Hey folks, Harry here with a report from the long time AICN spy... Walkabouter... He's been deep in the outback for nearly a year now, if you remember he wrote the first review of HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCEROR'S STONE months and months and months before release. He's also weighed in on some other great scoops (some known and some unknown to you) in the past. This time he's coming out of the tall grass to tell us about SCOOBY DOO. This is the first review of the film to appear anywhere and he's here to tell us the good as well as the bad. I've been hearing for a while now that Matthew Lillard got Shaggy down right, and that Scooby works.... But now we'll hear about it all. He took one for the team. First though, he wanted to clear up some stuff about his Harry Potter review... Here ya go....
Walkabouter here, after a long absence. There was a reason why I haven't written you you about other releases I've been privy to: I felt really bad about the uproar over my review of HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCEROR'S STONE...
Yes, it was a kind review. A rave, actually. I liked the movie, so sue me. But it was really odd for me to see the snowballing effect my little review on your website created -- from the director himself, Chris Columbus, being accused of writing the review (see online articles in EMPIRE ONLINE and EMPIRE magazine...gosh, I turned pale when I heard them) to security issues surrounding the film.
Well, let me just say here and now how sorry I was for all those problems. And, for the record, I am NOT Chris Columbus, I do NOT work for Chris Columbus, nor have I ever even MET Chris Columbus face to face. So let me extend my deepest apologies to the folks at Warner Bros., and especially to Mr. Columbus, for the HARRY POTTER headaches...
I was excited by HARRY POTTER, and hold firm to the initial review. Know, however, that I saw an earlier version of the film that was a little longer (though it was far from the 3 hour-plus running time many people rumored it to be). When I saw the film in its final form, some things dazzled me beyond expectations: The Quiddich match, for one thing. That took my breath away. John Williams' score -- though several leading critics found it to be intrusive and overdone -- I myself really enjoyed.
Other things, however, were not quite as good as the rest of the film. The technical special FX at the end, with the appearance of Voldemort, and most notably the facial design of the centaur, were nowhere near as accomplished as I hoped they would be. (Both Williams' score and the FX work were incomplete in the video reels I saw at the time.) The finale was awkward -- it was so, too, in the book itself.
But these were just little quips I had about an otherwise really wonderful film. All in all, the film has a playful spirit about it, and perhaps its greatest promise lies in what is yet to come.
No, I have yet to see anything regarding CHAMBER OF SECRETS. The book I enjoyed, but it had its strengths and weaknesses. There's a lot more humor in this one, particularly with the uber-vain, narcissistic Professor Lockhart (Kenneth Branagh was a perfect choice for the role -- he's very good at comedy, as well as the best damn HENRY V I've ever seen). The ending of the book, though, felt really out of place to me, but oh well. I personally felt the third and fourth books -- Prizoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire, respectively -- were the strongest of the series.
Chris and Co.: Don't worry. I'll keep my mouth shut this time until AFTER other official reviews start pouring in.
Columbus has always been good in dealing with physical comedy and set pieces involving special FX. He also brings I playful energy to his films (remember ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING's opening sequence, with a dancing Elizabeth Shue... Oh, god... That always made me melt. How much I identified with Keith Coogan's character -- a dorky 15 year old who lusted after her.... Sorry, nostalgic flashback.) And yes, he's good in dealing with children. Anyway, I DO think it would be a good idea to keep him on through the whole series. He got it right, I think, so why screw with a good thing?
(On the issue of Spielberg: If he were to take over the reigns, I'd be all for it -- so long as Columbus willingly turns them over to him. Spiely had his chance to do the first one, but wanted it his way...Oh well. He made A.I. instead -- and yes, in spite of its imperfections, I liked it, too. I would have much rather seen it as a BEST PICTURE nominee -- or SHREK, MONSTERS INC, AMELIE, BLACK HAWK DOWN, or MEMENTO -- than IN THE BEDROOM...a well crafted but hardly extraordinary drama that turns into little more than a DEATH WISH vigilante tale.)
A final mention concerning the HARRY POTTER cast. Whether you liked the film or not, the cast was perfect. You'd think that the way I had carried on about Daniel Radcliffe in my first review, you'd be expecting a Larry Olivier at age 11. But it's an understated performance; that's why it seemed just right to me. Radcliffe didn't resort to Jackie Coogan puppy eyed longing. He didn't overact, as many child actors do. The Harry Potter character in the books is reserved and a little introverted compared to the kids around him. Radcliffe's interacting with Rupert Grint and Emma Watson -- two characters who are deliberately more colorful and "showy" -- should make a good cinematic trio in the years to come.
Part of me would love to see Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson continue through all the films. If one of them were replaced by another actor, I doubt the other two would perform as successfully. Yet, knowing Hollywood, I'm fearful of what these kids will have to go through in the future if they continue the series, especially as they grow into their teens. (I suspect with the inevidable symptoms of puberty, Radcliffe will be forced by the producers to shave his armpits, chest, and legs two or three times each week until he reaches the age of 25.) Look at HOME ALONE's Mackie Culkin -- he's barely 20, and ALREADY separated from his marriage. That's more reality than most of us could take now...
Anyway, Warner Bros., thanks for getting HARRY POTTER right. Thanks for being faithful to the book. Thanks for casting the right people. Thanks, thanks thanks...
