"Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire" Blu-ray: Second Verse, Same as the First
The shortest summary review for Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire is that it’s an above average episode of the original TV show with a few unnecessary songs thrown in. (I find it infinitely amusing that theatrical animated movies have spent years trying to escape the musical genre, but we seem to have reached a point where adding some tunes to an animated film is now seen as a selling point.) Fans of the franchise will find much to like and little to scold, while newcomers will get a good introduction to why those meddling kids and their dog continue to get away with it.
The basics of a Scooby-Doo story are so ingrained into the pop culture consciousness that you probably already know the plot to this movie because it’s pretty much the same as all the rest. The Scooby gang arrives someplace new, stumbles onto a spooky and seemingly supernatural mystery, searches for clues and investigates suspects, and then chases and gets chased until truths are revealed, villains are unmasked, and recriminations (“I would have gotten away with it, too, if not for those meddling kids!”) are voiced. Roll credits, start working on the next one. It’s really not much of a criticism to say that any Scooby-Doo story is formulaic, since the formula is time-tested and continues to be surprisingly resilient. In Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire, the gang goes on vacation to the Southern bayou town of Petit Chauve Sourie Ville for Vampire Palooza, a chintzy festival of all things vampire.
The spooky and seemingly supernatural mystery is the seeming revival of the vampire lord Valdronya, who also steals the fabulously valuable jewels of the vampire bride amid dark hints that he’ll soon be seeking out a nubile young cutie to wear them for their prescribed function. This triggers guilt-plagued hand wringing from Vincent Van Helsing, a financially struggling vampire scholar and descendant of Abraham Van Helsing who was charged with keeping Valdronya imprisoned in a glass coffin. Meanwhile, the sleazy Vampire Palooza organizer Lita Rutland smells money in the panic, religious fanatic Jesper Poubelle seeks to whip up anti-vampire sentiments for his own more worldly reasons, and…well, who knows what the troupe of vampire performance artists (amusingly dubbed “Fangenschanz”) is up to, but their leader Bram is trying to put the moves on Daphne so you can bet he’s up to no good. The feature uses its longer running time to try and give each of these characters a decent motivation to be the one behind the fright mask (because surely a fright mask it must be), which in turn makes the formulaic nature of the proceedings a bit more interesting. The movie can’t resist the occasional wink at the audience, but some of those winks provide the most amusing bits of the movie, like Scooby and Shaggy pointing out how often they’re told “there’s absolutely nothing to fear” despite the number of times this statement has been completely wrong, or when Velma mutters a little indignantly, “I’m pure of heart. Does anyone ever think of kidnapping me?”
The other element Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire adds to try and freshen things up is a handful of show tunes, which in turn allows them to bill this movie as the first Scooby-Doo musical ever. Unlike the musical interludes from the earlier TV shows, these are full blown musical numbers where everyone in the cast will burst into song and dance for no apparent reason. The “no apparent reason” part is one reason why Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire isn’t a very good musical, since the best musicals are the ones where song and dance is the only outlet that can really express a story point or a character’s emotional state. In Scooby-Doo! Music of the Vampire, the songs really just serve to pad the run time, since almost every single one can be replaced with a few lines of dialogue without any loss. Fangenschanz’s first performance is one notable exception, since the stage show setting makes the song-and-dance routine feel more organic. Also reasonably enjoyable is a later duet between Bram and Daphne tangling in a beautifully animated tango as he tries to tempt her to give up the Scoobies to run away with him. On the other hand, I was impressed for the wrong reasons by “Scooby and Me,” which starts as a forgettable paean from Shaggy to his canine friend before segueing into a big montage of all the characters singing about whatever’s on their minds in a Les Miserables-style polyphony. The rest of the songs in the movie are forgettable, but “Scooby and Me” is nonsensical on top of that.
The animation is on par with the other recent Scooby-Doo movies, being a big step up from the classic Hanna-Barbera series, and even from the well-animated Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated (the main cast members all reprising their roles here, although Mindy Cohn doesn’t seem to sing for Velma). The Blu-ray of the movie looks and sounds great, with the 5.1 DTS-HD soundtrack goosing the spooks at the right moments and making the music sound good at least on a purely technical level. The only bonus features are karaoke-style sing along videos and trailers, which are present on the Blu-ray and the DVD included in the combo pack. There is also an Ultraviolet digital copy included, for those willing to endure the multiple hurdles to using it.
The fact that Warner Bros. keeps making these videos suggests that there’s still audience for them, and the fact is that I ended up enjoying this movie more than I thought I would. Barring the bits where I phased out during the musical numbers, of course.