This movie slaps. It's Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, if you haven't seen it, see it. Yeah I'm aware it has a 22% on Rotten Tomatoes, and sure it doesn't have a ton of nuanced character development or actual 'themes', but do you know what it does have? Pure, unbridled chaotic energy.
Let's begin with the characters.
Casting Matthew Lillard as Shaggy is one of those decisions that reaffirms my faith in humanity. The man was made for the role. Lillard took over as the go-to voice of Shaggy Rogers after this movie. It is unironically tough to capture the exaggerated mannerisms of a cartoon character in live action but did that stop Matthew Lillard? To an extent, yeah, but damn it if he doesn't give it an honest try. His physical reactions whenever he gets scared, or comes up with an idea, are honestly hysterical. He held nothing back and that goes a long way to elevate the Scooby-centric scenes because let me tell you, that dog would have killed the movie dead if he'd been left to carry it on his own back.
The people who designed Scooby Doo's look for this film and its predecessor must have been having a bad day. To the extent that, when one of them suggested he should look like he's made of rubber and walk on his hind legs for half the film like some sort of demon, the rest just mumbled their agreements and called it a day. He has a solid role in the film as the main comic relief alongside Shaggy, but his counterpart does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to the narrative impact of the two. He does jump off a cliff and use a bin lid as a surfboard at one point though, so all in all still better than Seth Green's character.
Velma gets saddled with a love story, becoming infatuated with a geeky museum curator played by Green, who functions as a red herring for most of the film. Outside of this though she is very much the glue of the team, always on-hand to sooth the others' insecurities. Spouting monologue after monologue of scientific jargon to explain the supernatural shenanigans, she is clearly the most competent member of the group, outside of Daphne.
Someone behind the scenes decided Daphne should be the heavy of the film and it very much works. Shaking off her standard role as the damsel in distress, Daphne does the bulk of the actual fighting. She 1v1s The Black Knight in a swordfight until Velma kicks him (and I quote The Black Knight here) "right in the roundtables." She's ready to square up for the entire film. There is a monster called the 10,000 Volt Ghost that is literally an elemental made of pure electricity, its voice and design are scary enough to still freak me out to this day, and at one point when they encounter it she tells the rest of the gang to "keep going, I'll hold him off." On her own. Empty handed. Against a lightning storm with anger issues. What an absolute lunatic. 10/10 character, let's move on to Fred.
Fred is a himbo in this movie.
In terms of plot, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed is a little more restrained. Mystery Inc. begins the film as the heroes of Coolsville (the actual name of the setting) but become more and more unpopular as a mysterious villain robs the costumes from their exhibit on previous cases and uses them to create real monsters. The gang begins to splinter, imposter syndrome seeps in, but eventually they rally together, solve the mystery, and beat the villain.
What makes the plot fun is the random nonsense that fills it. It is the most 'early 2000s' film of all time. Every hairstyle has a mind of its own. Every background character looks like they came from the set of a Smash Mouth music video. In one scene, Shaggy and Scooby drink some potions that turn Scooby into The Tasmanian Devil and drastically alter the anatomy of Shaggy's chest. This has zero relevance to the overall narrative and takes up at least five minutes. Stuff like this just happens all the time in the film; it's glorious.
And of course the whole thing ends with a dance sequence.
I think I like this film so much because of how unnecessary it all is. Scooby Doo was still a massive franchise back in 2004. It would have been so easy to have just played the live-action adaptation safe. Scooby Doo, after all, is nothing if not formulaic. Go to place, discover problem, unmask problem, the end. But Scooby Doo 2: Monster's Unleashed isn't content with doing the bare minimum. Mystery Inc. is already established in Coolsville, the monsters are real, and everything that occurs in the film is completely and utterly insane. It is the opposite of generic. Maybe it isn't technically 'a good film' but it is incredibly distinct. In today's era of filmmaking, there are far too many 'films by committee'. Franchises and copy-paste cinema. Studios want safe bets, and Scooby Doo 2: Monster's Unleashed, was not written to be a safe bet.
On 1 November 2021, 16:27 Molly McIntosh Kickstart commented:
Omg I used to love this film and watched it so much growing up! Just reading this article and thinking about it makes me feel nostalgic 😌