ABOVE: a mirror image of the expressions you and your well-tailored friends will sport as you sit on your couch watching this film on HBO this fall
This may come as a surprise to some of low culture‘s readers who expect us to hide behind our patented cool and ironic stance, but we were huge fans of Scooby-Doo. Well, guess what, Jack: We were lucky enough to be invited to an early screening of the film, and ta da: we’re even bigger fans of Scooby-Doo 2, which has to be director Kinka Usher’s finest film since, well, Mystery Men.
Fans of the cartoon series’ bizarre juxtaposition of guest stars will love the pre-credits teaser. In a hilarious yet timely scenario, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, and Velma are testifying at a congressional hearing about the mass brain-washings on Monster Island (from the series’ first film). Scooby’s there, too, but he’s forced to dress up like a bedraggled Vietnam vet (shades of Born on the Fourth of July?) in an army jacket and wheelchair. (It’s funnier than it sounds–especially when Scooby barks “Yooooooou can’t hannnnnnndle the truuuuuuuuuf!”) After several probing, incisive questions from the unseen congressmen (that make Fred and Shaggy sweat and brings out Velma’s brainy side and Daphne’s flirty side), we see exactly who is asking these questions: The Harlem Globetrotters, the living members of the “Addam’s Family,” Joyce DeWitt from “Three’s Company,” boxer “Sugar” Shane Mosley, and the ubiquitous Steve Buscemi (in his black Reservoir Dogs suit).
Of course, with a film this fun, the soundtrack couldn’t be more of a gas! Featuring the pop stylings of Hilary Duff, Willa Ford, and Warner Music‘s promising young siren Bonnie McKee (not to be confused with Sony’s lesser songstress Nellie McKay), the movie’s raucous tunes had the youngsters who accompanied us to the screening dancing in the aisles.
Other highlights include Sarah Michelle Gellar‘s star-making turn as Daphne (I’m telling you, if Harvard-educated director James Toback hasn’t heard of this ingenue yet, he will have by now!). Imbuing a character of such heretofore-renowned vapidity with an emotional resonance not seen since Emily Watson‘s perfomance in Breaking the Waves, we’re left to wonder how other, less-experienced actresses considered for this same role (read: Elisha Cuthbert) might have fouled up a particularly tense scene in the film’s climactic lighthouse sequence, which combines the thrills of So, I Married an Ax Murderer with the laughs of Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
But what really makes this scene a cinematic classic is its heart: when Daphne fights the ghost of the monster’s computer virus, she’s doing so to avenge the death of her beloved Fred, who was killed (there’s even a suggestion he may have been raped!) by the ghost of the monster’s computer virus’s creator (Whoopi Goldberg, almost unrecognizable under pounds of latex and make-up). When Gellar’s Daphne busts into a Matrix-type ‘bullet time’ roundhouse kick, the audience not only cheers, they weep. Including, again, those youngsters seated next to us. Of course, we’ll miss Fred in any sequels, but there’s a suggestion that the wizard (deftly played by The Sweet Hereafter‘s Ian Holm) might be able to reanimate him using the sacred stones.
We’ll be waiting for Scooby-Doo 3: Space is the Place to see if the geniuses behind this awesome series can “doo” it again. Scooby-Doo it again, that is!
(Confidential to Sharon at Warner Brothers’ PR: Thanks!)