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Everyone has childhood TV programmes which still conjure up fond memories. There were many programmes that I enjoyed watching when I was a youngster, but not many do I still hold in high esteem. There is something magical about Scooby Doo though, which makes it stand out. Maybe it’s the comical sense of fun or simply the entertaining characters, but it definitely has a winning formula which kept me engrossed as a child. The first episode of Scooby Doo aired in America in 1969 and now over thirty years on, everyone’s favourite dog is still making audiences (young and old) laugh. It was only a matter of time before the Great Dane made his live action debut, but no director seemed brave enough to take the chance. That was until Raja Gosnell decided to take on the project and recreate the world of Scooby in a live version movie. Gosnell is a relatively new director, having only directed three movies prior to taking on Scooby Doo. Finding celebrities to star in the movie was probably the easiest task that he had to face, as many stars wanted to be involved. With a cast including Sarah Michelle Gellar and Rowan Atkinson, the world looked forward to the movie with great anticipation.

The movie starts off in typical fashion, as Mystery Inc. solve their latest mystery by uncovering Mr Smithers as the latest crazy ghost. However, the gang soon split up due to Fred’s craving for the limelight and go their separate ways. The movie then jumps forward two years to where the gang meet up at the airport. Each member is under the illusion that they have been individually summoned to Spooky Island to solve a mystery. However, it soon becomes apparent that Emile Mondavarious, the owner of Spooky Island, has carefully requested the combined help of the gang to explain a strange phenomenon on the Island. Mondavarious is concerned that visitors seem to be leaving under a strange spell, and realises that the repercussions will spoil his reputation and business. For this reason he offers a reward to Mystery Inc. in the hope that they can rid the island of the strange spooks

Each member of the gang is determined to solve the mystery on their own, and once they arrive on the island they go their separate ways. All their paths lead to a disused rollercoaster ride, where the group start to uncover some vital clues.  Mondavarious’ thoughts concerning supernatural forces on the island are not as wide of the mark as it first appears. Mystery Inc. set about solving the problem and the fun begins.

One of the things that made the cartoon series so popular was the relationship between Scooby and his best friend Shaggy. Thankfully that fun friendship is accurately portrayed in this live version movie. Scooby is completely CGI based, but is brought to the screen so accurately that you wouldn’t notice. His every facial expression and movement seem precise and accurate, when compared to the cartoon.  There are not many actors who could have fitted the role of Shaggy, and Matthew Lillard is an inspired choice. Previously he has been seen in films such as Scream and Thirteen Ghosts. The part of Shaggy is vastly different from those roles, but Lillard looks and sounds exactly like the cartoon version of Shaggy. Definitely one of the pluses of the film. Sadly, as competent as Lillard is, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. are unquestionably the weak links. I am not the greatest fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar, so it was going to have to be a momentous performance from her to convince me that she was the right person to play Daphne. It was no great surprise then to find that she was lacklustre and wooden in the role. Her long term boyfriend Freddie Prinze Jr is also uninspiring in the role of Fred and looks completely out of place. So overall a mixed bag as far as acting is concerned.

As for the movie itself, Scooby Doo is fairly entertaining, but I am not completely convinced by it. I have watched the movie a couple of times and even though it seemed just as entertaining, there are certain elements which are sub-standard.  The plot is non-existent for a start, the ending is lame and some of the characters just don’t seem true to the cartoon series. Considering the hype the movie received, it was inevitable that it would turn out to be slightly disappointing. Some franchise movies have the excuse of introducing the characters in the first installment, but this movie doesn’t even have that as it jumps straight into the storyline and presumes the audience knows the background of the characters. Scooby Doo is a reasonable effort, just don’t expect a classic as it’s far from that!

Scooby Doo is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Within a few minutes of watching the film I was less then inspired by the transfer. The opening scene is a little grainy, but thankfully that seemed to pass and once the movie settled down the transfer’s true quality shone through. Sharpness and image detail are superb, with every little expression from Scooby brought to the screen well. Sometimes with a transfer that is too sharp, the poor CGI can stand out like a sore thumb, but that was not the case here, which emphasised how well Scooby was brought to the screen. Due to the elaborate and colourful sets, the transfer needed to deal with colours well and once again it passed the test with flying colours (bad joke I know!). Colours are vibrant and vivid throughout, with black levels appearing deep and solid. Flesh tones also appeared realistic. Edge enhancements and compression artefacts were kept to a minimum and were not noticeable for the majority of the movie. This is a first class transfer, which is not far from being classed as reference quality in my book.

The audio on offer here is pretty impressive as well, with English, French and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks provided. I only listened to the English track, which made good use of all speakers. Don’t expect a mind-blowing experience, as this track deals with everything that is thrown at it in a subtle manner. The rear speakers are not used a great amount throughout, but when they do kick into action (for example, during the bike chase towards the end), they are used effectively and enhance the movie. Some of the musical score occasionally makes its way to the rears and adds to the experience. Dialogue is provided through the fronts as would be expected, and remains clear and precise throughout.  

Subtitles are also provided in English, French, Italian, Hindi, German, English for the hearing impaired and Italian for the hearing impaired. The menu system is also worth mentioning as it is amusing to watch. An animated Scooby runs around the root menu and occasionally sprints towards the screen and doesn’t stop in time. This results in Scooby collapsing on the floor in comical fashion!

