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Scooby-Doo review

Plans for a Scooby-Doo movie have been knocking around since the mid-'90s. Mike Myers was once in talks to script and star as Shaggy, and directors as high profile as Tim Burton and Kevin Smith were interested at various times (Smith even did a Scooby-Doo skit in Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back). At one point, plans even got as far as ear-marking that Welsh national treasure, Rhys Ifans, for the role of Shaggy. Then the project slipped into Development Hell, leaving naysayers to smugly claim there was zero chance of another Hanna-Barbera cartoon adaptation after The Flintstones. Scooby-Doo, where are you?

Enter director Raja Gosnell, a man who's CV (Home Alone 3, Big Momma's House) screams Scooby Don't rather than Do. Still, at least his presence got the damn thing going, even if the end result may make you wish it had curled up in its kennel and died peacefully. For while exuberant six-year-olds with next to no critical faculties will undoubtedly love Scooby's "ruh-roh" charm, the rest of us are faced with slim pickings.

Screenwriter James Gunn, who started his career with infamous Z-movie schlockmeisters Troma Entertainment, sets the film two years after the Scooby gang splits up over a clash of egos. Fred (Freddie Prinze Jr) has become a vain celebrity, Velma (Linda Cardellini) has been working at NASA and Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is now a karate black belt. As for Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby, they've been utilising their time by bumming around the beach. But now the gang must set aside their differences and team up, for amusement park owner Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson) needs them to find out why his `Spooky Island' punters are being turned into mindless zombies.

Full marks to the casting director, for each of the human leads are uncannily suited to their roles, energetically bringing their cartoon counterparts to life. Where it goes disastrously wrong - predictably so - is with Scooby himself, the decision to opt for a (poorly-rendered) CG creation proving infuriating. Worse still, there's confusion as to whether our canine champion is good or evil. One minute he's as cute as a nuzzling puppy, the next you'll think one of Satan's hellhounds has slipped the leash. Alarmingly, you can't help thinking there'll be kids fearing that they're next on the menu if the Scooby snacks run out.

There are a handful of choice moments nestling amid the ropey CGI and over-wrought plotting: Lillard's Shaggy impersonation is perfect, Gellar's Buffy-tinged martial arts take on Daphne turns her old damsel in distress routine on its head, and, best of all, revenge is finally meted out on the ever-annoying Scrappy-Doo. Expelled from the gang for being an egomaniac with a disturbing penchant for peeing on Daphne's breasts, Scooby's pint-sized nephew finally, joyously, gets his comeuppance. It's just enough to keep us from saying (in our best Scooby voice): ris roovie rotally rinks.

A misjudged adaptation of a '70s cartoon favourite, whose biggest fans are likely to be easy to please nippers who never got to see the Great Dane first time round. Disappointing.

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