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.