This disc includes a healthy number of extras which would keep even the most ardent of fans content. First up are the additional scenes.  There are seven scenes altogether, which can be viewed with an optional commentary. As a rule, deleted scenes on DVDs can be quite ordinary and it is generally easy to see why they were cut, but this is not the case with the ones contained on this disc. There are good reasons behind their removal from the movie, which range from spoiling the flow of the film through to being too adult orientated. Each scene is interesting to watch, and in my opinion most of them would not have looked out of place if they were added back into the finished movie. Probably the most interesting scene is the animated opening, which is accompanied by a song from Shaggy (the singer). After initial test screenings, it was decided that the animated opening which introduced the animated characters and compared them to the live ones was too prolonged. The director realised that audiences would already know the characters, so this type of introduction was not needed. Other deleted scenes included are Flashbacks - a clip shot at the airport before the group go to spooky island, Nightmare Boulevard – an introduction to spooky island, Daphne’s Spirit Thingy and Heart Attack. Viewers will be slightly surprised by the deleted scene entitled Velma’s song. This clip involves Velma dancing on a piano, and is a tribute to last year’s hit film, Moulin Rouge. What makes the scene even funnier is the fact that Velma thinks she is drunk, even though she has been drinking non-alcoholic drinks! The final scene included in this section is called Locker Room, and it was cut from the movie because parents complained that it was not suitable for children. The scene also focuses on Velma, who this time is dressed in a swimsuit which was considered to be too distasteful for a children’s movie.

Also included on the disc are three featurettes which vary in length. The first featurette is called Scary Places, and focuses on the studio sets. It lasts for just over four minutes and includes interviews with Sarah Michelle Gellar, who talks about how elaborate the sets were. We also get to see discussions with the producer and designers, who each talk about how difficult it was to create colourful sets which typified the animated series. There is quite an amusing line where one of the designers talks about how they had to have suits of armour in the movie. That quote brought a smile to my face and reminded me of Scooby hiding in armour in the TV series.

The next featurette is called The Mystery Van and only lasts for just over a minute. Matthew Lillard gives a tour of the mystery van, and the viewer is also shown several designs of it. If truth be told this is a rather dull featurette, which I was glad only lasted one minute.

The final featurette focuses on Daphne’s fight scene and is originally named Daphne Fight Scene. It starts off by showing some of the storyboards from the scene and is followed by behind the scenes footage. The makers of the film drafted in a special team from Hong Kong so that they could make the scene as breathtaking as possible. What is obvious from this featurette is that lots of wire work was used, and this is confirmed when Sarah Michelle Gellar talks about her experiences during the shooting of this scene. This featurette lasts for just over two and a half minutes, and should please Sarah Michelle Gellar fans who like to see her in more active roles.

Fans of the Scooby Doo soundtrack will also enjoy a couple more extras that can be found on the disc. In order of length, the first item is a musical video by Outkast. The video is from their song “The Land Of a Million Drums”, which features heavily in the film and accompanies the menu system on this DVD. The video lasts for just over four minutes. Also included is a short advert for the Scooby Doo soundtrack which briefly advertises the songs on the album. This lasts for about twenty seconds.

If the earlier featurettes left you wanting more, then you will be happy to find a ‘Making of’ documentary on this disc as well. It begins with a lively rock version of the Scooby Doo theme music. Various members of the cast and crew talk about the experiences they had while shooting the movie. There is the usual pat on the back for the director, with many of the cast praising his attitude and sense of fun while filming. It is quite interesting to listen to the director talk about his motives behind making the film, and how he tried to stick closely to the atmosphere of the TV series. A substantial effort has been made with this documentary, which is emphasised by an interview with Joseph Barbera, the producer of the original TV show. Joseph expresses his surprise at the success the show generated, and cannot explain logically the attraction a dog like Scooby could have on audiences. The documentary then moves onto showing how Scooby was generated on the big screen. Due to the facial expressions that Scooby pulls, it is apparent from this documentary that bringing our favourite dog to the big screen involved many sleepless nights! It is also nice to see Matthew Lillard speaking to fans, or should I say getting mobbed by fans! This documentary is a fun way to spend twenty minutes and is a detailed look at how the movie was created.

Finally there are two commentaries targeted at older audiences. These are a film-makers commentary and a cast commentary. Both are fun to listen to and are less serious then most of these types of features. If you want to know more about the technical side of the disc then the film-makers commentary is a good start. The director and producers talk about technical issues, and divulge information such as the fact that the movie was originally planned to be made nearly ten years ago. The film-makers commentary is probably one of the most detailed that I have listened to. Due to the number of commentators, there is barely a pause between people speaking. The cast commentary is provided by Matthew Lillard, Freddie Prinze Jr, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Linda Cardellini. It’s very rare that the whole cast get to feature in a commentary, and this just goes to show how much of an effort was made with this DVD release. The highlight of this commentary has to be listening to Matthew Lillard doing his Shaggy impressions. This commentary is also a good addition and compliments the film-makers commentary.

Scooby Doo is full of fun, but it didn’t really have the spark which would have had me singing its praises. That’s doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it, but unfortunately it suffers from a poor script and poor performances from certain cast members. I am sure kids will love it and that will probably mean that it sells by the bucket-load, however reviewing Scooby as someone who remembers the cartoon series, I cannot help feeling slightly disappointed. Saying that, Warner have provided an excellent extra-packed release with strong visual and audio aspects. With high expectations Scooby Doo was always going to be a hard series to convert into a live movie, so bearing that in mind it is a reasonable effort, but certainly not a classic!.