And now, onto my NEXT review. I'll start by saying this:
Shame on you, Warner Bros., for getting it wrong...
This review, of course, is of the $100 million "tentpole" movie called SCOOBY DOO.
So, anyway, I'll start off with the unusual and unexpected topic of what the film gets RIGHT.
And yes, some things are right here, or at least close to it. That's what makes the film so much harder to take: there was a GLIMPSE of it going in the right direction, a HINT of an incredible, loony, fun-filled movie going experience...but then SCOOBY DOO veers course, and crashes into a tree....swings itself around only to fall off a cliff and smash into a thousand, burning, smoldering pieces.
FIRST RIGHT THING: SCOOBY himself. As a character and in its design, the CGI animated mutt is executed marvellously. It truly looks like the Hanna-Barbera cartoon brought to life. The voice actor does a dead-on impression of the original. Scooby is funny, cute, adorable, and interacts playfully with the cast. (One really funny gag involves Shaggy jumping into Scooby's "arms" -- a play reversal on the cartoon's opening montage, showing Scooby in SHAGGY'S arms, if I remember.)
SECOND: Okay, now -- hold onto yourselves. While AINT-IT-COOL-NEWS could very well rename itself "THE OFFICIAL HATECLUB OF..." this actor, I must say I was surprised and entertained by the performance of one Mr. Matthew Lillard.
That's right: Matthew Lillard. As Shaggy. A good thing.
Okay, so the guy's not Acting God. So he's made some bad movies. Whatever. Truth is, Lillard got the role down right. The voice, while not exactly like Casey Kasim's, is close enough. Lillard's lanky frame is close enough. His goofy, manic personality is close enough. I don't know how hard or how long Lillard committed himself to the role, but it was worth it.
Yes, true believers, I bought Matthew Lillard as Shaggy.
He was the best human in the movie...a phrase that might be a prophetic warning to some of you.
Which brings me to the things in the film that did not work: EVERYTHING ELSE.
Now, there are some clever moments. Watching Sarah Michelle Gellar's Daphne resort to her kick-ass BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER derring-doo to some unsuspecting badguys has a certain fun, breezy feel to it. Problem is, such scenes are more suited to today's WB NETWORK (or, in the case of BUFFY, UPN...way to go, WB, for screwing tHAT up, too) audience than to the nostalgic feel of the original cartoon TV show.
Again, there are HINTS at cleverness that the film would have done well to better follow. The cartoon incarnation presented characters that are utterly rediculous. (But we were kids back then -- I watched the show religiously in the 70's, and accepted them.) There are some gags in the film in which the characters are self-aware of their bizarre behavior and appearances, and others look at them, feeling a little disturbed.
Look at another film comedy derived from a 60s-70s TV series: THE BRADY BUNCH. That film, all in all, worked because it took the characters and plotlines from the original series and held them up to a very stark, bright light. THAT WAS FUNNY.
SCOOBY DOO is not. Oh, it DOES recreate some famous trademark scenarios -- ghosts behind peoples' backs, jungle warriors -- but doesn't take the time to develop them for comic payoff.
Another weakness: Freddie Prinze, Jr.
Okay, so that's not so earth shocking. While I don't think Prinze is the worst actor of all time, he made a bad career move by doing the same kind of film over and over. I mean, really, do any of us truly know the difference between DOWN TO YOU, SUMMER CATCH, BOYS AND GIRLS, and SHE'S ALL THAT? If you've seen one, you've seen them all.
The less said about WING COMMANDER the better.
Prinze is a pretty face. He's not a terrible actor, nor is he a good one. He doesn't seem to show any range, take any risk. Some young actors try to do something brave and daring...if they fail, well, that's too bad. But the risk is commendable.
Prinze doesn't take risks. It might be a smart move for a movie-star of the moment, but for an ACTOR wanting to stretch out a career for several years, it can be certain death.
Why do I say all this? Because watching Freddie as Fred Jones in SCOOBY DOO made me shudder. The bleach-blond hair. The godawful wig (both we see in the film). They are the only attempts to make Prinze even remotely resemble Fred from the series. Otherwise, it's Freddie Prinze Jr. as...a blonde Freddie Prinze Jr.
I guess the final question regarding SCOOBY DOO is this: HOW BAD IS IT? Well, to be honest, it's bad, but -- eyebrows across the internet be raised -- SCOOBY DOO is not THAT bad. It is not the stinking pale of fly-strewn shit many people might think it would be. It's not the ludicrously bad badness of BATTLEFIELD EARTH.
SCOOBY DOO is harmless bad. Forgettable bad. Bad in the way you shrug your shoulders, walk out of the theater, and forget about the last 2 hours you lived kinda bad. Pointless bad. Empty bad. It is not the worst movie ever made, nor is it even the worst movie so far this young year.
SCOOBY DOO just really isn't all that memorable. It's bland, dull, noisy and tiresome mediocrity.
It will probably make $150 million.
Look at other, expensive films like INSPECTOR GADGET, THE FLINTSTONES, THE GOLDEN CHILD. They all have two things in common: They were huge box office hits. They all sucked.
(I christen this phenomena "sumnal" -- derived from the initials S.M.N.L., short for "Successful Movies that Nobody Loves". )
This is THE WALKABOUTER, reporting from the outbacks of Oz...signing out.