Thanks to cable movie channels, I watched Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed last night and Van Helsing this morning. At least, I think that's the order I watched them in; they're really the same movie, as far as I can tell. The one with Sarah Michelle Gellar, I watched last night, and the one with Kate Beckinsale, I watched this morning.
Ah, I make the joke, of course. Truth is, they were both fun. Not movies I would have cared to pay to see in theaters (which I didn't, so that's all right), or even movies I would have gone out of my way to rent, but when they show up on the movie channels, and all I have to do is have the DVR record them (in HD, no less) to watch at my leisure later... Well, that's why I pay for those channels, to be honest. (Well, that, and Deadwood, I guess.)
Van Helsing was probably the lesser of the two, partly because it was over two hours long, partly because my expectations had been raised by Stephen Sommers' earlier movies (the two Mummy movies and Deep Rising), and partly because Scooby-Doo had Linda Cardellini (ER, Freaks & Geeks, The Lot) as Velma. Scooby also had the advantage of deliberately choosing to use classic monsters from the TV show, whereas Van Helsing chose to give us updated versions of the classic Universal monsters. (Not that Universal Studios created Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman, but they do own the copyright to the most recognizable versions.) But while the monsters may not have caused the same echoes of nostalgia, the movie was still good popcorn fun. And it had a twist at the very end that I hadn't expected from a movie like this, which caught me off guard.
Having said that, I don't think the world needs a sequel to Van Helsing, so I'm not too crushed that it failed at the box office. And it's not as good a Kate Beckinsale monster movie as Underworld, I think. (Partly because, attractive as she was, the sight of her running around in a lacy bustiere fighting vampires while everyone else in her village is dressed in rags just looked silly. At least everyone else in Underworld was wearing tight leather outfits...) But if, as is rumored, Stephen Sommers' next project is a revival of Flash Gordon, this movie shows it might be fun. Here's hoping...