Scooby Doo 2, Monsters Unleashed
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Raja Gosnell
scr James Gunn
with Freddie Prinze Jr, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Seth Green, Alicia Silverstone, Peter Boyle, Tim Blake Nelson, Zahf Paroo, Stephen E Miller, Big Brovas, Ruben Studdard
release US 26.Mar.04, UK 2.Apr.04
04/US 1h29

Scooby drives the Mystery Machine: Gellar, Prinze, Lillard, Cardellini

green silverstone boyle

See also: SCOOBY-DOO (2002)

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After the gleefully garish mayhem of the first film, it's hard not to have very low expectations for this sequel. But this actually has a better story and a bit of real character development amid the goofiness. Alas, it's not quite as funny ... but it's certainly never dull.

This time round the Mystery Inc gang are major stars in their hometown Coolville, greeting fans at the opening of a major exhibition of their phantasm-fighting prowess. Fred and Daphne (Prinze and Gellar) have let success go to their heads, Velma (Cardellini) is terrified to find herself falling for the dweeby museum curator (Green), and Shaggy (Lillard) and Scooby are having a crisis of self-doubt, all fuelled by a vicious slating the gang gets from a tabloid TV hack (Silverstone). Then the town is struck by a mysterious masked fiend who's bringing real monsters to life. Is Old Man Wickles (Boyle) after revenge on a biblical scale? Or are they facing an all-new villain?

As opposed to the first film's relentless silliness, this actually has a plot that keeps us guessing as it rollercoasters through one zany action sequence after another, drawing on the original cartoons for visual sight gags. Meanwhile, each of the central foursome goes through his or her own soul-searching, all very well played by the cast. Both Gunn's script and Gosnell's direction cleverly balance this--it's witty without ever being deep or meaningful. Of course, it never hurts to have comic geniuses like Green, Silverstone or Boyle around!

And the effects budget is obviously bigger, using more complex, inventive sequences. Besides bringing a number of the gang's classic monster nemeses to life in ways that are almost scary, this live action-CGI blend also expands the terrific relationship between Scooby and Shaggy. What's missing is a freewheeling sense of humour; the energy and playfulness keep us entertained, but the few real laughs come from either references to the original show or wink-wink movie in-jokes (such as Shaggy's hilarious lament that the gang had a montage without him). It's also vivid and colourful enough that it'll make you want to revisit the original series as well as the first film. And you'll like them better as a result of having seen this one.

cert PG innuendo, violence 16.Mar.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall