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Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
2004 - PG - 88 Mins.
Director: Raja Gosnell
Producer: Charles Roven and Richard Suckle
Written By: James Gunn
Starring: Freddie Prinze, Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini and Seth Green
Review by: Bill King
   

Hustle up a sequal. The kids love this crap.
"Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" abandons the in-jokey feel of the first film for a more routine plot. This time around, there are no references to drugs and no Scrappy bashing. Instead, writer James Gunn gives us a start-to-finish mystery in which Mystery Inc. begins a case, discovers clues and unmasks the bad guy. It's like an elongated episode of the cartoon series, but with more ghouls and even a look at the younger days of the gang. What the movie lacks in self-parody, it tries to make up for in special effects and how the members of Mystery Inc. interact.

A museum in Coolsville (named after someone named Cool, I suppose) puts a tribute to Mystery Inc.'s greatest triumphs on display. All the costumes worn by the most nefarious criminals are part of the expo, and everyone's favorite crime solvers are in attendance. The museum curator, Patrick Wisely (Seth Green, too young to be a museum curator), takes a liking to Velma (Linda Cardellini), long-considered to be the smart one of the group. News reporter Heather Jasper-Howe (Alicia Silverstone) wants to discredit Mystery Inc., and often edits interviews to make it look like Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) is talking smack about Coolsville. Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is the athletic of the bunch, and has the welcome ability of coming through in a pinch. Then of course, there is Scooby (animated, once again) and Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), the bumbling twosome.

A masked maniac and ghostly pterodactyl crash the party and steal some of the costumes. This looks like a job for Mystery Inc.! The crime solvers go to work, putting together the available clues to find out who is behind the theft. One suspect is Old Man Wickles (Peter Boyle), a former criminal who was seen lurking around the museum. Heather Jasper-Howe doesn't make things easier. Instead of standing back to let the detectives do their work, she gets in their faces and further tries to make them look bad.

Just like in the cartoon, the characters encounter lots of false scares before arriving at the truth. However, this is the first time Fred and the gang have faced actual monsters. People wearing costumes have always been the bad guys, but the masked man has found a formula that can create real creatures. The theft of the costumes is a big part of the plan. I recognized some of the cartoon baddies, like the Miner 49er and the Tar Creature. The objective is clear. Find out who is behind bringing monsters to life and stop him.

The movie's production design looks really good. Old Man Wickles' mansion is a marvelous architectural feat. It has a vast dungeon area and lots of spooky passages and secret hallways. A nearby mine shaft is a maze of twisted corridors and massive machinery. The ghosts themselves look terrific. The special effects team gave the monsters the simultaneous appearance of cartoony and threatening.

I sort of liked this sequel, but I don't think it quite measures up to the first film. "Scooby-Doo" combined what fans would be expecting of a movie version with some clever jokes surrounding the theory that Shaggy and Scooby were on drugs. Also, everyone hated Scrappy-Doo, so seeing him get his comeuppance was a welcome sight. The sequel plays itself more or less straight. The movie has plenty of humor thrown in, with colorful special effects and a look back at the gang's younger days that reveals the long-regarded respect that these young sleuths have for each other. I didn't find it boring, because there's plenty of activity going on. There are nice touches here, but "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" never really takes off.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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