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movie review out of 4

*Also starring: Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini, Rowan Atkinson

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
0 stars out of 4

When I was a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons, we knew our animation companies.

Warner Brothers was the best, by leaps and bounds. Their animation was first rate and their characters - oh man, what a lineup: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester and Tweety, the Road Runner and so many more. Warner Brothers characters were distinctive and tart, smart alecks with a real sense of style. The cartoons were well written, vaguely subversive and funny. What more could you want?

Disney was next. Again, the animation was great and we loved Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and all the rest, but they lacked an edge and seemed like they were aimed more at the younger kids. We watched, but with less enthusiasm.

MGM came in a weak third. Sure, the animation was also very good, but they didn't have much going for them except for Tom and Jerry, and the cat and mouse team was nothing special.

At the bottom of the barrel was Hanna-Barbera. The animation in Hanna-Barbera cartoons was awful - cheap and careless. cut-rate crap. While we appreciated Yogi Bear and the Flintstones as characters, we had zero respect for William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, the men that taught the world that you could foist inferior images on kids and still get rich.

As an adult, I would periodically check in on the animation landscape and it became clear that the old Hanna-Barbera material was great art compared to the dreck they produced in the '70s. Scooby Doo was perhaps the most embarrassing thing on Saturday mornings. Four teen-agers and a talking dog trudging through lame ghost-related mysteries while making Grade Z jokes, with the worst animation yet - Good Grief!

But the damned thing was a hit with children, who apparently found comfort in the not-very-scary villains and repetitive plots.

Which brings us to the movie. "Scooby Doo" is, God help us, a faithful adaptation of the wretched series. The film is live action, with real (barely) people cavorting about with a computer-generated dog. Fred and Daphne (Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar) are still good looking and vapid, Velma (Linda Cardellini) is still smart and androgynous, and Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) remains a stoner.

Many of us thought the film would tweak the series, la "The Brady Bunch Movie," but it doesn't happen. The closest the production gets to self-parody is with a few mild marijuana references that will go unnoticed by the little ones. And, believe it or not, there is not a single lesbian joke about Velma. NOTE: After completing this review, I learned that gags about Velma's orientation and a sexual relationship between Fred and Daphne were filmed, along with more overt ganja jokes, but everything was edited out when the powers that be elected to primarily target a family audience. Don't expect to see the deleted scenes when the film comes out on DVD, either.

The only positive things I can say about this garish train wreck is that Matthew Lillard nails the voice and look of Shaggy and that the relationship between him and Scooby Doo is sweet.

Aside from that, "Scooby Doo" is just as dreadful as one would expect something from Hanna-Barbera to be.

Copyright 2002 Edward Johnson-Ott

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