Billionaire explorer Sly Baron (voiced by Malcolm McDowell) is flying his next shuttle to outer space. Led by go-getting astronaut Shannon Lucas (Jennifer Hale) the guests include TV host Clark Sparkman (Eric Bauza), veteran space explorers Zip Elvin (Mark Hamill) and Colt Steelcase (Jeff Bennett), paranoid alien obsessive Ridley (also Jennifer Hale), famous pro-football player U-Boat (Kevin Michael Richardson), wise-cracking android H.A.M (Diedrich Bader) and five lucky lottery winners. None other than teen mystery solvers the Scooby-Gang: Fred (Frank Welker), Velma (Mindy Cohn), Daphne (Grey Griffin), Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) and, of course, Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker again). Inevitably the gang’s interstellar adventure goes awry. Shaggy and Scooby spy an alien monster messing around with the shuttle. They are forced into an emergency landing on the extravagant moon base run by Sly's crackpot scientist brother Hudson (Fred Tatasciore). With a homicidal alien on the loose, the gang look to crack this intergalactic mystery while Daphne and Velma grapple with some personal issues.
Sooner or later every horror franchise goes to outer space: Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996), Jason X (2001), er, Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996). So it is only natural Scooby-Doo, arguably the entry point for young genre fans, would take the lovable canine and teen sleuths to the stars. Written by prolific animation scribe Mark Banker, Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness is among the wittiest feature-length entries in the long-running cartoon franchise. Gag for gag it has some of the series’ best laugh-out-loud moments, riffing on iconic scenes from such sci-fi classics as the Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, Alien (1979) (obviously), the Blue Danube sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Silent Running (1972) (lonely and deranged scientist Hudson keeps a quartet of mute robot companions) and Mars Attacks! (1996) (via an offbeat, stylized sequence where each of the Scooby-Gang fantasize how they would handle an alien invasion).
With sleek animation and lavish backgrounds (the intricate moon base is especially stunning) Moon Monster Madness is certainly among the most eye-catching Scooby-Doo outings. Yet it is in the service of a well-crafted albeit endearingly silly story. Not only is the mystery developed with more subtlety and care than is usual but the film slings some sly satirical barbs at reality TV hosts and egomaniacal space-obsessed billionaires. Not everything works. The contrived conflict wherein Velma resents Daphne high score on an astronaut test is a little grating though at least solidly motivated (as Velma points out if Daphne has brains as well as beauty, where does that leave her?) and pays off in heartening fashion with our girls eventually boosting each other’s confidence. Also woven in is a charming message about the importance of retaining a sense of wonder about space travel instead of succumbing to shallow corporate interest. Equally noteworthy Moon Monster Madness dares go beyond the standard villain unmasking to concoct a finale that nods to Aliens (1986) with the gang trying to escape an exploding death trap. Indeed it might be the first time a Scooby villain is so dastardly they are willing to murder everybody!