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Scooby-Doo: Stage Fright

Hanna-Barbera/Warner Bros. (2013), Warner Home Video (August 20, 2013), 1 Blu-ray + 1 DVD, 78 mins, 16:9 ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio, Not Rated, Retail: $24.98

Storyboard:

Fred and Daphne enter a televised talent contest – a competition that is threatened by the disruptive appearances of a mysterious phantom! Everyone is a suspect, from stagehands to contestants, and it’s up to the Scooby gang to unmask the mischief-maker.

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The Sweatbox Review:

These Scooby-Doo original movies have become so routine by now that it is easy to ignore them, or simply write them off as mediocre kiddie fodder. Remember when Zombie Island was released (on VHS!), back in 1998? That was a bit of an event, and the movie was well received. Unbelievably, that was twenty films ago, not to mention three more TV series. Could these things still possibly come off as fresh? Well, Scooby-Doo: Stage Fright doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but it still manages a new trick or two in presenting a story that is contemporary and yet still classic Scoob.

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This is a tale that combines today’s talent competition shows, like America’s Got Talent, with Phantom Of The Opera. (Some might understandably roll their eyes, but it’s a fun way to combine the old with the new, and I was able to just go with it.) Fred and Daphne have made it to the finals of Talent Star as a singing couple, and the whole Scooby gang heads to Chicago to be at the show. Scooby and Shaggy can’t decide whether they’re more excited about trying to audition for the show at the last minute, or to try Chicago’s famous pizza.

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When they all arrive at the renovated opera house that serves as the show’s theater, they find that the assistant director has fainted following an encounter with The Phantom, a skull-faced ghoul who has begun terrorizing the theater, with demands that a certain contestant must win. Then, of course, they meet an array of folks who have all become suspects. There is the charming but smarmy host, various technicians, and a variety of contestants— including a bratty teen pop singer and her despicable parents, a magician, a diminutive ventriloquist, a young violinist, and a hard-edged lady rocker. This is one area in which the movies have a big advantage over the original shows, which usually only ever had a single suspect, or at most two. In this movie, the villain also seems to have multiple agendas.

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The competition proceeds, but is continuously interrupted by The Phantom shrieking, swinging, and generally making a nuisance of himself. Is this all really just so that a kid can win the talent show? Or does it have to do with a fabulous diamond on display in the city? Or is it all just a publicity stunt by the show’s producers? And what does it have to do with the legend of The Phantom who first appeared decades ago? Eventually, we see The Phantom with most of the suspects, which seems to narrow the choices of The Phantom’s identity considerably… but this tale has twist or two.

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The additional twist given to this story is the budding romance between Fred and Daphne. Yes, that’s right— this tale actually goes there, pretending this is the first time that the idea has been explored. It’s a little bizarre that they would bother with that particular storyline, and it certainly makes it difficult to imagine where this movie might fit into the overall Scooby chronology (which, yes, I realize is a fool’s game to start with). Fred sports his traditional ascot, but the story itself is quite contemporary. Best to just enjoy the story as presented. The tale of two clueless teens crushing on each other isn’t exactly fresh, but as with all things Scooby, it can still be enjoyable to see the familiar play out – even if it involves a schmaltzy love song being performed as the couple explore their feelings. As I said, you either condemn the thing, or just go with it. And your kids maybe haven’t seen the same thing played out in a hundred other movies yet.

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The animation is top-notch for this direct-to-video Warner Premiere feature, and the voice actors by now are very settled into their roles. As with the last several movies, Frank Welker, Matthew Lillard, Mindy Cohn, and Grey DeLisle play their parts flawlessly and enjoyably. The story is fun and manages a few surprises, decent action, and there are a few memorable characters. Plus, it’s fun to see a story set in Chicago, with several of its famous landmarks. I should also mention that the snazzy credits sequence is one of the most fun I’ve seen, and puts those for the DC animated movies to shame. Scooby-Doo: Stage Fright may not be the most original thing you’ll ever see, but it is dependably what you’d want from a Scooby-Doo movie, and is a very well-produced animated movie.

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Is This Thing Loaded?

Each disc has promos for more Scooby Doo product (which reminds me – I’d still like to see Mask Of The Blue Falcon), as well as Tom And Jerry’s Giant Adventure, which is actually a little enticing, as it appears to have appearances by Droopy, Screwball Squirrel, and even Red (are those wings?).

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Both the Blu-ray and the DVD also contain two Bonus Episodes from the first two seasons of the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? show: Never Ape An Ape Man and Don’t Fool With A Phantom. Their relationship with the main feature is nebulous at best, but there’s nothing wrong with having them on the disc. “Scooby Classic” will always be my favorite version.

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Case Study:

The eco-styled Blu-ray keepcase holds a disc on either side. The embossed cover has stickers on it proclaiming the newness of the movie (even though “Original Movie” also appears under the title), and the Ultraviolet version included with your purchase. Inside the case are two inserts, one regarding the Ultraviolet copy, and one advertising a Scooby-Doo game.

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Ink And Paint:

We’re talking a direct-from-the-digital-file transfer here, so the image is predictably clean and vibrant. It’s also remarkably stable, with no hint of aliasing anywhere, despite all the chase scenes and pans used in the film. I tried to find a reason to drop the score below a 10; but, at least on my big screen, the image was flawless.

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Scratch Tracks:

Warner Premiere has been more consistent of late with providing lossless tracks to their original movies, and so we are treated once again to a DTS-HD Master Audio Track. The sound technicians have a little fun with the effects, though I wouldn’t say the track is all that aggressive in terms of creating separation. Bass is also present if you listen to it, but does not draw much attention to itself. Audio alternatives include French, Spanish, and Polish, with subtitles also available in the same languages.

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The DVD has different options. Audio and subtitles can be chosen for English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Thai.

Final Cut:

As an old-time Scooby-Doo fan, I found myself pleasantly entertained by this movie, which satisfactorily fills a craving for, well, more of the same type of thing we’ve been enjoying for over forty years. My kids also liked it, which is really the point of these movies. While I couldn’t bring myself to match my son’s “9 out of 10” rating, I had to agree with my daughter’s fair assessment of the movie earning a solid “7.” This is good, clean fun from the remnants of Hanna-Barbera, once the greatest cartoon maker on the planet. There characters may no longer be fresh, but they still hold great appeal all these years later.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?


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