Oh, what I didn’t do for the man of my dreams, Freddie Prince Jr. – including attending a sold-out Saturday matinee of Scooby Doo on opening weekend, amidst a myriad of screaming teenagers and two excited brothers who got into a brawl that they ended by throwing Milk Duds at each other. To my great relief, the boys were eventually separated from their parents.
After wondering why these parents were feeding their already hyper sons even more sugar, and after being hit several times on the right temple by flying Milk Duds, I was able to calm down and revel in Freddie. In Scooby Doo, he takes center stage and has bottle-bleached hair to resemble Fred, the hero of the Hanna-Barbera animated series that inspired this film.
The Fred from the animated series is a bit chubbier than the Fred from the live-action adaptation, if I remember correctly – and I should, since he was my first cartoon crush. But Freddie does a good job of adding a dash of narcissism to the character – in a self-deprecating way, so it’s pretty funny when he winks at his reflection as he walks past a full-length mirror. The rest of the cast, Sarah Michelle Gellar (Daphne), Linda Cardellini (Velma) – and especially Matthew Lillard, who embodies Shaggy to a tee – fully embody their cartoon characters. Maybe they look that way because they’re wearing the typical retro outfits they always wore in the animated series – Daphne forever in a purple mini-getup, Shaggy in those bell-bottom pants, Velma in that red turtleneck. Whatever. I thought it was totally whacky, to quote one of Shaggy’s favorite sayings. Oh, and I should mention that Scooby, if you live under a rock, is a special effect, which is a little distracting at first, but not nearly as much as those brats and their Milk Duds.
Unlike Josie and the Pussycats, last year’s live-action debacle, Scooby Doo is a lot of fun and doesn’t take itself seriously. And in the film’s opening episode, Scooby will feel very familiar to fans of the animated series – a haunted warehouse and a kitschy ghost cawing a high-pitched cackle. Someone reveals the ghost to be the old Smithers, but all is not well at Mystery, Inc – Fred takes credit for capturing the ghost, even though Velma concocted the capture plan, and Daphne is tired of being the damsel in distress. After a childish argument, the gang splits up and goes their separate ways.
Two years later, the gang is reunited when theme park owner Mr. Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson) invites them to Spooky Island to investigate the evil doings there. Someone is brainwashing the college students and tapping into their protoplasm – sort of like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And while they’re on Spooky Island, Scooby and Shaggy have a burping contest aimed directly at the film’s target audience – the 10-year-old audience at this screening roared with laughter. Also, Freddie gets to demonstrate some real comic timing – he’s not just a pretty face, so there – as Fred’s protoplasm ends up in Daphne’s body and vice versa.
Scooby Doo, efficiently directed by Raja Gosnell and humorously written by James Gunn, has a lot of charm – and I suspect I smell a sequel – at least judging by the opening weekend box office. And just for the record, Freddie, if you’re reading this: I’d do it all again – endure the Saturday matinee, get slain by a flood of movie candy and worse – just to see you on the big screen – my hero.