What kind of world is it when Freddie Prinze Jr. starts making good movies? The unthinkable has happened; Freddie Prinze doesn’t suck. It’s not his fault really; his acting was just as bad as it’s always been. Yet somehow he has managed to land a role where bad acting actually pays off, at least when mixed in with the amazingly fun performances of his fellow cast members in Scooby Doo.
Scooby Doo is of course a live adaptation of the classic television series in which a dog and his ambiguously stoned pal join a trio of other friends, Fred, Velma, and Daphne on unusual quests to solve mysteries. In the film, Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy, and Scooby head to a spooky theme park to investigate a rash of brainwashed spring-breakers. When they dig deeper, they encounter a mysterious assortment of monsters, zombies, and Scrappy Doo cameos! Shaggy and Scooby get a snack, while the rest of the gang does the dirty work.
For just about anyone who grew up any time after 1969 when the cartoon first debuted, Scooby Doo was an integral part of their childhood. I, like just about every kid past or present, was no exception. Though I fully expected this particular translation to go the tepid and poorly done path taken by just about every other cartoon to live action translation to date, Scooby Doo somehow manages to deliver a fun and entertaining adventure, faithful to the spirit of the original series without being enslaved by it.
The script is strong and silly, and more than a little campy, just the way a Scooby Doo movie should be. The voice of Scooby is dead on, as is Mathew Lillard's eerily accurate impression of Shaggy; easily the equal of the much hallowed vocal work of DJ Casey Kasem on the original series. Lillard clearly had a blast making this film, something that really shines through in his genius comedic performance as Shaggy. The rest of the cast does admirably along side him, though obviously Lillard and his badly cgi'd companion Scooby Doo steal the show.
Yes, the cgi on Scooby is quite bad. Really, the dog doesn't look the least bit real. Having seen the previews, I assumed this was a bad thing. I was wrong. Scooby is of course, a cartoon. He's a dog yes, but not a very believable one, since he generally acts more human than dog. It's pretty impossible to put a realistic dog in any film and expect him to do the things that Scooby Doo does. Can you imagine a great dane in a dress making small talk on an airplane? Maybe, but only if he's a cartoon. That's basically what Scooby is, a cartoon, and he remains such even in cgi form. Reality sold separately.
Actually, a big part of what makes Scooby's overly cartoonish cgi work in spite of itself, are the fairly elaborate theme park sets, with which Scooby interacts. Though he looks like a cartoon, seeing him be such a part of the action and people and sets around him, makes an otherwise extremely silly looking character fit right in with all the more realistic things going on around him. Besides that, he's funny. Looney Toons funny. Eating red-hot chili peppers and blowing smoke out your ears funny. Who'd think that a silly cgi dog and a slacker actor like Mathew Lillard could produce such a flat out goofball hilarious comic duo?
Sure, Freddie Prinze Jr. can't act. So what? His character Fred is probably the most useless, empty headed, non-entity ever to appear in any cartoon. That's Freddie Prinze's specialty. Sarah Michelle Gellar is pretty, so she's got Daphne covered. Linda Cardellini actually seems to know what she's doing and does a solidly good job with Velma. Bingo! The perfect cast. They have sharp chemistry and use the real talent of Lillard to pull them through.
Little Scooby Doo lovin kids will go ape for this thing. So will their parents who loved him too. Scooby is funny, lighthearted, and almost painfully entertaining to anyone who is still a kid at heart. At times it lags and becomes a bit ridiculous most notably in the finale when Sarah Michelle Gellar's Daphne resorts to cheap Buffy tricks to move things along. But Scooby Doo is far better than anyone had hoped for, an honorable homage to one of the great classics of children's television. All that's really missing is a cameo from the Harlem Globetrotters.