Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
Main cast: Freddie Prinze Jr (Fred), Sarah Michelle Gellar (Daphne), Matthew Lillard (Shaggy), Linda Cardellini (Velma), Seth Green (Patrick), Peter Boyle (Old Man Wickles), Tim Blake Nelson (Jacobo), and Alicia Silverstone (Heather)
Director: Raja Gosnell

To my pleasant surprise, Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed is a superior movie to the original Scooby-Doo, not because it has a bigger budget and more extravagant special effects, but because the sequel is more in the spirit of the original Hanna-Barbara cartoon series. The Mystery Inc in this movie is more like the Mystery Inc in the cartoon, with the exception of Daphne, who is now a more feminist kickass babe than a mere damsel in purple outfits.

In this movie, the Mystery Inc are finally getting their due props by their hometown of Coolsville when the Coolsonian Crimonology Museum allocates a special exhibition in their honor. All the costumes of the villains the gang has trounced in the past, such as the Pterodactyl Ghost, the Miner 49er, the Black Knight Ghost, Captain Cutler's Ghost, the Tar Pit Monster, and the 10,000-Volt Ghost, are on display. Alas, the opening night where the Mystery Inc are the guests of honor end up an utter fiasco with the Pterodactyle Ghost coming to life and with Shaggy and Scooby-Doo's unwitting aid nearly destroys the museum. A mystery masked villain is trying to use DNA technology to create real monsters from the costumes that are on display, and it is up to our gang to stop this villain before the monsters take over Coolsville and then the world.

Along the way, Shaggy and Scooby-Doo struggle to become more useful members to their Gang, Fred grapples with his self-esteem issues, Daphne has to learn that she is more to the others than a mere pretty face, and Velma has to deal with intimacy issues when she falls for the museum curator Patrick. Alas, Patrick may or may not be a prime suspect along with Old Man Wickles. The reporter Heather is also bent on ruining the Mystery Inc's image in the press. Can Mystery Inc triumph one more time?

In keeping to the spirit of the cartoon, this movie has quite a number of foot chases that see Shaggy and Scooby-Doo doing silly things to get away from the bad guy. While the special effects are lavish, they are also very watchable and add to the spirit of fun of the movie. The two one-eyed skeleton monsters are especially cute and mean. There are a number of adult jokes, especially a covertly inserted reference to drug addiction, but these jokes will harmlessly fly over most kiddies' heads. I'm not sure about the gross and toilet humor though - shouldn't they be out of fashion since year 2000?

The biggest pleasure comes from the human cast playing the Mystery Inc gang nearly perfectly. Freddie Prinze Jr still lacks the robust physique to play Fred, but this time around, he has Fred's way of speaking and tics down pat. Daphne has one very Buffy-esque scene, but otherwise, she is the cartoon Daphne in almost every way. Even Velma is very recognizable this time around with her dry wisecracks, although Linda Cardellini takes Velma's Nerd Girl personality and gives it a vulnerability that actually works. Seth Green has never looked more adorable in stubble and playing Patrick, whose calm exterior hides a volatile temper. As for Matthew Lillard, he plays Shaggy like a pro this time around, and one can argue that he is Shaggy. He looks like Shaggy, he talks like Shaggy, it's nearly creepy how he seems to be born to play that role.

It is too much to expect a decent plot or great acting from this movie. But when it comes to delivering pleasant thrills with some campy acting and superficial group angst that works pretty well, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed delivers very well.

Rating: 83

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