Warner Bros. (2012), Warner Home Video (March 13, 2012), BD + DVD, 78 mins, 16:9 ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Not Rated, Retail: $24.98
The Mystery Inc. kids and Scooby take a bayou vacation and end up battling an ancient vampire king. And… they sing, too!
The Sweatbox Review:
I usually pass on the new Scooby movies, because…. Well, I’ve already watched a whole lot of Scooby in my life. I almost always like Scoob (though those Scrappy years were admittedly dark days), but there is so much out there to watch that I don’t always feel that there is a need for yet another Scooby-Doo flick. This one, however, caught my eye, so points to Warner for marketing on this one. The idea of a Scooby-Doo musical, while not exactly ingenious, is certainly different, and I was keen to see how they would pull it off.
So, here’s how it goes… The kids decide to take a vacation (which we all know is doomed from the start), and they allow Velma to choose a surprise destination (again, an idea that has all the makings of a disaster). Let’s face it— Velma is not exactly a sun & fun kinda girl. No, instead she brings them all to the bayou for a creepy event known as the Vampire Palooza, where she introduces them to their host, Vincent Van Helsing, an author and “vampirologist” who is a decedent of the famed Dracula hunter. Hey, how could this vacation possibly go wrong, right? If you think that, then you’ve never watched Scooby-Doo. In fact, when Fred tells Shaggy that there’s nothing to worry about, Shaggy asks Scooby when they’ve heard that before. Scooby checks his notebook, and replies, “Every day of my life!” Yep. With Scooby, the name of the game is formula, but the nice thing about the Scooby movies is that they do offer a wider range of approaches. But not too different, or it just wouldn’t be Scooby.
When the gang arrives at the small town hosting the vampire festival, we learn that Daphne and Velma have rather romanticized views of vampires, inspired by those sparkling ones from a Twilight-like book. Naturally, Shaggy and Scooby have somewhat more traditional takes on the bloodsuckers, and they find themselves sympathizing with a group of protesters, led by a mayoral candidate named Jesper Poubelle. In opposition to the protesters is Lita Rutland, the owner of the festival. After meeting Van Helsing outside (where he is failing in his efforts to hawk his latest traditional vampire novel), the author takes them on a tour of his home, which is loaded with authentic vampire artifacts.
Things get bizarre when they all attend a musical performance by a musical troupe that are into vampire emulation, and Daphne develops an instant crush on their leader, Bram. During the performance, the troupe accidentally summons a vampire king that Van Helsing had been telling them about, and this Valdronya proceeds to terrorize the town. And what does Valdronya want? Why, he wants a bride! And his chosen one is Daphne!
Panic envelops the town, and the various factions become more apparent. Poubelle is stirring up the masses and handing out torches, incidentally gaining support for his mayoral campaign. News crews gobble it up. Rutland is overjoyed, as she sees a big boost in profits for her vampire festival. And in the midst of it all, Bram takes on a strong interest in Daphne, too. Added to the plot is Shaggy’s concern that he is a vampire, which puts him on the run, until he and Scooby meet up with an inventor hiding out in the swamp. Unlike the standard half-hour episodes, this one has loads of suspects, so it actually has a bit of suspense.
And… It has SONGS! Yes, this is what the producers thought they could use to bring something new to the table. Of course, music has always been a part of the Scooby franchise, from the earliest episodes in 1969 that used pop songs during chase sequences. This time, however, the characters themselves burst into songs. There’s no mystical tomfoolery with this, though, like on that episode of Buffy, Once More With Feeling. This is more of the Broadway style, where the songs occur for no other reason than as an alternative way to move the story along, some songs being more successful than others. There’s an interesting mix of styles, too, with varying levels of coolness.
Bayou Breeze opens up the film, and serves only to set the tone, which it does nicely— Creole meets spooky. Done With Monsters is a fun Broadway-style tune that juxtaposes the gang’s wish to go on vacation with the inevitability of what is to come. It also shows just how hard it can be for voice actors to stay in character while singing. (Was that really Matthew Lillard?) The Vampires Dance is a show stopping ditty that seems a little too smooth to suit its purpose (and is quite reminiscent of a song sung by the singing demon in that Buffy episode). The Vampire’s Bite risks bringing everything to a halt, but does show how Rutland is thrilled with the new vampire in town. Do You Want To Live Forever is oddly tango-like, as Bram serenades Daphne and they engage in a romantic dance. While meant to be romantic, it comes off as a bit cheesy. But then, that does make it fun, I guess. Scooby And Me initially doesn’t seem to add anything to the plot, but it morphs into a grand group number involving much of the cast while exploring everyone’s motivations nicely.
Is the vampire real? Or is it a hoax designed to bring success to Vampire Palooza? Or a gimmick to garner votes? Or a way to sell books? Or to bring attention to a musical troupe? Do the songs actually work?
I’ll just answer that last question. The songs work sometimes, and frankly less so at other times. It’s an interesting experiment, and I wouldn’t mind them trying again, but I almost wish they’d gone even a little further with it. The direction and staging could have been more audacious (it just about gets there with Scooby And Me) in order to really sell it. When you decide to do a musical, you really need to commit wholly to the idea, and don’t hold back. For the first Scooby musical, they may have felt a little tentative about it. Fortunately, the story itself is good, the songs aren’t really bad at all, and the Scooby franchise is no less tarnished for this effort.
Is This Thing Loaded?
This one’s not all that loaded. Previews play automatically for Big Top Scooby-Doo, Tom And Jerry In the Dog House, and Lion Of Judah. Trailers from the menu include for Zoink Points, Happy Feet 2, Thundercats, The Looney Tunes Show, and Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated.
The sole non-advertising bonus feature is the Scooby-Doo Vampire Sing Along, which offers six songs from the movie on its play list, with on-screen lyrics that have a bouncing bat to guide you along.
Incidentally, the Blu-ray has a chapters menu, but the DVD does not, though it does have chapter stops.
Aside from the Blu-ray, this release also includes a DVD with all the same content, but naturally in standard definition. The two discs come in a standard Blu-ray keepcase, with a disc on each side of the interior. There is an insert with a code for an Ultraviolet copy and/or WB Insider Rewards. The initial pressing of the disc also gets an embossed slipcover, almost hidden behind three stickers touting the content.
Ink And Paint:
Aside from minor aliasing, the 16:9 image is looking pretty darn good. Naturally, this would be a straight digital transfer, so there’s no concern with any physical artifacts. The 16:9 image is bright and fun.
Wow, we even get DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound, all the better to hear all those songs that Warner hopes we shall love. Try to decipher, then, how close Jim Cummings comes to lapsing into Tigger repeatedly as he voices Tulie, the wacky inventor. (Actually, you don’t really need lossless sound to hear that.) With chase scenes, pyrotechnics, and plenty of action, there’s a good workout for the surrounds, and they get a fair bit of activity here. There are also options for Spanish audio and subtitles, both in Latin or Castilian versions, plus English subtitles.
The songs added to the movie are sure to turn some people off, and I don’t think they always found the right tone or gained the staging they needed; but on the other hand, some worked quite well. More importantly, this is otherwise a strong entry in the Scooby-Doo canon. We get an honest-to-goodness mystery with (gasp!) more than one suspect, and a good assortment of characters, even if they weren’t all that fleshed out. If you like the Scoob, and can keep an open mind about the songs, you should probably like this one.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?