Scooby-Doo (2002) — Mystery is our mistress

“Oh please. You get kidnapped so much you should come with your own ransom note.”

Justin’s rating: I’m 45 years old and never had a Scooby Snack. I fail at life.

Justin’s review: Every year, Hollywood gravediggers unearth every necrotic intellectual property that it can find, inject each with just enough zombie juice to justify a “revival,” and proceed to desecrate whatever made us originally like or love these franchises. We’re so used to the onslaught of horrible cinematic reboots of shows we used to watch on syndication when we came home from school that it becomes a sort of white noise that we drown out and ignore.

Yet… yet every so often one of these reboots actually works because the filmmakers kind of got what made the original special. Scooby-Doo shouldn’t have been one of these at all. By all rights, this should’ve flopped so hard as to reverse time itself. Yet it pulled off a Brady Bunch Movie here by leaning hard into the ridiculousness of its premise that it ended up being a wildly fun and utterly weird ride.

Instead of acting as an origin story of this unlikely fivesome of nomadic mystery solvers, Scooby-Doo starts out with the aftermath of a solved caper that instantly nails the bonkers tone of the cartoon. Weird “ghost” who’s actually “Old Man Smithers,” Daphne getting kidnapped (again), Velma cutting to the truth with her array of logic, and Shaggy and Scooby being a vaudeville sideshow.

Unfortunately, Fred’s self-centered nature ends up becoming the last straw for the group’s cohesion — and they split up. Fast-forward two years, and the gang ends up being reunited as a ploy to check out disappearances — and possible brainwashing — on the tourist trap of Spooky Island.

I have to stand up and give a firm, Orson Wells-like clapping to the casting director for Scooby-Doo, because it’s the talent that makes this anything other than a straight-to-video doorstop. It’s amazing how good it is, because everyone is totally in on the joke and has a complete blast with it.

Freddy Prinze Jr., who I thought disappeared after the 1990s, dives head-first into the vainglorious role of Fred (the name might’ve helped?). His wife Sarah Michelle Gellar co-stars as the defiantly ditzy Daphne, while Linda Cardellini inhabits the geeky role of Velma with aplomb. And then there’s Matthew Lillard as the stoner Shaggy, accompanied by the worst CGI Scooby-Doo that was possible to make. And there’s something about the total cartoonishness of this CGI that actually works for the cheese factor of the movie instead of against it. And did I mention that Rowan Atkinson and Isla Fisher are in this?


Along with casting, the tone of James Gunn’s Scooby-Doo script is pitch perfect. It’s unabashedly silly, it’s full of subtle risqué jokes for the grown-ups (the movie was originally going to be much more of an R-rated affair), is riddled with physical comedy, and delights in throwing as many references to the zany cartoon as is possible in an hour-and-a-half. If you’re in the mood for it, it never will stop entertaining you until the end credits roll.

Didja notice?

  • I love that they start the movie in the middle (end) of a mystery
  • Velma should’ve dislocated her hip with that chain fall
  • “I do a tremendous amount of teamwork!”
  • Watch the ascot!
  • A hydrocolonic reference
  • Granny Scooby
  • This amusement park looks amazing but is horribly located
  • Do not mess with Carol
  • Stuffed dismembered heads make women swoon
  • This castle ride looks so amazingly good, I wish it was real
  • “No big whoop dawg!”
  • The burping and farting contest
  • The disguises the Scoobies choose
  • Scrappy Doo peeing on Daphne
  • About time this movie had a monster rampage
  • Mary Jane’s horrible CGI face
  • Body swapping!

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