Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School (1988) – Made for TV Movie – Directed by Charles A. Nichols – Starring Don Messick, Casey Kasem, and Frank Welker.
SCOOBY-DOO AND THE GHOUL SCHOOL is a dreadful piece of junk.
What makes it terrible is not the absence of Fred, Daphne, and Velma, or the inclusion of Scrappy-Doo (I’ll save my defense of Scrappy for another time), or the too ugly to be believed six-wheel van, or Shaggy’s red t-shirt, or the presence of the daughters of actual monsters.
No, what makes GHOUL SCHOOL so dreadful is the over-abundance of bad puns and immature writing. There’s no cleverness, no wit, no intelligence here. Heck, there’s not even a mystery, just a never-ending series of running gags and bad puns. If Scooby and Shaggy were actual actors, you’d accuse them of doing this movie solely for the paycheck. In the opening scenes, Shaggy and Scooby are afraid of the monstrous children at the Ghoul School, because even though Shaggy signed a contract to be the new gym teacher at Miss Grimwood’s Finishing School for Girls (a contract signing witnessed by Scooby and Scrappy), none of them apparently did any research on the place, as they failed to realize that there would be ghouls at the girls’ school.
(I am tempted to say that pulled into 2014, this now reads as a wonderful piece of social commentary on the state of modern academics, where teachers are so desperate for good paying jobs they’ll take anything anywhere just because someone puts a contract in front of them, but I won’t.)
Shaggy and Scooby are freaked out by all of the ghouls: Sibella (daughter of Dracula), Elsa (daughter of Frankenstein), Winnie (daughter of Frankenstein), Phantasma (daughter of the Phantom), and Tanis (daughter of the Mummy). If any of these monsters have wives or sons, we don’t hear about them, but I like thinking that none of these monsters have any interest in being parents. The idea of the classic monsters being living people in the present is a subject I’ve written about in my Fashionable Monsters series for Artifice Comics’ Bento Box series (they’re available for free – just follow the links). My stories focus on how we’ve domesticated the monsters while forgetting they’re still monsters. In fact, we see a little of that in GHOUL SCHOOL as the monsters let Shaggy know it would not be good for him to not do right by their kids.
Shaggy has been hired … wait for it … to bring the girls a trophy in their annual volleyball competition with the boys military academy down the lane. (This sounds like the set-up for a strange Josh Holloway movie.) It seems the boys always win, and Miss Grimwood will spare no expense (minus making new hires submit to a drug test) to make sure this doesn’t happen. Plus, little Tanis has a trophy case for some reason and there’s no trophies in said case, so it’s up to Shaggy to get the women some hardware.
Shaggy’s big plan involves getting the girls to exercise, so they do lots of jogging. All of this, however, is just an excuse to show Shaggy and Scooby acting afraid and one of the ghouls to deliver a bad pun. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s dreadful. GHOUL SCHOOL is designed solely for infants to watch. There’s almost no cleverness here, no attempt to tell an actual story. The girls win the volleyball contest but then a witch named Revolta hatches a plan to turn all the girls into her slaves, which means its up to the boys of the military school to save the day.
So, girls, remember, you might be good at volleyball, but you’ll still need dudes to save you in the end.
Insufferable bits hit you at the rate of one a minute. Shaggy eats a sandwich that he left in the glovebox, only to find there’s a map tucked between the bread. Scrappy put it there for safe keeping, because he’s a precious kid who doesn’t realize he’s on the road with a stoner, his dog, and their eating disorders. After realizing he just chomped a hole in his map, Shaggy calls it a “roadmap on rye,” which is the best line in the whole movie.
The big Cherry of Disappointment that is the ending still sees Shaggy and Scooby afraid of the ghouls and running away, which makes all of what followed not only irritating, but pointless. Our eternally-on-edge protagonists run away, the lesson they learned at this school being non-existent.
I hate this movie.
I’d rather eat a roadmap on rye.
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