[3 January 2007]
Is a former Scooby-Doo hater turned appreciator possible? Can a vocal critic of this animated program ever be redeemed? If so, then consider this review my mea culpa. Yep, I truly liked this new Scooby-Doo cartoon collection, something I previously never thought impossible.
Of course, despite the countless monsters and ghosts featured in each Scooby-Doo story, this series actually argues against the existence of the paranormal. Whatever spooks haunt the exotic places these youthful crime fighters visit always turn out to be humans in disguise, out for commercial gain. I’m no expert, but I suspect no real ghost has ever set foot in a Scooby-Doo program. Ah, but that’s all a part of its simple charm.
Monstrous Tails can be termed Scooby-Doo international style. That is because this good-doing gang, which centers around the comedic adventures of Scoobert ‘Scooby’ Doo and his owner Norville ‘Shaggy’ Rogers, along with the more serious Freddie Jones, his girlfriend Daphne Blake, and smarty pants Velma Dinkley mostly travels to many lands throughout five fresh episodes. They first land in the South Pole, move next to China, and on to Australia. The fourth episode, titled “Gold Paw”, is set in Kentucky. Similarly, the bonus program “A Terrifying Round with a Menacing Metallic Clown”, takes place stateside.
The most fully realized new episode is “Great Reef”, which takes place in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Shaggy and Scooby are there for a sand castle competition, while the rest of the group is on vacation. But, of course, trouble follows these young people wherever they go so there’s never any such thing as a “vacation”. When they arrive, Velma reads out loud from a travel book about prehistoric creatures rumored to still exist along the Great Barrier Reef.
History and prehistoric creatures are all well and good, but Shaggy and Scooby are far more concerned with the contemporary states of their stomachs. After Velma’s informative reading, Shaggy comments, “Anything before the creation of TV dinners boggles my mind.” She feeds her mind, these two feed their stomachs. On the other hand, Freddie is inordinately concerned with showing off. He pretended to be a master pilot during “Uncle Scooby and Antarticia!”, and his first act in Australia is to show off one-man volleyball skills. “I always win,” Freddie announces after his against-himself match. “Nice,” Velma replies. “But you also always lose.” In the Scooby-Doo hierarchy Velma is the brains, but Freddie is the action man who devises team plans. Lastly, Daphne doesn’t think or do much at all and is the least vocal member. She recoils, “These rocks are really gross,” after feeling some slimy coral. And that’s about all she adds to the series.
The Great Barrier Reef is apparently a busy region this time of year because there is also a “Beach-a-palooza” show going on at the same time as the sand castle competition. One band set to play this concert is none other than Smash Mouth and its tattooed lead singer, Steve Harwell, is animated, tattoos and all, for the episode. There ensues conflict between these two beach events because it is feared that rock music will destroy the sand masterpieces.
The true monster in this story is a guy who acts the part of a hippy guru. Underneath he is actually a jerk who hypnotizes teenagers into building a “reef-way” that connects New Guinea to Australia. Without fail, there is always a bad person in disguise, even if he or she is not dressed as a scary figure.
In the remaining episodes these faux-ghost busters face an underwater weirdo in “Uncle Scooby and Antarctica!”, a dragon in “Block – Long Hong Kong Terror,” and a golden phantom in “Gold Paw”. The laughing clown featured in “A Terrifying round with a Menacing Metallic Clown” is the scariest spook of them all. If you’ve ever had a fear of clowns, this cartoon may bring your phobia back up to the surface. This “Clown” show centers around a miniature golf tournament. With it we learn that Shaggy is not only an expert sand castle builder, but also a master at miniature golf, too. Good thing his crime fighting pals find him helpful because he doesn’t have any other marketable skills.
These new episodes look and feel a lot like the past Scooby-Doo stories in this long running cartoon. The show began in 1969, and is still going strong. The program has been updated a little, but not much. For example, Velma now has an omnipresent laptop to provide internet information she requires. In addition to modern on-screen animated musicians, like Smash Mouth, an MxPx song is used in the soundtrack of one episode, and Canada’s Simple Plan is heard doing a pop-punked take on the cartoon’s familiar theme song all the way through.
Scooby-Doo is so predictable, even pre-teens can guess each episode’s ending every time. It is not a who-done-it, however, but a why-done-it. Like the popular ‘70s detective show, Columbo, there is never any question who the criminal is. The fun was in watching Columbo figure out each crook’s motive. Granted, Scooby-Doo is not nearly as smart as Columbo. But this new collection reveals Scooby-Doo has not yet run out of ideas. Indeed, show concepts are seemingly as plentiful as Scooby-snacks; those staples of the Scooby and Shaggy diet.