Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
Directed by Raja Gosnell

Artistic Value: * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * *

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When the members of Mystery Inc. attend the opening of an exhibition at the Coolsville Criminology Museum of the disguises worn by the various villains previously unmasked by them, one of the costumes, that of a pterodactyl, comes to life and wreaks havoc at the event. Scooby and the gang then begin their investigation of this mishap, which leads them to suspect that one of the scoundrels they exposed in the past, the grouchy Mr. Wickles (Peter Boyle), might have learned how to make real monsters.

Raja Gosnell's Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed is a ridiculous movie. The story is ludicrous; the special effects are often unimpressive; the acting is exaggerated, and the movie is, simply, great fun.

The characters are all kept extremely simple and, thereby, add to the film's cartoonish feel. Each of the members of Mystery Inc., for example, is defined by just a few traits. Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is cocky and vain. Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is sexy and determined to prove she is more than just a pretty face. Velma (Linda Cardellini) is smart and nerdy, and the apparently stoned Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) is a vacuous coward, as is his enormous computer animated dog, Scooby Doo. This approach generally works well and both allows for a number of humorous moments and engages the viewer with the characters. Sadly, Gosnell does insist upon making several attempts at character development and injecting a few awkward messages into his portrayals of the movie's protagonists. For example, he shows the viewer how Velma is able to overcome her fear of relationships and how Shaggy and Scooby learn that they really are heroes, not the bumbling idiots they believe themselves to be. The resulting untouching moments, in which the characters express their doubts about themselves and then realize their virtues, are invariably clumsy and annoying.

Fortunately, most of the movie is not concerned with this tripe but, instead, revolves around the utterly absurd and wonderfully implausible plot of an unknown masked villain to humiliate the members of Mystery Inc. and their efforts to discover who this fiend is. Drawing his inspiration from the animated television series upon which the movie is based, Gosnell has infused all these elements with charmingly nonsensical science, hokey mysteries, wildly overdone sets, and impossible scenarios. The monsters Scooby and his friends face, which include such unfrightening creatures as Miner Forty-Niner, the Cotton Candy Glob, the 10,000 Volt Ghost, and a pair of clumsy one-eyed skeletons, are so loyal to those of the cartoon that they give the movie a real goofy charm.

Gosnell has further enhanced the cartoonish feel of Scooby Doo 2 by incorporating into the film a number of other references to the conventions of children's animated programs. When, for example, a trap door opens underneath him, Scooby remains suspended in the air while attempting to run away. Later, when the Great Dane disguises himself in a jumpsuit and Afro wig in order to infiltrate the Faux Ghost, a dive patronized by the villains previously unmasked by Mystery Inc., no one realizes that he is a dog, and, at another point in the film, when he and Shaggy sneak up to the villain's hideout, they approach the place hidden in fake bushes. Many of these allusions will probably make the viewer smile, even if he later feels a little guilty he did so. The deliberate ridiculousness of almost every element of the film contributes to its appeal, much as such elements did to that of the television series. I doubt if there are more than a handful of children who, even at a very young age, did not enjoy the cartoon precisely because they found it ludicrous. Scooby Doo 2 aims at being preposterous, and it is, as result, consistently enjoyable.

With its inane story and the occasionally dreadful performance of one or another of the actors, especially that of Freddie Prinze Jr., who is particularly wooden and uninspired, Scooby Doo 2 is a mind numbingly absurd movie. It is also, for the same reasons, genuinely fun.

Review by Keith Allen

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