In this eighth entry in the series of Scooby-Doo direct-to-video movies, we find the members of Mystery Incorporated venturing to the paradise state of Hawaii where we will see, as sure as shooting, a mass amount of cultural insensitivity around every turn. In 2003’s Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico, we had the misappropriation of El Chupacabra — it being a Puerto Rican urban legend, not Mexican — and now with Aloha, Scooby-Doo! it looks like the writers didn’t even bother to do any research on Polynesian gods or monsters at all, but instead, they just created everything from whole cloth.
In one of the rare moments of fiscal responsibility, the writers of this movie explain that Mystery Incorporated had received an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii, thanks to a company called “Goha Aloha” who want Daphne (Grey Griffin) to design new swimwear for them. Shortly after arriving — though not before some “Come visit Hawaii” travelogue moments — the gang learn of a monster attack at the location of the “Big Kahuna of Hanahuna Surfing Contest,” where a young woman named Snookie (Tia Carrere) had been carried off into the jungle by the tiny demonic minions of the evil spirit Wiki-Tiki, where she would apparently be sacrificed to the island’s volcano. Local surfer Little Jim (Ray Bumatai) believes that the spirit is angry with the fact that the surfing contest has been opened to mainlanders, instead of for natives only, as had been the tradition for centuries.
Nobody has ever accused the writers of Scooby-Doo of cultural sensitivity, but ten minutes of research would have pulled forth numerous Hawaiian deities and monsters to use, so what is the point of Wiki-Tiki? Now, I’m not calling the writers of this movie racist as such, that sounds a little harsh, but what I am calling them is very, very lazy, and things kind of go downhill from here — not helped by voice actress Grey Griffin doing double duty as local shawoman Auntie Mahina with her terrible faux Hawaiian accent. But my key complaint with Aloha, Scooby-Doo! isn’t about the show’s poor track record with ethnicities, but instead with the incredibly obvious mystery on hand. The show does trot out various suspects for the Scooby Gang to ponder over, but none of them really pass the smell test. First, we have Jared Moon (Adam West), the man who hired Daphne to design swimwear but is now making a killing selling anti-Wiki-Tiki amulets, and then there is Mayor Molly Quinn (Teri Garr) who is responsible for opening the surfing contest to mainlanders and is also running for re-election. Next on the suspect list is real estate developer Ruben Laluna (Tom Kenny), who is trying to build “Coconut Beach Condominiums” on supposedly sacred ground.
Now, on a positive note, these direct-to-video movies have been treating Daphne a lot better than in some of the earlier runs of the series; we do get her accidentally falling backward through a secret passageway, but this movie takes it as a positive, and she really shines when Fred (Frank Welker) suggests that one of them should enter the surfing contest to lure out Wiki-Tiki, and as Daphne is the group’s best surfer, she quickly volunteers. Later, while crossing a rickety rope bridge that is right out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, she uses her dental floss to swing herself across the gorge when the bridge breaks, and later she shreds some massive waves as she takes on Wiki-Tiki during the movie’s grand finale.
As mentioned, there really isn’t much of a mystery, with both the Mayor and realtor having more to lose from a monster harassing the locals than anyone else — tourists and voters not being too keen on evil spirits and human sacrifices — but our intrepid gang of mystery solvers has to at least go through the motions of sussing out the real culprit. Manu Tuiama (Mario Lopez), the top native surfer and boyfriend of the missing Snookie, offers to take the gang to his Auntie Mahina, the local shawoman who lives deep in the jungle, but while trekking through the dense foliage, Manu disappears, seemingly grabbed by Wiki-Tiki as another human sacrifice. They eventually find Manu’s aunt, who directs them to search the tunnels beneath the volcano, and the gang then spends the next few minutes running from the little tiki minions or Wiki-Tiki himself.
• Velma (Mindy Cohn) sliding under a slowly closing temple door and reaching back through to grab her fallen glasses is a nice homage to the opening scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
• The tunnels lead to a massive ancient temple beneath the volcano, which is pretty damn idiotic as no person in their right mind would build a temple under a volcano, active or not.
• They discover a large device that dumps water into the volcano’s core to cause steam, which causes the locals to believe the volcano is no longer dormant.
• The Scooby Gang finds themselves in a portion of the temple that is full of snakes, a clear reference to the Well of Souls from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
• Shaggy (Casey Kasem) and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) come across the skeleton of Gilligan from the television show Gilligan’s Island.
As a surprise to everyone (everyone that is, except Velma), it’s revealed that Wiki-Tiki was Manu and that he had faked his abduction. It had been Manu wearing the elaborate Wiki-Tiki costume, and the little tiki demons were remote-controlled robots built by Manu’s partner-in-crime Snookie, whose real name is Pamela Waewa, who is not just a surfer groupie, but also an expert in rocket sciences and robotics. Under her real name, they had been purchasing all the land that the terrified locals were rapidly selling off, and they would have gotten away with it too, if not for those meddling mainlanders.
• Pouring water into a dormant volcano to fake it being active is not a geologically sound idea, and it certainly wouldn’t cause the earthquakes that occurred throughout this movie.
• Manu explains that their real estate scam came about because being the “Big Kahuna” doesn’t bring in much money, but doesn’t being an expert in rocket science and robotics open up better career options other than faking evil spirits?
• Wiki-Tiki is seen breathing fireballs, but Manu’s costume clearly had no way to generate such an effect.
Aloha, Scooby-Doo! will go down as one of the lesser entries in the direct-to-video Scooby-Doo market, and though the animation is fairly solid — nice vibrant colours to depict the beauty of Hawaii — as well as the Scooby Gang as a whole being all written quite well (with Daphne the stand out while Fred may be coming across a little too thick-headed at times), the mystery is a bit of a dud, and it left me rather cold. To this movie, I have only one thing to say: Aloha!
You can find all my reviews of the various Scooby-Doo shows and movies collected here: The Wonderful World of Scooby-Doo.
Aloha, Scooby-Doo! (2005)
Movie Rank - 5/10
Hawaii has a rich history, one full of mythical deities and monsters, but the writers of Aloha, Scooby-Doo! couldn’t be bothered to use any of it, and as fun as all those Indiana Jones references were, and I did catch myself chuckling, what we were still left with was a rather tepid mystery with some rather awkward racial issues.