Okay, no one expected Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed to be Citizen Kane, but, boy, does it blow! As a sequel to the popular filmization of the Hanna-Barbera kiddie TV cartoon favorite, this bellicose, straining mess doesn't even work on the simplest diversionary level. This time, the Mystery, Inc. gang is hot on the trail of a masked villain who wants to take over the city of Coolsville with a monster machine that can reproduce their classic foes, like the 10,000-Volt Ghost, Captain Cutler and the Creeper.

Hardcore fans will be relieved to know that nothing has changed. Velma (Linda Cardellini) is still the know-it-all nerd; nubile Daphne (Sarah Michelle Gellar) gets all the cute guys and clothes (although her orange and purple feathered ensembles turn her into Small Bird); Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) remains the bumbling idiot, and Fred (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) is still, well, blond. Which leaves Scooby himself, although one wishes they'd leave him out entirely, so unappetizing is the animatronic way he's been created (like that repellent Kangaroo Jack), neither fish nor fowl nor cartoon, and just kinda creepy. The monsters themselves are the usual tired compendium of CGI effects and rote Darth Vader voices and attitudes.

A couple of new characters help to enliven things, although only minimally. Alicia Silverstone seems to enjoy herself, playing a bitchy newscaster, who gets into it with Daphne ("What is it you do for Mystery, Inc., anyway?"). The always-welcome Seth Green appears as a diminutive yet diabolical museum curator. He and Cardellini have a tentative, bespectacled romance that proves the most fitfully interesting plot development.

The kids at my screening seemed particularly bored and restless. Parents of the world, my heart goes out to you.

--David Noh