Category Archives: Warner Bros

DTV Wonders: Scooby-Doo in Arabian Knights

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Scooby-Doo as a franchise has been around since 1969 menaing it will turn 50 next year, and this film nearly killed it at age 25 in 1994.  A Pup Named Scooby-Doo ended in 1991 and no new Scooby-doo episodes were made until 2002 due to the franchise being saved in 1998 by Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.  Now as a fan of the franchise I had to check out what nearly killed it.

It starts with Scooby-Doo and Shaggy having a magic carpet taxi ride.  The animation is changed to better match the frame story, but that looks distractedly odd.  To make it worse no one’s mouth closes all the way, until they do in the frame stories.

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They arrive and get a job as a royal food tester.  They then eat everything, realize they are professional poison checkers and will die from it.  They then also realize the Caliph now has no food and will kill them for it.

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They accidently break his glasses and Shaggy hides in drag.  The blind Caliph mistakes Shaggy for a suitor and his future wife thinking he is beautiful, smart, and witty.  Clearly he needs a woman with the last two traits to complete him.  Shaggy’s brilliant plan is then to tell him a story so boring it will put him to sleep.  I suggest remembering that audience.  Shaggy thinks the most boring story is about Yogi Bear in a rip-off of Disney’s Aladdin.  There many good descriptions of Aladdin and Yogi-Bear but boring is not one of them.

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Frame story one is Aladdin (the Disney version) but gender flopped with Aliyah-Din.  I will definitely hate her more now that I have to constantly type that name.  Just replace the Blue genie with Yogi-Bear as a genie and this is what the film uses in 1994, two years after it came out.  It has many problems like most of Yogi’s jokes are him begging his master to wish for a picnic basket, which he does constantly.  The Prince (no name given) does a big speech about not falling for love at first sight, which is then exactly how he falls in love (lust to be exact) for Aliyah-Din.  Jafar’s counterpart has a boss who is an emerald voiced by Tony Jay.  He then disappears after one scene making him pointless and a waste of money in hiring Jay and animating it.  Its climax and twist ending is just awful.  Also it is just a dull rushed version of the Disney film, and overall it is not good and takes up way too much of the film.

It does have some redeeming qualities.  Aliyah-Din wears a light brown cloak mostly, and with how few female protagonists do that it is refreshingly different.  While this is clearly a coincidence it also has two genies (Yogi and Boo-Boo) just like the original story.

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The big help is Jafar’s counterpart Haman.  I legitimately like watching him.  I do not like the Jafar archetype, an obviously evil villain who is already high up and wants to go a little higher.   There is nothing about Haman’s appearance that indicates villain and for any viewers who have not seen the Disney film will probably be surprised he is the bad guy until it is revealed.  He also does not rely on a magic mind control staff.  He is simply good with his words and legitimately convincing that he is just trying to help, and many of his scenes from Disney’s Aladdin are an improvement because of that.  One reason Prince is not married is Haman is telling him he should not rush marriage choices, a good message that most people would listen to, and it fits his agenda of keeping the Sultan heirless to help him take over later.  How does he get Aliyah-Din to enter the cave?  He tells her the Sultan has a great disease and only the lamp can save him.  He tells her it very humbly and is very polite.  Even when he snaps he apologizes saying that his brief anger was due to his worry about the Sultan’s health (very reasonable).  While the villain cannot save the film he is a major benefit keeping it watchable.

This story takes up most of the runtime, and apparently Scooby-Doo in Arabian Knights lacks a certain thing promised, like Scooby-Doo characters.  Yogi-Bear should have been marketed.  Yikes Aliyah-din only takes up 34 minutes?  It felt way longer.  Well as expected this does not put the Caliphate to sleep.  Surprisingly he does love the story and is even more in love with Shaggy.  Shaggy now makes the right choice to tell him an unromantic comedy, and this is actually a big improvement and the only full part worth the watch.  It stars the mostly forgotten Hanna-Barberra character, Magilla Gorilla.

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This next part is simple good comedy with Magilla mistaking Sinbad’s raiding ship as a cruise ship.  They then hunt down various treasures with hijinks ensuing.  There are still two problems.  The previous story is just boring and by this time I am not interested any more.  Also the first treasure hunt is the longest and also not fun to watch.  The second one is the great one which involves Magilla and Sinbad being on a roller coaster with jewels all around it, as they try to steal the valuables while avoiding all the death threats.  This is also where Sinbad becomes a great comedic villain.  He has a good mix of legitimately caring for Magilla and the flaw of being more interested in the treasure.  The third voyage is mixed, but Sinbad keeps it funny.  When Sinbad loses everything I am kind of sad to see it, because I really enjoyed him and felt he was going through character development from a greedy criminal to a caring boss.

The film ends with the Caliph deciding the fun of the stories made him forget his hunger.  Shaggy and Scooby are made royal story tellers.

