a critiQal film review Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)

Plot: A new museum exhibit has just opened, showcasing all the costumes of conquered foes of Mystery, Inc. Suddenly, a mysterious new villain crashes the gala, stealing some of the costumes...and turning Shaggy (Lillard) and Scooby into laughingstocks in their hometown of Coolsville. Now, Shaggy and Scooby must prove their worth to the team (and themselves), and figure out who this mysterious new villain is.

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  • ...they are really starting to get a feel for what people loved about the cartoon.

After seeing Scooby-Doo (2002), I wasn’t all that thrilled with checking out Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. After all, the first one sucked, so why would I go spend good money on more of the same?

By the time it came out on DVD, I’d heard so many good things about it, I figured I’d waste a couple of bucks and rent it. Besides, with two of the cast of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (TV) (Sarah Michelle Gellar and Seth Green), I figured it was the easiest way to get my “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (TV) fix before the final season comes out on DVD in November.

Thinking the movie was going to stink, I put it in first – might as well get it out of the way first, right? So, were they able to improve on the first film, or is Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed destined for the garbage heap as well?

The actors have mostly seemed to warm up to their roles quite a bit for Scooby-Doo 2. Freddy Prinze, Jr is an exception, of course – but then, when was the last time Freddy was able to act at all? He usually just kind of stumbles through his roles, hoping the other actors will be able to help him fumble through the film. True to form, that’s what happens here, again.

The other cast members are able to keep the movie going despite him, not because of him. Even when he’s the main character in the scene, the computer effects have to do most of the acting, while he just sits there pretending to respond…badly.

Aside from Fred, however, the rest of the cast has stepped it up a notch. Matthew Lillard, who seemed the closest to his cartoon model in the first film, has stayed true to that character in Scooby-Doo 2. His facial expressions, voice characterization, and every action are so like the original Shaggy that you have to double-check occasionally to make sure he isn’t actually the cartoon version.

Sarah Michelle Gellar and Linda Cardellini, who both didn’t really do much in the first film, have also been given a little more depth in this film, so they’re not as blatantly cardboard-y as they were then. This has given them a little more room to act, and they’ve tried to step up.

The plot does a good job of tying the old cartoon series in with the new live-action film series. Bringing back bad guy favorites from the cartoon really helps connect the viewer to the live-action film, since it’s a bit of nostalgia for most.

Throwing in a couple of red herrings (although they are somewhat obvious) was a nice touch as well, so you aren’t immediately sure right off who the bad guy is.

And, thankfully, the dialogue has been greatly improved from the first film (At one point Shaggy says “This is tied with the most terrifying day of my life”, so Velma asks “Tied with what?” Shaggy replies “Every other freaking day of my life!” Gotta be one of the funniest lines I’ve heard in a while.).

The special effects have also improved in leaps and bounds from the original. Gone are all the foibles that caused the animated Scooby to become such a gigantic waste of time in the original. Here, they’ve matured their animation so that he gallivants throughout the film with ease, and there are none of the stupid mistakes that the first movie was full of.

Scooby-Doo 2 also expanded the special effects stable to include many of the monsters that the gang has to fight, and they manage to pull of these other characters with as much ease as they are now showing with Scooby.

The Black Knight and the Skeleton creatures come immediately to mind when talking about the tremendous improvements they made in the special effects department for Scooby-Doo 2. All of these characters are animated so well, it’s hard to believe they didn’t have an actor inside those characters. These new characters bring a lot of comedy bits to the sequel that would have fallen on deaf ears if they hadn’t been animated as well as they were.

All in all, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed so far surpasses the original, I wouldn’t be surprised that the cast and crew are ashamed to even admit that there was a first film. This is one sequel that is better than the original film, that’s for sure.

I’d even go so far as to say they are really starting to get a feel for what people loved about the cartoon. If this keeps up in the next film, chances are I might even be willing to shell out the money to go see a future film of the world’s famous crime-solving pooch on the big screen.

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