27th Jul2018

‘Daphne & Velma’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Sarah Jeffery, Sarah Gilman, Vanessa Marano, Courtney Dietz, Stephen Ruffin, Fray Forde, Evan Castelloe, Daniel Salyers, Brian Stepanek, Adam Faison, Arden Myrin | Written by Kyle Mack, Caitlin Meares | Directed by Suzi Yoonessi

daphne-velma-dvd

Futuristic robots, crazy gadgets and the brightest students of tomorrow are common sights at Ridge Valley High. Home to their newest student, the smart and capable Daphne Blake (Sarah Jeffery) and her online bestie, the tech-savvy hipster Velma Dinkley (Sarah Gilman). But not everything is as innocent as they seem on campus, as mysterious disappearances begin to plague the top-ranked students. Once cheery and full of life, kids are coming back lifeless and a shell of who they once were. Can these two teens get along in real-life and encourage each other to break down their inner weaknesses, and save the town from an eerie downfall?

Despite the general critical malaise when it comes to Scooby-Doo live-action movies, the idea of a prequel to the classic adventures, told through the lens of millennial culture, sounded incredibly interesting. After all, Scooby-Doo has never REALLY been modernised to such an extent, yes we’ve had new cartoons but they always maintained the status quo of the long-held format. What Daphne & Velma does to both honor that format but update it for today’s audience is probably the most intriguing thing about this kid-friendly flick for long-time (i.e. older) Scooby-Doo fans.

Produced by former Disney star Ashley Tisdale, Daphne & Velma feels very much like a product of Tisdale’s former employers, in fact had this not debuted on home formats you’d be hard-pressed to not think this is a Disney Channel movie: it’s flatly filmed like a TV production and features performances that are as saccharine as any house of mouse show. However it’s not all bad. Thankfully whilst the cast act and feel very squeaky-clean, the characters of Daphne and Velma – Daphne in particular – offer something new. Velma is an incredibly strong and independent teen, as she was in the cartoons of old – professing science over the supernatural and kicking ass when she needs too. But Daphne, well that’s another story…

The Daphne of this film could not be further from the original. Starting out as a happy-go-lucky teen, she soon realises that all has not been as it seems and strikes out on her own, even pulling Velma out of her shell, when she starts seeing “weird things” happening at Ridge Valley High. This Daphne is a girl who wants to face what’s happening to her fellow students, who wants to confront who or what is controlling Ridge Valley High. And she does it with strength and determination – gone is the damsel in distress Daphne from the cartoons and instead we have a girl who knows what she wants and goes and gets it. It’s easily the most refreshing, and interesting, aspect of the film as a whole.

Yet for all the character changes, the updating of the familiar Scooby-Doo tropes (the bad guy here uses modern tech instead of rubber masks etc), Daphne & Velma is still very much a Scooby-Doo movie. It still pays homage to what has come before but without pandering to that past. The titular characters dress as there cartoon counterparts did, even joking about the odd colour schemes of Daphne’s wardrobe; they still stumble over clues; the film still throws in those creepy character red-herrings; but there’s no relying on the rest of the Scooby gang, no Fred to save the day or Scooby to accidentally solve the crime… Though the crime is still solved with that oh-so-familiar refrain from the villain “I would’ve got away with it, if it wasn’t for you pesky kids!” Marking a perfect end to a film that, unlike a myriad of reboots and reduxes, actually succeeds in updating a classic for a new generation.

I never thought I’d say this about a direct-to-DVD Scooby-Doo movie but Hollywood could learn a lot about how to reboot franchises from Daphne & Velma.

Daphne & Velma is available on DVD now.

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