Written by Musgo Del Jefe
This review for the newly released Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword marks my third straight review of one of the direct-to-video Scooby-Doo movies. In 2007, I gave Chill Out, Scooby-Doo a warm reception. I felt that it kept the spirit of the original series I remembered from the early '70s and it maintained the quality of production that was started with the first movie, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island in 1998. In 2008, the Halloween-timed release of Scooby-Doo and the Goblin King held much promise. But those were quickly dashed with a bumbling, magical story line that didn't have the humor or mysteries that make the series so enjoyable.
This year promises to be a busy one for the Scooby-Doo franchise. In the Fall we will get a new animated series, Scooby-Doo - Mystery, Inc. which promises to wash out the bad taste left from the oddly animated, Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue! That return to more old school mystery solving will coincide with the direct-to-TV release of a new live-action film, Scooby-Doo 3: The Mystery Begins. Both of these series promise a return to the mystery-solving premise of the original series. So, I was left wondering what I would get with Scooby-Doo and the Samurai Sword.
This film starts promisingly with an actual "real" setting of Tokyo, Japan. The pre-credit story gets rolling with a classic set-up of a father and son working in the museum and the father needing something to save the museum. There's a brief history of the Black Samurai and some armor is taken. The opening credits offer a nice change to the usually busy opening that often includes some form of chase through the opening titles. This one had an almost theatrical feel with more traditional movie instrumentation.
The new take on the Scooby-Doo score continues into the film. As we first meet the gang, I really enjoyed the cool, funky music that sounds like it was coming from real instruments. Warner Bros. has always had the best orchestra in town, I hope they've unleashed some of that for these features. The gang is all back and we know that we're moving into the 21st century with cell phones and text messages. By next movie, Daphne will be sending Tweets of their progress in solving the mysteries.
The razor-thin premise is pretty easy to pick up. Daphne has been invited to a Martial Arts Tournament because she's a world-class martial artist (yeah, that's right). This is actually an interesting set-up. Daphne is involved in a tournament that seems to be part Enter The Dragon and part Fantasy Island. I would be curious to see either of those plots developed. Don't forget too, a little of Karate Kid thrown in as Daphne seems to be overmatched but wins her fights. Plot-wise, these martial artists are also doing a double duty of protecting something called the "Destiny Scroll" which is something the Black Samurai would desire to steal. This is a good time for the gang to hit every Japanese stereotype including fireworks, Sumo wrestling, sushi, and some geisha. That is . . . until they are attacked by ninjas.