Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
Like most movies geared toward kids, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed features a moral about not trying to be someone else. Funny then, that director Raja Gosnell’s sequel tries so hard to be something it’s not, clumsily attempting to graft human emotion and depth onto two-dimensional characters who originated as crudely drawn Saturday-morning filler. As the film opens, our heroes are riding high, attending the gala opening of a museum exhibition showcasing the costumes of their defeated foes. But soon an evil masked figure—exclusively referred to, in the movie’s only smart gag, as the Evil Masked Figure—steals all the costumes, makes them corporeal, and sets them loose on Coolsville. At various points leading up to the climactic unmasking, Fred puts on the role of butch tough guy (“Talking is for wimps”), Daphne attempts to prove she’s more than just a pretty face (“I’m not perfect”), Velma briefly transforms into a tarted-up sexpot (“Who’s your mommy?”), and Shaggy and Scooby try in vain to become effective members of Mystery Inc. (“Like, run!”). Top-billed Freddie Prinze Jr.’s vacant stare and wooden delivery make him the perfect choice to play the mannequinlike Fred, while wife Sarah Michelle Gellar, who can’t be bothered to make a guest appearance on the last season of Angel, plays the shallow, kung-fu-fighting Daphne as if she’s stuck in Season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The CGI’d great dane of the title, meanwhile, has surprisingly little to do save use his flatulence as a makeshift blowtorch against a fire-breathing baddie. On the plus side, Matthew Lillard absolutely channels Shaggy with his baked demeanor and Cheshire grin, and Linda Cardellini’s Velma is officially the sexiest nerd on the planet. And Gosnell and scripter James Gunn finally abandon the idea of emotional complexity for the movie’s final reel, when the Scooby Gang is too busy jousting on motorcycles, surfing on fire extinguishers, and generally behaving like cartoon characters to ponder their raison d’être—which is exactly how it should be. —Jason Powell