Blu-ray Review: Double Feature -- Scooby-Doo 1 & 2: Scooby-Doo (2002); Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)

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As Buffy the Vampire Slayer actress and all-around “girl power TV icon” Sarah Michelle Gellar revealed in an interview, originally – and much like the satirical update of The Brady Bunch Movie – the concept for the big-screen, live action Scooby-Doo adaptation was intended to skew towards a hipper teen to adult audience.

So instead of long, painfully unfunny scene catering to the lowest common denominator of those who love scatological humor comprised of nothing but Shaggy and Scooby trying do outdo one another flatulence-wise, the original plan was to construct the film with jokes playing off inferences we've all made about the characters from Hanna-Barbera's late '60s Saturday morning cartoon, from Shaggy's munchies to Velma's relationship with Daphne.

Unfortunately, ambitious and downright risky comedy was abandoned in favor of the tried-and-true Hollywood formula of lazy gag-writing as toilet jokes were in and everything we loved about the original series was left out in order to make it as commercial as possible.

Nonetheless, Matthew Lillard's eerily uncanny portrayal of Shaggy goes beyond simply a dead-on impersonation and it's even more impressive when you consider the fact that he's bringing an animated character to life.

For eight years later, Lillard's Shaggy remains the one great discovery of the two-film Warner Brothers franchise since he's continued to lend his voice to Cartoon Network Original Scooby-Doo Movies and the latest TV series to introduce a new generation to the generations-old show.

Ultimately however, the main thing the two movies achieve is an overwhelming desire to erase them from memory, go back in time and revisit the classic series.

And while I do grant that each film does have its moments of bright energy and throwback loopy chase sequences involving secret passageways and creepy contraptions that feel highly authentic, so much is lost in the translation that it's hard to enjoy them for very long.

And although it doesn't take much to dumb down an already admittedly formulaic original series, Scooby's greatest failure is in its downright, dubiously bizarre blend of a CGI Scooby with the live action Mystery Inc. detectives that distracts us to no end.

While Freddie Prinze Jr., Gellar, Linda Cardellini and Lillard all look the part as Fred, Daphne, Velma and Shaggy complete with their immediately identifiable color-coded wardrobe, once they share the screen with the technological amateur hour creation that is the series' namesake of Scooby-Doo, the only thing we can do is stare in jaw-dropped horror.

Although there is a slight improvement in CGI in the second picture, it's an even greater head-scratcher when you realize that the other computer generated monsters and ghouls onscreen in both pictures are far more believable and -- at times -- a bit too intense for young viewers, than the flawed four-legged canine.

And unfortunately for the folks at WB who went to great lengths to release this double feature in Blu-ray format, needless to say, high definition calls far more attention to the awkward combination of live action with CGI in Doo.

Had the entire feature been animated or a trained real-life dog been used instead, director Raja Gosnell's movies may have fared slightly better or at least not have screeched to a total halt whenever Scooby's in the picture, thereby making this mistake that much more unfortunate since the last thing we should be OK with leaving on the cutting room floor is the pooch that started it all in Hanna-Barbera's original mysteries.

Much more entertaining than the tonally all-over-the-place first flick that was obviously still finding its footing as the gang investigates a strange “spell” that seems to have taken away the personalities of college students at an island vacation destination, the second movie centers on the return of villains from the detectives' past.

Turning into a PR nightmare as the arrival of some of Mystery Inc.'s greatest ghouls (including ones from the original series) coincides with the opening of a local criminology museum in their hometown of Coolsville, the detectives must battle to save their reputation right along with their community in a far more cohesive second installment, penned by the first film's screenwriter James Gunn.

Despite raking in an enormous box office take for the original 2002 summer popcorn picture that no doubt played on people's love for the series, neither time nor the jump to high definition Blu-ray has enhanced my appreciation for the movies. Instead, this release only strengthens my concern for Raja Gosnell's upcoming live action take on another cartoon classic with Smurfs.

And although I wish they could initiate a moratorium on both talking dog movies and big-screen send-ups of small-screen material, it's worth noting that every once in awhile exceptions should be made.

Perhaps to make up for this disaster, the former editor and frequent Chris Columbus collaborator turned director Raja Gosnell eventually aced the dog movie market with Disney's underrated Beverly Hills Chihuahua which reteamed him with his Never Been Kissed leading lady, Drew Barrymore.

Nonetheless, it's safe to say that the price is most definitely right for WB's holiday-themed double feature Blu-ray release to deliver both movies in one for those willing to indulge their love of the series enough to look past the many, many shortcomings of the films, perhaps if only to watch Lillard deliver lines -- rather than excess gas -- as Shaggy.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.