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There are not many cartoon characters that have been as popular or had as much staying power as the detective dog Scooby Doo.  A creation of Joseph Hanna and William Barbera, he first came to the silver screen in a live action movie in 2002. Now, the five members of Mystery, Inc. are back in the sequel, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.

The film opens as Mystery, Inc. is gathering for the opening of the Coolsonian Criminal Museum exhibit dedicated to their many exploits. Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby Doo greet their adoring fans and head inside for the ceremonies. As the media is covering the exhibits, made up of costumes from the many adversaries the group have faced and exposed over the years, the Pterodactyl Ghost costume comes to life and wreaks havoc on the exhibit. By the time it is over, Mystery, Inc. has been discredited and it becomes clear that there is a new villain for the group to investigate and attempt to defeat. A pushy and unscrupulous reporter (Alicia Silverstone) twists Fred’s words to try and further discredit the gang.

Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
The situation goes from bad to worse when the rest of the costumes mysteriously disappear from the museum soon afterwards. The only clue the gang has is the small amount of a substance known as randomonium which is left at the crime scene. The gang’s main suspect is one of their old adversaries, Old Man Wickles (Peter Boyle), who seems to not only have a grudge against Mystery, Inc., but also possesses the ability to conduct the thefts.

Shaggy and Scooby Doo, feeling as though they are the main reasons that the residents of Coolsville are down on Mystery, Inc., set off to try and find clues to solve the case, showing their worth not only to the gang, but as first class detectives. Their investigation leads them to Patrick (Seth Green), the curator of the museum who is romantically interested in Velma. They also find that many of their oldest and most famous ghosts have mysteriously come back to life. Fans of the original show will be glad to see the return of the 10,000 Colt Ghost, the Cotton Candy Glob, the Skelemen, the Old Miner Ghost and more.

Naturally, Velma is the one who constructs the scientific answer to the costumes coming to life, if only the gang can get back to the villains lair without being captured, or worse, killed. Scooby Doo and Shaggy find themselves as the only members of the gang left free, and of course, they manage to find not only the courage to save the day, but also to show their worth to the team.

Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
Under the direction of Raja Gosnell, the film moves along at a fine speed, and as mentioned, the inclusion of so many of the gang’s former foes is a treat. Having said this, the film really is heavily geared towards children. There are some of these type of movies which, although they are geared towards kids, manage to also lure in adults and give them something to enjoy. Here, it is strictly for kids.

The actors do an admirable job of once again portraying their animated namesakes, especially Matthew Lillard as Shaggy. Real life husband and wife Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar are acceptable as Fred and Daphne, although I have to admit that the entire time Gellar was on the screen I kept thinking, “Look! It’s Buffy with a red wig!” I guess that is what is meant by typecasting. Finally, Linda Cardellini’s Velma portrayal is spot on.

Sporting a 1.85:1 widescreen format, visually the film is a fine presentation. Color levels and flesh tones are right on, and although much of the movie takes place at night, black levels do not overtake or bleed into the other colors. My biggest issue with the video is the special effects. As one would expect, the film is effect-heavy, and although most of the various villains and ghost appear fine, the computer generated Scooby Doo needs a little work. Perhaps it is the clarity of a DVD presentation that allows for one to truly see that Scooby Doo is a special effect. This may not appear as noticeable in a movie theater, but I definitely picked it up here.

Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
The disc includes a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio track, and it really is somewhat under-utilized. There is no real workout given to the track, other than to have the audio coming at you from all directions. It does this in a good presentation, but I really was hoping for much more. Then again, the material doesn’t really call for a slick audio presentation, and I suppose it serves the film okay.

No commentary. For those who know me, this means an automatic strike against. The only time we hear from the director (other than for a few brief moments in some of the featurettes) is during the seven minutes of deleted scenes. Gosnell explains why certain scenes (or parts of scenes) were left on the cutting room floor. One of the best parts of the deleted scenes is that we get to see some film in various stages of completion, from finalized, to some with raw computer animation, to a few with Matthew Lillard acting as though Scooby Doo was there, before any animation was added. It shows how difficult it can be to make these films, as the actors have to perform with other characters who aren’t even present as they film their portions. I have a greater appreciation for actors in effect laden films than I did before.

The next extra is a “Triple Threat” featurette as Scooby Doo takes us on an insider tour of the moviemaking process. The trio? Sets, stunts and effects. Clocking in at just over eight minutes, it is a quick look at three aspects of the film. Fluff to be sure, but it still is an enjoyable, brief piece.

There are two audiovisual puzzles included in the disc. One is a straight forward affair using your remote control to move the Mystery, Inc. van around to the movie’s locations to pick up clues. The other is a little more involved. The premise is that someone has stolen Shaggy’s pants. To get visual clues, the viewer has to find hidden easter eggs (signified by Shaggy’s pants) which lead to film clips giving the viewer hints to the culprit. Once again, strictly kids stuff.

Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
There are two music videos included with the film, Big Brovaz’s “Thank You” and Simple Plan’s “Don’t Wanna Think About You”. Of the two, Big Brovaz’s is the more enjoyable and the one you would most identify with the film. The final two featurettes are short pieces on what it took to get Scooby Doo to dance during the film (it is the only time that Scooby Doo, or more correctly a “portion” of Scooby Doo, wasn’t animated) and something called a “True Ghoul Hollywood Story” on three of film’s former villains. A takeoff on the E! True Hollywood specials, it is rather forgettable. The extras found in this set probably won’t hold an adults attention for too long.

As mentioned, overall the DVD is definitely kid oriented. There may be some adults who will find that the inclusion of many of Scooby Doo’s former foes brings them back to when they were wide eyed kids on a Saturday morning. But the allure ends there. To be sure, the script follows closely the formula for many of the Scooby Doo animated tales, and in that respect it will satisfy. If you have young children, you may want to give this DVD a try, and you might find yourself sneaking a peek as well.