family movie review



(c) 2002 by Donna Schwartz Mills

Distributor: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG (for rude humor and scary action)br
Mom Rating: 3 out of 5br
Kid Rating: 5 out of 5br
Cast: Matthew Lillard (Shaggy), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Daphne), Freddie Prinze, Jr. (Fred), Rowan Atkinson (Emile Mondavarious), Linda Cardellini (Velma)

My first thought after seeing this movie was that the critics were all going to hate it. It's so-called plot goes all over the place, the sets are cheesy and the characters are thinly-drawn cartoons.

But then again, that's the point, because "Scooby Doo" is Hollywood's latest attempt to take a beloved animated gem from the 60's and turn it into a 21st century live-action movie.

Besides, this film wasn't made to please Roger Ebert, who confessed that, prior to seeing this movie, he had never watched a Scooby Doo adventure. And he said he hoped he'd never have to again.

No, the target audience for this one consists of exactly the kind of group we brought to the theater: Five kindergarteners, assorted siblings and their moms, who had fond memories of Mystery, Inc. and their star canine sleuth.

And overall, our group loved it. The young actors brought the characters to life, especially Sarah Michelle Gellar as Daphne (the "anti-Buffy") and Matthew Lillard, who is the embodiment of Shaggy.

The movie had plenty of cute touches, like Daphne's purple set of Louis Vuitton luggage and digs at Fred's fashion sense, which runs to wearing ascots. I especially liked the storyline that set the film in motion, when Velma tired of Fred taking all the credit for her ideas and broke up the group. When the characters reunited, they had gone through a period of growth, with amusing results.

If only there had been more of that. Instead, the producers concocted an intricate mystery that made less and less sense as the movie progressed - and made the mistake of creating villains that were truly *scary*. The 3-year-olds with us spent much of the film with their little heads buried in their mothers' shoulders, and even my 6-year-old had to cling to my hand through most of it. On top of that, unlike the cartoons which always revealed the monsters to be hoaxes, these demons were supposed to be *real*. This is one of the reasons the movie earned a PG rating. (Whose idea was it to create a kids' film where the rating clearly states that "some material may not be suitable for children"??)

The other reason was for "some rude humor and language," most notably a scene where Scooby and Shaggy engage in a flatulence contest. Of course, this sequence had our kindergarteners in absolute hysterics and my daughter says it was her favorite part of the whole film. While this is to be expected of kids her age, who eventually develop a more sophisticated sense of humor, one gets the feeling that never happened with the film's producers.

I'm told by one of my Hollywood friends that the producers say they went into the shoot without a script and made it up as they went along. I believe it. The story meanders all over the place, blithely stealing from cinema classics like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Raider of the Lost Ark" and even "Men in Black." Continuity was also sloppy, as in the climactic sequence fighting the monsters, when Linda Cardellini's Velma has inexplicably shed her trademark turtleneck and fights them in a more revealing orange V-neck... and is shown in the next scene back in her usual sweater.

But all in all, I have to admit that our entire group enjoyed "Scooby Doo." (It was way more enjoyable than previous cartoon efforts like "Dudley Do-Right" and "Rocky and Bullwinkle" -- now *those* were bad films!)

And obviously, others agree. "Scooby Doo" had the best June opening of any film in Warner Brothers history, outgrossing prestige releases like "The Bourne Identity" and "Windtalkers." And so they've greenlighted a sequel for 2004. (Take that, Roger Ebert!)


Donna Schwartz Mills took film classes in college and spent 13 years working in the entertainment industry before "retiring" to marry a "non-pro" (Variety's term for anyone in any other business) and become a mom. Today, she's lucky if she can attend two "R" rated films per year -- but she feeds her movie habit by dragging her little girl to every family film that comes out, often on opening day. She says she can't wait for her daughter to turn 17.

Donna is Webmaster Mommy of, a new resource for moms in Southern California. She is also the work-at-home expert behind the and editor/owner of This article provided by the Family Content Archives at:









(c) 2003 Caton Development, Inc.

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