Trust me… I know what you’re thinking, “Really? The live action adaptation of a classic children’s show?”. Yes, that is the one! After a recent re-watch two things stood out, that this film still holds up pretty well 18 years later and that it was definitely not written for the kids, and it inspired me to share exactly why.
2002’s Scooby-Doo is the first live action addition to the famous franchise, which in all honesty was going to succeed or totally flop. In this case it ended up being a pretty decent success, coming in at number 15 highest grossing film worldwide for the year according to Box Office Mojo. While there are a lot of things that make this film so enjoyable it is by no means perfect, so let’s start with where it doesn’t stand out.
As expected given how old it is the digital effects stay anchored in the past and are pretty lackluster, especially considering Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was released in the same year. Some moments are passable, but as soon as the main monsters show up it loses momentum. Where the digital effects come up short, the use of practical effects work some to make it less severe by bringing back tactility to the scenes. The time it came out also seems to be the cause of where else it falls short, at certain points in the film a random character will be introduced or a certain line will be thrown out that truly would have only resonated at the time of release. For example, a luchador pops up a few times throughout the course of the film which in hindsight seems entirely out of place but at the time (early 2000s) it was something kids in the US were getting interested in. This also seems like a good time to repeat that this is a kids movie, juvenile humor is to be expected, so keep that in mind when fart jokes become a focus.
The writing is where this film finds its lasting factor, the subtle jokes and nods to character traits do not stop. Everyone knows Shaggy is the stoner of the group, even though it’s never been explicitly said, but they play off of this throughout the movie. Shaggy meets a girl whose name is Mary-Jane… which he responds to by saying “That’s like my favorite name!”. The best of the humor is written right in to the characters in this film, many of the best jokes purposely aim directly at the adults watching, from clever word play to cheeky allusions the comedy keep coming.
The comedy can only land so effectively because of the dynamite performances the cast brings. Freddie Prinze Jr. as the uber self-involved Freddy, Sarah Michelle Gellar as a Daphne whose fed up with being the damsel in distress, Linda Cardellini as the nerdy yet sardonic Velma, Matthew Lillard as a laid-back stoner Shaggy, and of course Rowan Atkinson as Mondavarious the quirky Spooky Island owner. Aside from being an incredibly early 2000s cast, each and every one of them brings nuances to their characters that take them the extra mile. In one scene each of the main four characters are forced to swap bodies, and each actor playing another character inside their own characters body is incredibly well acted out.
While this movie is certainly marketed and geared towards children, it is one of a handful that were made to be just as enjoyable for the adults as well. Cleverly written, perfectly cast, and oozing with 2000s pop-culture this is sure to be a nostalgia trip. Although not perfect, it is all around an entertaining and light-hearted comedy that is ideal for movie night with the kids or for the parents looking for a blast from the past!