This film fails in context.  It should have been advertised as a Hanna-Barberra film, not Scooby-Doo who hardly has any role.  The Sinbad story should have been first.  Give the audience a short good comedy before the main event that way they could enjoy the better one and then at least go into the second one already happy.  If not that then greatly shorten the Aladdin story and make Sinbad more than a comedy by adding in a real arc for Sinbad.  That had plenty of potential for it, but it was only treated as a tacked on epilogue to the main event despite being vastly superior.  While not the worst Scooby-Doo movie I have seen it is the one I think the fewest people would like. It is really bad.

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Contested sequels: Batman Returns

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This film came out three years after Tim Burton’s first Batman movie.  It was nowhere near as successful, which usually happens with a sequel.  It is debated about whether it is darker than its predecessor or lighter than it, and whether it is a better film. The differing views are due to the completely different focus

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This movie is far from a rehash.  The most notable change is Batman’s increased role.  In the first film Batman is in the shadows, as Joker and Vicki Vale both take center stage over him, as it is told from the point of view of most Gothamites. This film gives Batman center focus along with the hidden motives of Penguin, Shrek, and Catwoman.  Only Batman, Alfred, and Gordon remain from the first film.  While this makes it not stick out like Batman does, it gives it a different feel as a more traditional non-origin superhero film, as Batman now dominate the screentime for the non villainous people of Gotham.

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Batman Returns is known for its dark tone best exlempified by Penguin’s parents throwing their newborn into the sewers on Christmas, however its tone is best shown by the opening action scene.  The villains are from a circus and look the part. One immediately pulls out a doll house, and then a machine gun barrel comes out and fires.  It is very cheesy and dark, and that is the best way to describe this film, dark cheese.  In the first film this is mostly limited to a few of Joker’s actions like killing his girlfriend off screen.  In the sequel Penguin put missiles on penguins to make them into kamikazes.  Many viewers find this dark, but others find it funny.

Batman Returns along with Batman are among the films I annually watch.  it depends on the year witch one I prefer partly, because they each give something different while still feeling like they are portraying the same Batman and Gotham.  One focuses on Batman and feels like he fights goofy  yet killer clowns, and the other focuses on normal people and have Batman face off against killer yet goofy clowns.

DTV Wonders Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase

 

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Scooby Doo on Zombie Island was my first written DTV Wonder, and now I return to the early Scooby-Doo movies, and I have as much nostalgia for this film as most of The Land Before Time films.  Jim Stenstrum is back as the director and Davis Doi is still producing and doing the story, but the writers are different. The main cast change is Grey DeLisle takes over as the voice of Daphne, a role which she had until 2013. This film came out in 2001. This is normally considered one of the best Scooby-Doo movies, and that is accurate to me.

The opening trailers are very good when they are about movies. The Harry Potter and he Sorcerer’s Stone trailer makes me want to watch it again.  The trailer to Pokémon 3 shows some cool Cyndaquil action, and the trailer to Grandma got run over by a Reindeer… well what else could it be? Then the toy commercials seem to have nothing to work with.

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At a strange lab some scientists talk about a laser. They are professor Kaufman (coincidently the name of one of my college’s buildings where I do most of my classes), Erik, and Bill. Besides Erik’s actor voicing Bucky the squirrel in The Emperor’s new Groove, none of their actors are important, which is fine for small roles like they have.  Apparently the laser is broken, but then it just turns on after Bill presses some buttons and keeps pressing them (he is probably the villain), and then the Laser shoots the Phantom Virus into the world. While I have named him the movie does not until later giving the viewers a mysterious unknown villain.  He is also able to absorb computer data and make electronics come to life as his minions so it ends with a close up of his pointy chin, as the professor and his students are trapped.  This results in disappointment when the Mystery Machine is shown with the characters expositioning about their fried Erik making a computer game based off them instead of more of the college.

They arrive at “State University.”  I presume it is named for its founder, John State. They meet the Red Herring, Officer Wembley (there is zero chance he had access to the computers necessary), and he immediately worries they are pranksters.  The next few scenes give exposition with some comic relief mixed in to keep the kiddies entertained like Scooby and Shaggy nearly eating radioactive tomatoes.  Both Kaufman and Erik ask for help, and it is revealed they escaped the virus as the electromagnet is his kryptonite, as it hurts his pixels.  Also it is mentioned he can wreck all of Earth’s technology (sadly it will not be explored).  The laser can move objects into the computer world and apparently vice versa, as a Virus was beamed in.  They use this for making computer game instead of ending The Great Pacific Garbage island

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We then have a bad mythology gag. When Fred says to split up Scooby and Shaggy leave before he says who will go with whom.  Shaggy’s response is “Like we ever do it any other way.” In the first two seasons more often than not it was Scooby, Shaggy, and Velma in a group. Well after that Scooby and Shaggy proceed to eat the cafeteria dry, while Velma, Fred, and Daphne have a showdown with the phantom virus, and interestingly thanks to the magnet this time the gang is chasing the monster instead of the reverse.  They are then caught by Officer Wembly who points out that they are in a restricted area and Kaufman never gave them hall passes.  Maybe Kaufman is the villain.  Well in what is probably he best part of the movie’s humor the phantom virus chases Scooby and Shaggy, which includes them using a robot against him (virus forgot he can control), and electrocuting him.

