I was a very sensitive child. When it came to animation, I could handle anything that wasn’t blood and gore but when it came to live-action entertainment, I was way in over my head. My mother tells me that she used to vet episodes of Doctor Who for me and I know for a fact that I couldn’t handle people getting stabbed, even Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I tell you this so that you know what kind of head-space I was in when Scooby Doo 2 was released in the summer of 2004. Despite all this, it still managed to become one of my favourite childhood movies.
We follow Mystery Incorporated as they attempt to uncover the identity of a mysterious masked figure who is bringing ghoulish costumes to life in an attempt to unmask the meddling kids for the buffoons they really are. Not only is this film a direct sequel to 2002’s Scooby Doo but it also acts as a pseudo-sequel to the television series. Whilst this films predecessor seemed to be about moving in a new direction, this film revels in the glory days of yore by making it central to the plot. Having only ever seen animated costumes for every foiled villain, it’s rewarding to see them brought to life by the costume department. They also seem to have paid particular attention to detail when it comes to the Mystery Machine which is brought to life here by a 1984 Ford Transit Mk2. When it comes to adapting books or television shows into films, fans prefer for it to be done as faithfully as possible. I feel like Scooby Doo 2 has done this beautifully in terms of the creature costumes, set dressing and overall tone. The haunted mansion, Velma losing her glasses and over-abundance of ascots are all represented here as cheesy as ever.
The heart of the story, as before, is Shaggy and Scooby who are tired of always screwing things up for the team instead of being genuinely helpful. Whilst this theme was mildly present in the first film, it is thrust into the spotlight for this one. It could have easily come across as gimmicky but Matthew Lillards performance of Shaggy is tremendously heart-warming. His line delivery is so honest and pure that it’s no surprise he voiced the character until 2020’s Scoob!. Meanwhile Fred is teaching us that it’s ok for males to be emotional, Daphne is teaching us that you can be pretty and clever and Velma is teaching us that you are fine just as you are. Scooby Doo 2 is not just highly entertaining but it is also full of really positive messages for the younger audience. This is carried across brilliantly by the cast who have done a terrific job of portraying their characters throughout both films. I didn’t praise them in my previous piece but I want to rectify that here. They are all amazing and deserved a third movie.
The CGI has definitely improved in the two years between instalments, however there is still a huge emphasis on practical effects. The Black Knight Ghost, Captain Cuttler, Miner Forty-Niner and the Zombie are all costumes and prosthetics touched up with a hint of CGI. They look fantastic. Meanwhile the 10,000 Volt Ghost, Pterodactyl Ghost, Skeleton Men and Tar Monster are fully CGI. They also look fantastic…to an extent. Of course it hasn’t held up to the standards of today but as I discussed in my Scooby Doo review, they don’t need to. They can look slightly cartoonish and it still fits the overall tone/ characteristics of the movie. The designs are more detailed than the monsters in the previous entry but they also have individual character. The Black Knight Ghost is a macho brawler and the 10,000 Volt Ghost is kind of sassy but my favourite remains the Skeleton Men. Their sole purpose seems to be slap-stick and I am all here for that. It really hearkens back to the comedy of old cartoons and I love it.
Sadly, Scooby Doo 2 would be the last outing for this live-action squad. The film was panned upon release and, as far as I can find, this appears to be because it was considered too childish. one New York Times reviewer went so far as to claim that it was too similar to Saturday morning cartoons. Forgive me if I sound slightly pretentious but that seems like a really odd criticism for a children’s film. In the years that followed, the film would eventually pick up a following and would even be released on Blu-Ray alongside its predecessor in 2010. Sadly it means that we will never see a three-quel featuring this cast though, thanks to writer James Gunn, we do know what the plot would have entailed. It would have seen Mystery Inc summoned to a town in Scotland where monsters have been terrorising the locals. However we soon learn that it is the monsters who are the real victims and so the gang must come to grips with their own prejudices. Instead the series would get a reboot with a younger cast in 2009 with subsequent films being released directly to DVD. Now with 2020’s Scoob! returning to the teams animated routes, it seems like the era of live-action may be over but it should never be forgotten.
Until Next Time…