Written by Musgo Del Jefe
Scooby-Doo! Where are you? Or should I say "What's happened to you?" This October brings what has become an annual event – the release of a Scooby-Doo direct-to-video release. This year's movie, Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King is the 12th release of its kind since the 1998 comeback, Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island. Last year at this time I was heaping praise upon Chill Out, Scooby-Doo. Today I'm asking these son-of-a-guns, "What the heck happened?"
Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King starts at the Coolsville (c'mon already) Halloween Carnival. Shaggy and Scooby upset a magician, the Amazing Krudsky, by exposing him as a fake. Krudsky decides to get his "revenge" by becoming the Goblin King. Krudsky sets about capturing a faerie who will lead him to the goblin where he can steal the scepter and get the "power of Halloween." I'm not even making any of this up, so far. This is the worst character motivation I've seen since The Adventures Of Pluto Nash.
Shaggy and Scooby end up in a magic shop in the film's first nod to Harry Potter. It is here that the shop owner informs them of their mission to save Coolsville and their friends by stopping the Goblin King. In the film's second nod to Harry Potter (when in doubt, steal from what's popular with the kids these days, right?) they are taken to the goblin land on a train that might as well have Knight Bus written on it. As we follow Shaggy and Scooby into the faerie world, we sadly realize that Fred, Daphne and Velma will be making nothing more than a guest appearance in this film.
The interaction of the whole cast is one thing that made these later movies so interesting. Even the recurring character of Del Chillman gave the older characters someone interesting to play off of. Getting back to just Scooby and Shaggy leaves only two predictable jokes – the two are either really scared or really hungry. And sometimes both.
The quest to save the faerie world still could have been entertaining. Dropped into this strange world, Shaggy and Scooby could easily have followed a Wizard Of Oz-type plot, making friends along the way to battling the Goblin King and saving both the faerie world and their own world. But the plot doesn't choose to become that interesting.
In one of the better visual jokes of the film, the two take a magic potion to sneak closer to the Goblin King to steal his scepter. Scooby turns into Velma and Shaggy turns into Daphne. Unfortunately, the scene is wasted. In what quickly becomes cheap and lazy plot turns, the two are revealed to be themselves before they can steal the scepter. Oddly, the meeting they are sneaking into looks exactly like the Pagan meeting in the Dragnet movie.
This race to get the scepter by midnight is hollow. There isn't a lot of suspense and it's unclear what the consequences are for not getting it by midnight. The chase turns into the Scooby-Doo! tradition of the musical chase-montage. This time it's a song called "Goblin Oogie Boogie" by James Belushi. Sigh.
The voice casting is top rate and should have made this a more entertaining feature. In addition to the usual voice cast, they've added Hayden Panettiere as an annoying faerie, Wallace Shawn, Jay Leno, Tim Curry, Lauren Bacall, James Belushi, and Wayne Knight as the put-upon magician, Krudsky (not too far from his Jurassic Park character). If only the money spent on this talent had been used on writers!
The movie continues with seemingly one dead end after another. But at each turn, "magic" is used to get them out of their trouble. It's really frustrating. I won't reveal the end but suffice it to say, there isn't a "mystery" here. That's the real problem with the whole picture. I loved the original series and most of the direct-to-video releases because they existed in more of a "reality." The monsters were guys in masks – the phantom was the mayor. Here, the magician is fake but the goblins and faeries are real. The characters just don't work well in that format and it's been proven over their history. I wanted the fun of "Mystery, Inc." that I found in Chill Out, Scooby-Doo. What I got was a misguided film that tries to force its scares and instead just bores. This series has shown that it can appeal to all ages and this effort may not end up appealing to any.
The DVD has a bonus feature called "Scooby-Doo: You Believe In Magic?" that shows how some basic magic tricks are done. It's an interesting diversion especially considering how uncharacteristically cruel Scooby and Shaggy were to The Amazing Krudsky.
I've been entertained enough by this series in my life to know that even when I'm faced with Scrappy-Doo, eventually they'll return to their roots. Until then, I'll wait for release number 13 next fall – hoping we'll leave Coolsville behind and just return to the mysteries.