It had been a little quite around the Great Dane with the goofy friend since the release of the last Scooby Doo live action movie, but just in time for Halloween, Warner Home Video has created a new TV movie for the franchise, taking an entirely new approach to the classic and beloved show. "Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins" is a prequel to all other series entries, for the first time uncovering the mystery of how the gang came together.
They were just a bunch of high school kids who didn't even like each other, when somehow they are being accused of having staged a morbid practical joke, featuring ghosts. As they are suspended from Coolsville High, they spend more time with each other and realize that they have one thing in common - their love for mysteries.
Around the same time, Scooby Doo, a great brown Dane in an animal shelter, is desperate to find a home. Every week his hopes are high for being adopted and he's doing his best to be lovable, but given his sheer size, he has a tendency to care people with his open affections. By accident he is left stranded one day and ends up in Shaggy's bedroom. The two hit it off instantly, sharing the same kind of humor, the same kind of wacky goofiness and of course, the same kind of appetite. Determined to find out what is really behind the high school prank that got them suspended, the gang decides to solve their own mystery instead of reading about them in books. It is the beginning of a legend...
Although created as a Cartoon Network show, "Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins" has a lot going for it. While it may take some adjustment to see Fred as brown-haired, and Shaggy sporting a full blown goatee, over the course of the film, these minor details actually fall away, as the mystery unfolds in the best Scooby Doo tradition. Going back to the beginnings of the fanchise, the filmmakers needed a new cast and found a pretty decent bunch that works well in pulling off the show. I only found Nick Palatas' portrayal of Shaggy a little over-the-top, as I always had the feeling he is trying too hard. He still has his moments and seems to settle into the character better over time. And then there is Hayley Kiyoko, whose portrayal of Velma is both dead-on and incredibly funny.
While the computer generated effects, including Scooby himself may not be of the bleeding edge quality found in Hollywood movies, it all works well enough for this charming production to create a sense enchanted amusement that makes the franchise so enjoyable.
The DVD spots a wonderful widescreen transfer of the movie that is free of blemishes and defects. Color reproduction is rich, rendering an image that is every bit as lush as those of the previous live action feature films. Hues are strong and vibrant throughout, creating a look somewhere between the cartoon and a live action movie -- a look that serves the film very well. Black levels are rock solid, giving the image good visual depth, which helps particularly during the spooky encounters.
A Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track brings up the rear on this release, rounding out the feature film nicely with a wide frequency response and great dynamics that truly enhance the overall experience.
The release contains a number of bonus features also, such as a behind-the-scenes featurette, a personality quiz, and a some video messages. You will surely also get your kicks out of a gag reel that is part of the release, or enjoy the Anarbor music video for the movie's theme song "You And I."
"Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins" is a great little addition to the long standing franchise and one that is perfectly suited to get a new generation of fans interested in the series. It is atmospheric, hip and mysterious enough to warrant a viewing, so give it a try with the entire family when you have a chance.