Spooky Island is 10,000 per cent my idea of a dream vacation.
If you’ve read my review for Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island (1998) – which you can check out here, you’ll know just how instrumental that gang of groovy teen detectives were in shaping my childhood. You guys, I cannot stress enough how much I was OBSESSED with Scooby-Doo growing up. I watched every series and bought every direct-to-video VHS. So, when little six-year-old Luke found out a live-action adaptation of his favourite mystery-solving great dane was coming to the big screen, you can bet your butt he dragged any family member he could to theatres to see Scooby-Doo (2002). I even remember insisting that a DVD copy of the movie be kept at my house, and a VHS copy at my grandparent’s so that no matter where I was, I could watch Scooby-Doo at a moment’s notice. God, I must have watched this movie 80,000 times as a kid.
Based on the iconic cartoon of the same name, Scooby-Doo follows Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, and Velma, two years after Mystery, Inc has disbanded. Still at odds with each other, the gang finds themselves invited to the popular resort, Spooky Island, to solve the mystery of what’s causing the tourists to behave so bizarrely. Soon the gang unravels an ancient mystery bigger than anything they’ve ever faced before.
Despite the constant repeat viewings when I was younger, I’d say that until a few days ago, I hadn’t seen Scooby-Doo in a solid 10 years. Watching it for the first time in forever instantly brought me back to when I was a kid, like no time had passed! All the references and jokes came flooding back, as did all the questionable choices made. You guys, why does Pamela Anderson cameo in this movie? For what reason? Weirdly enough, random cameos were just a part of early 2000s live-action adaptations of beloved cartoons. Just look at The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000), Josie and the Pussycats (2001), or Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003). Of course, those live-action adaptations also loved adding in a healthy dose of horniness and toilet humour. Scooby-Doo is unfortunately no exception.
Look, I’m not some prude who’s like, “ugh, you can NOT put sex or poop jokes in a movie! The nerve!” In the right context, I’m here for it. The thing is, that’s not what made millions of fans fall in love with Scooby-Doo. Running from monsters, stumbling across clues, solving mysteries, and general spooky shenanigans are all the trademarks that make Scooby and the gang so beloved. Those are the elements that have kept fans watching for over 50 years! The farting, the closeups of cleavage, the “hip teen slang…” you can tell those were shoved in by some producer who wanted the movie to appeal to every kid in America so they could make as much money as possible. Hey, with a $275 million box-office, it clearly worked.
In my opinion, all those gimmicks cheapen the movie as a whole and actively distract from all the great qualities Scooby-Doo actually has. Here’s the thing about the live-action Scooby-Doo: Yes, it’s a victim of the confused tone of early 2000s live-action adaptations. But when it honours its source material and embodies the tone and humour of the original series, it shines. Scooby getting distracted by food, a jazzy chase sequence, traps that inevitably fail…the movie utilizes hallmarks of the original series at the most opportune times, creating fleeting moments of excellence that kept me grinning from ear to ear. Especially the relationship between Scooby and Shaggy. Much of the physical comedy the two perform is good ol’ silly fun that feels like it’s right out of a classic episode.
Speaking of Shaggy, oh my God, we absolutely need to talk about Matthew Lillard. I’d say that the entirety of the gang are cast pretty perfectly, but Lillard as Shaggy is the greatest piece of casting in any movie, past, present, or future. Period. And that’s the hill I’ve chosen to die on. Seriously though, Lillard is the shining star of Scooby-Doo. Not only does he do a FLAWLESS Shaggy impersonation, but he also hits emotional and comedic beats effortlessly. All the while, he’s acting alongside a CGI dog for 90 per cent of the movie! The scene where the gang breaks up and Shaggy consoles a tearful Scooby with, “no, Scoob. Friends don’t quit…” Bitch, that’s heartbreaking as hell. I teared up! Sidenote, if Scooby-Doo were filled with more of those tender moments about friendship rather than bathroom jokes, it would probably hold up more than it does. Lillard is giving you moving dialogue, top-notch physical comedy, and a fantastic characterization. He is severely underrated as an actor.
Linda Cardellini is equally as transformative as Velma, and Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. are great as Daphne and Fred, respectively. Each of them bring so much fun and charisma to the roles, as well as well-researched quirks and characteristics that help their characters make the jump from animated to live-action. One of my favourite things Scooby-Doo had to add to the franchise as a whole were the new dynamics it introduced and explored. Fred learns humility, Velma learns confidence, and Daphne learns how to become a martial arts master! Emboldened, empathetic, and endlessly enjoyable, my hat’s off to this truly remarkable cast.
Sure, it’s a short 86-minute runtime, but I’m amazed at how fast-moving this movie is. Within the first 15 minutes the gang is already on Spooky Island searching for clues! Scooby-Doo definitely relies on quick dialogue to move the story along and explain things to its young audience, rather than get bogged down in trying to weave a complex story with lots of moving parts. Again, this really is meant for kids so that’s understandable. What is not understandable though, is the atrocious editing. It’s hilarious. You can clearly tell where the deleted scenes are supposed to go because the movie will often cut from one scene to another without any setup or explanation. Or characters will suddenly be wearing new clothes or standing in new places WITHIN THE SAME SCENE. Now, being an eternal Scooby-Doo fan I still greatly enjoy watching this movie, but now that I’m older it’s interesting to see just how many cinematic shortcomings this movie has that even nostalgia can’t forgive. I’ll say this though: In my opinion, the CGI used to create Scooby is still totally decent. The monsters however? Hmmm, not so much.
There are things I wish Scooby-Doo included more, like the Mystery Machine, and things I wish it included less, like Scrappy-Doo. Ultimately though, I can’t deny that I had a ton of fun rewatching this blast from the past. I had a great time! I might not be able to watch it as frequently as other superior Scooby-Doo movies, but pure nostalgia kept me smiling throughout. Look at it this way: If you’re young at heart (or a 24-year-old superfan) you’re going to have a ridiculously good time with Scooby and the gang. Trust me, it’s no mystery.
Are you a Scooby-Doo fan like me? What are your favourite Scooby movies?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!