley Smith-Wait, Joseph Barbera. Screenplay by James Gunn, based on characters created by Hanna-Barbera Productions. Cinematographer Oliver Wood. Editor Kent Beyda. Costume designer Leesa Evans. Music David Newman. Production designer Bill Boes. Visual effects supervisor Peter Crosman. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.

In general release.

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