Monday, October 06, 2008


Written by Musgo Del Jefe

Scooby-Doo! Where are you? Or should I say "What's happened to you?" This October brings what has become an annual event - the release of a Scooby-Doo direct-to-video release. This year's movie, Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King is the 12th release of its kind since the 1998 comeback, Scooby-Doo On Zombie Island. Last year at this time I was heaping praise upon Chill Out, Scooby-Doo. Today I'm asking these son-of-a-guns, "What the heck happened?"

Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King starts at the Coolsville (c'mon already) Halloween Carnival. Shaggy and Scooby upset a magician, the Amazing Krudsky, by exposing him as a fake. Krudsky decides to get his "revenge" by becoming the Goblin King. Krudsky sets about capturing a faerie who will lead him to the goblin where he can steal the scepter and get the "power of Halloween." I'm not even making any of this up, so far. This is the worst character motivation I've seen since The Adventures Of Pluto Nash.

Shaggy and Scooby end up in a magic shop in the film's first nod to Harry Potter. It is here that the shop owner informs them of their mission to save Coolsville and their friends by stopping the Goblin King. In the film's second nod to Harry Potter (when in doubt, steal from what's popular with the kids these days, right?) they are taken to the goblin land on a train that might as well have Knight Bus written on it. As we follow Shaggy and Scooby into the faerie world, we sadly realize that Fred, Daphne and Velma will be making nothing more than a guest appearance in this film.

The interaction of the whole cast is one thing that made these later movies so interesting. Even the recurring character of Del Chillman gave the older characters someone interesting to play off of. Getting back to just Scooby and Shaggy leaves only two predictable jokes - the two are either really scared or really hungry. And sometimes both.

The quest to save the faerie world still could have been entertaining. Dropped into this strange world, Shaggy and Scooby could easily have followed a Wizard Of Oz-type plot, making friends along the way to battling the Goblin King and saving both the faerie world and their own world. But the plot doesn't choose to become that interesting.

In one of the better visual jokes of the film, the two take a magic potion to sneak closer to the Goblin King to steal his scepter. Scooby turns into Velma and Shaggy turns into Daphne. Unfortunately, the scene is wasted. In what quickly becomes cheap and lazy plot turns, the two are revealed to be themselves before they can steal the scepter. Oddly, the meeting they are sneaking into looks exactly like the Pagan meeting in the Dragnet movie.

This race to get the scepter by midnight is hollow. There isn't a lot of suspense and it's unclear what the consequences are for not getting it by midnight. The chase turns into the Scooby-Doo! tradition of the musical chase-montage. This time it's a song called "Goblin Oogie Boogie" by James Belushi. Sigh.

The voice casting is top rate and should have made this a more entertaining feature. In addition to the usual voice cast, they've added Hayden Panettiere as an annoying faerie, Wallace Shawn, Jay Leno, Tim Curry, Lauren Bacall, James Belushi, and Wayne Knight as the put-upon magician, Krudsky (not too far from his Jurassic Park character). If only the money spent on this talent had been used on writers!

The movie continues with seemingly one dead end after another. But at each turn, "magic" is used to get them out of their trouble. It's really frustrating. I won't reveal the end but suffice it to say, there isn't a "mystery" here. That's the real problem with the whole picture. I loved the original series and most of the direct-to-video releases because they existed in more of a "reality." The monsters were guys in masks - the phantom was the mayor. Here, the magician is fake but the goblins and faeries are real. The characters just don't work well in that format and it's been proven over their history. I wanted the fun of "Mystery, Inc." that I found in Chill Out, Scooby-Doo. What I got was a misguided film that tries to force its scares and instead just bores. This series has shown that it can appeal to all ages and this effort may not end up appealing to any.

The DVD has a bonus feature called "Scooby-Doo: You Believe In Magic?" that shows how some basic magic tricks are done. It's an interesting diversion especially considering how uncharacteristically cruel Scooby and Shaggy were to The Amazing Krudsky.

I've been entertained enough by this series in my life to know that even when I'm faced with Scrappy-Doo, eventually they'll return to their roots. Until then, I'll wait for release number 13 next fall - hoping we'll leave Coolsville behind and just return to the mysteries.


Written by Pollo Misterioso

After making its run in the festival market, including Sundance Film festival, and a limited release in theaters in November 2007, the Academy Award nominated documentary War/Dance has been spreading a powerful message on the simple ways that music can uplift the wariest of souls, in the most bleak situations.

Northern Uganda has been in a state of war for the past twenty years. The rebels are attacking the local villages, killing innocent people, and abducting children to become part of their army. Families are forced into refugee camps; unable to return to their homes they are forced to start a new life. In War/Dance there is hope amongst the turmoil and that lies with the children and the music they create.

The children’s school, Patongo, is able to compete for the first time in the National Music Competition in Kampala. Here the students participate in eight different categories of song and dance, including a traditional dance that is native to their tribe and an original composition. War/Dance beautifully intertwines three children’s stories and their relationship to the war and the music that inspires them during this turmoil.

Nancy is a fourteen-year-old dancer who has had to take care of her siblings since the death of her father and abduction of her mother. Crying to the camera, she recounts how scared she was the night that the rebels came for her mother. Resilient, she understands what she must do for her family and she turns to music and dance saying that when she dances “it feels like home.”

Dominic plays the xylophone with a passion that is tangible from the screen. He had been a child soldier for the rebels and has escaped to the camp where he lives with his mother and plays xylophone with the school. The stories he tells are the horrifying tales that cannot be avoided and should not go unnoticed, haunting after the film has finished.

Rose is a beautiful and strong thirteen-year-old that lives with her aunt because her parents were killed by the rebel forces. She looks into the camera with eyes that have seen some of the most gruesome aspects of war. Struggling to balance the work she must do for her family and music, she finds solace in music and dance.

This film is powerful in the way the directors have chosen to capture the children. Placed in front of the camera, they speak with an honesty and innocence that cannot be scripted. They are the ones that tell this story, opening and ending the film with narration from Dominic. This is their story and it needs to be told. Through the young eyes of these children, their stories are just some of the examples of what has happened to thousands like them.

When the children reach the competition, they are nervous and feel inferior to the schools from South Uganda. In the three days that they are in Kampala, some of the most touching moments come when they visit the city: seeing what city life is like, drinking soda, and watching airplanes. At the competition, we become more than just viewers of this film, but an audience to their performance that they have been working so hard for. We are rooting for them, to restore hope in these children.

War/Dance is a troubling and deeply moving documentary. Not only have the filmmakers captured something that needs to be documented, but they have weaved together a story of triumph and despair that leaves the audience in tears. Amidst this heavy despair the joy that comes across the children’s faces when they play, when they sing, and when they dance becomes more than just hope for the children, but it restores faith in the human spirit.

The documentary is distributed by Shine Global and can be purchased from their website.