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Then they electrocute him again.

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Despite being able to control technology, hide in dust, and shoot lasers from his fingers, he seems surprisingly playful and inept, since this is not his world.  They run by the rest resulting in the whole gang getting stuck trying to fin him. Then the laser is powered by a lab cat hand (further ruling Wembley out) beams them into the computer game.  It is then revealed by Erik that the only way for them to get out is for them to get past all ten levels. The problem is they could still beam in a guide to the game, a walkthrough, or supplies.

Level one is the moon level, where it is quickly established that they can still feel pain there, and presumably die.  The story gets episodic here, as it is about them being chased by moon goons and the phantom virus, as in each level this is what they have to do in order to find a box of Scooby snacks.  The story gets episodic because of it, and this is quite dull except for showing the phantom virus to now be a much larger threat, as he has allies and all of the magnets are stuck in the real world.  Why put them down?

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The second level is much improved.  They are moved to the Roman Coliseum.  To make things worse a lion has the Scooby snacks, but he for some reason puts it on the ground.  After a good chase between the gladiators and Scooby and Shaggy; Fred successfully bull fights the lion into the pen. In a chase scene that then makes no sense if you consider the timing, Shaggy and Scooby distract the gladiators by disguising themselves as…

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Assuming Caligula was emperor at the time him being a dog is actually believable.  They then get to the hardest level, three out of ten.  Apparently to pass this prehistoric level the player must wander a huge forests where everything is trying to kill you, find the scooby snacks on an erupting volcano, have no knowledge beforehand that they are there, have the only clue being a drawing in a random cave, which the player may not go into, deal with it turning dark, and do it before the volcano erupts.  This sounds insanely difficult, and I am wondering why it is level three instead of at least eight.  It is actually the best level to watch and it begins with the phantom virus on a T-Rex.

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They escape it the same way as they did in The Land Before Time VI (which came out three years before this film, so I always assumed they had just watched it for inspiration), by hiding in the thick trees where it could not go.  They eventually reach the volcano by wooly mammoth riding (apparently Erik programmed them to smell bad).  Scooby heroically goes to save a baby pterodactyl, which it turns out was on top of the Scooby snacks.

Then the film montages the next six levels, which all look considerably easier than level three until level ten.  They are in a city, and they eventually find their older counterparts.

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I have no memory of Scooby wearing a red collar anywhere else, and Velma looks identical, but this is cool to see, as they meet Erik’s programed characters, especially how different their eyes are.  In a nice reference they meet them in a malt shop, as most episodes of the first two seasons begin with the gang reading a newspaper in a malt shop.  Fortunately they also know where the scooby snacks are.  Apparently they are supposed to just wander a huge city until they get to the theme park where they are.  Why not just make the theme park the whole level, as it is clearly big enough?  Was this a plan to sell guide books, as this just sounds like boring grinding. They find the phantom virus in a batting cage, and then the creeper and many old Scooby-Doo villains that even I am unfamiliar with.

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At least the tar monster later showed up in Scooby-Doo 2 Monsters Unleashed.  To make things worse they are all real monsters in cyberspace instead of normal people in masks.  They then split up and have some surprisingly well written and good scenes with their older counterparts as they outwit the monsters to escape… twice. They then meet up at the arcade where the virus and Scooby snacks are, and it turns out Shaggy still has the magnet (that damages cyber creatures), and it affects the cyber mystery gang. How did he not feel that huge thing, and it should also affect the area and inanimate objects. In a finely done scene Fred says they should just use the magnet on the virus, and get the cyber gang to stay away outside the arcade.  Instead Fred gets cocky and slips on a ball, and the magnet falls under a game. To make things worse the virus makes the game come to life, and its wires grab Fred. Now the virus is shooting lasers everywhere and controlling the objects to fly everywhere. It is amazing how much more intimidating he has gotten throughout the movie. The cyber gang can tell something is wrong, but then the monsters from earlier chase them away except cyber Scooby who goes inside of the arcade.

Fred gives him a plan which is for Cyber Scooby to mock the virus distracting him, while real Scooby gets the Scooby snacks.  Shagy’s comment “…I’ve never seen Scooby acting so brave.” still bugs me. What about in level three? Well Scooby grabs them, and that defeats all the villains, and lets them go home.

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I cannot say the different Mystery Incs leaving is sad, but it is a nice end to the main part of the film. They arrive back to solve the mystery of… who created the virus. Frankly I would think it could be a Russian hacker, and it is hard to still care about it compared to the Cyber space story.  Fred points out all the baseball references and Erik shows signs of guilt by fleeing instead of claiming to be framed.  He is arrested and the movie ends at a malt shop as a nice call back to the original series and level 10. After that lots and lots of ads for the video game.

As an adult this film is overly episodic and lacks focus.  It makes little sense as well.  As a kid this movie is stupendous.  Everything about it is amazing, and all my siblings loved it too.  Since children are the target audience I think that weighs more, so this is a great film, but without nostalgia I doubt any adult fans will like it.