In this sixth entry in the series of direct-to-video films, we find the Scooby Gang taking a little trip south of the border — surprisingly, not to score drugs — where our heroes end up embroiled in a real estate scheme involving the urban legend known as El Chupacabra. Now, when viewing Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico, you must take two things into consideration: one, that the writers clearly didn’t even bother Googling what the hell El Chupacabra was; and two, what they know about Latin America was most likely gained through their vague memories of watching Dora the Explorer.
Once again, we find the members of Mystery Incorporated going on vacation — one must assume that the stress of catching fake vampires requires major downtime to recuperate — and this time, it’s Fred’s (Frank Welker) pen-pal Alejo Otero (Eddie Santiago) who has offered the Scooby Gang the opportunity to visit him and his family in Veracruz, Mexico. This brings up an old question: “Where in the hell are Fred and the gang’s parents during all these adventures?” Just how old are they supposed to be, anyway? Are we to assume that they can easily cross the border without parental consent? Legalities of crossing the American/Mexican border aside, our band of mystery solvers have bigger problems on their hands than border restrictions, as it turns out that Alejo’s family resort — he’s rich and has a nice hotel — is being harmed by poor tourist trade due to attacks by the terrifying Chupacabra. Velma (Nicole Jaffe) helpfully informs the group that he’s “Mexico’s version of the Bigfoot,” which, of course, he isn’t. El Chupacabra is said to be a three- to four-foot-high reptile-like creature that lives on the blood of goats; he is nothing like Bigfoot.
We must, of course, also set aside the fact that sightings of El Chupacabra would more likely than not boost tourist trade, not kill it, but regardless of ethnic stereotypes and cultural misappropriations — and there is a lot of that going on in this movie — our heroes smell a mystery, and soon they’re doing their best to get to the bottom of their friend’s dilemma. The problem here is that there isn’t much of a mystery to solve because, right off the bat, we learn that a shady man named Señor Fuente (Castulo Guerra) has been trying to get Alejo’s mother Doña Dolores (Rita Moreno) to sell their land ever since her husband passed away. Now, this guy turns out to be a red herring — in a subplot that goes nowhere — but throughout this adventure, it’s clear that human agency is involved: the “Go home” threat is written in poor Spanish across the side of the Mystery Machine, someone cuts the van’s brake line, and Daphne (Heather North) is briefly kidnapped by the curator of the local museum (things that are unmistakably not the work of an urban legend).
So who is behind all these shenanigans? Could it be Alejo’s brother Luis (Jesse Borrego), who seems eager to sell the ancestral lands and was also missing during a big El Chupacabra chase sequence? Or could it be his wife Charlene (Candi Milo), whose Southern accent is so over the top that Dolly Parton would be telling her to tone it down a bit? But what about theme park mogul Mr. Smiley (Rip Taylor), whose billboards we see promoting his upcoming attractions? The answer to this leads to my biggest problem with the Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico, which is the reveal that it was, in fact, Mr. Smiley was behind it all, yet aside from those billboards, we’ve never met him, not until the big unmasking at the end. That is not how you do a mystery, people! To add insult to injury, we learn that Charlene is also working for Smiley — at one point she disguised herself as a museum curator so as to kidnap Daphne, and she was also the one wearing the El Chupacabra costume — and it is all so bloody lazy. Hell, the film was supposed to be about this “Monster of Mexico,” but the writers forget about El Chupacabra for the bulk of the film’s run-time, so instead, we spend more time with our gang fleeing from animatronic stone statues and angry tourists, and not the title creature.
Note: Once again, the technology on display for the villain’s nefarious plot is beyond ludicrous; we get an animatronic eagle — one that talks with a horrible Spanish accent — that somehow is able to frame the Scooby Gang for temple desecration so as to get the tourists to chase them. Then, Daphne and Velma ride a flying living statue of an Aztec god, as Fred is accosted by frisky frescoes of jaguars, all while Alejo and Luis are forced to dodge the feet of a forty-foot stone giant.
• Scooby-Doo has his first love interest since Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders.
• El Chupacabra is not of Mexican origin, but from Puerto Rico.
• This movie takes place during the “Day of the Dead” so, of course, we see kids carving Jack-o-Lanterns and wearing Frankenstein masks. Sigh.
• Those frisky frescoes of jaguars, which take a liking to Fred, attack the animatronic eagle in our gang’s defence. This makes no sense because all these theme park attractions were being operated by Mr. Smiley. Did these stone jaguars somehow develop sentience?
• The idea of El Chupacabra being Charlene in a monster suit is beyond insulting. We see the creature leap great distances, as if it was Mighty Joe Young, and toss heavy headstones as if they weighed nothing. The height of the monster is explained by showing us she was wearing stilts, but during the big final fight, it reacts in pain to Daphne stepping on its foot.
• The local theater is showing the previous Scooby-Doo movie The Legend of the Vampire. Nice.
• We get two Wizard of Oz references; at one point, while hunting for El Chupacabra, Daphne comments “Coyotes, jaguars, and boars, oh my!” and when Mr. Smiley is uncovered operating a projection of a ghost, in another attempt to fool the Otero family into selling, he says, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
As a Scooby-Doo mystery, Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico fails on pretty much every level, with the villain reveal being a pretty big cheat, and though the animation was decent — an improvement over the last entry, at least — the plot and character interactions were just beyond the pale terrible, which made the film hard to watch at times. This would be the last time the original voice cast would be together, with Heather North joining Don Messick in that big voice booth in the sky, so it’s rather sad that this last adventure would be so lame. Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico is easily one of the lowest points in the history of the Scooby-Doo movies.
You can find all my reviews of the various Scooby-Doo shows and movies collected here: The Wonderful World of Scooby-Doo.
Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico (2003)
Movie Rank - 4/10
With this entry, we have to suffer through terrible ethnic stereotypes, ridiculously fake monsters that are all in service of a mystery that cheats at every turn. If you need to skip a Scooby-Doo movie this one should be near the top of your list.