Scooby-Doo, my friends.
More precisely, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. I don’t know how many times I’ve sat through this 2004 masterpiece of children’s cinema trying to muster a chuckle, the laughs being few and far between, though I realize I’m not the intended audience. Moreover, I was never a huge fan of the original Hanna-Barbera cartoon or its countless incarnations, like 1979’s Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo. (Worst. Idea. Ever.) For Saturday morning viewing pleasures I wanted superheroes, not goofy teenagers and a pseudo talking dog. However, my son, Jacob, fell in love with Scooby-Doo at an early age, which meant having to sit through Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed over and over (and over) again. Now, before you question the number of hours my wife and I allow our kids to watch television, I need to do some explaining.
Jacob’s cystic fibrosis breathing treatments (his “breathers,” as we call them) involve using a nebulizer machine, which blows a misted medicine into his lungs, and a device called the Vest, which wraps around his chest and is connected to two long tubes that insert into a machine. The machine pumps air into the Vest and vibrates against Jacob’s chest. This percussive treatment is done to break up any of the sticky mucus that builds up in his lungs (a result of the disease).
If you’ve checked out Jacob’s Great Strides Video, you’ll see pictures of him doing his breathers. These treatments are vital in keeping him healthy, but they’re uncomfortable and often boring. When he first did his breathers, he didn’t wear the nebulizer mask around his head, as he does in the video. Originally, Julie or I sat with him, holding the mask to his face, but as he’s gotten more independent, he doesn’t require us to hold the mask anymore. These sessions occur twice a day and last at least 20 minutes. To help keep him relaxed, we let him watch television.
It began with the Wiggles and Barney but graduated to Scooby and the gang by the time Jacob was three years old. When the live-action movies from 2002 and ’04 came out on DVD, the kid had to own them, which meant we were all going to become very familiar with them. Having sat with him for so many breathers in his life, you now know why I’ve seen Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed 50 to 60 times, and it also explains why the New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give” has become one of the new millennium’s basement songs.
At the tail end of the ’90s, the New Radicals released this upbeat, inspirational song off their album Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too; favorable comparisons were made to the pop-soul singles of Hall & Oates and Todd Rundgren. “You Get What You Give” was a phenomenal success, but it would prove to be the group’s only big hit. After the release of Brainwashed‘s second single, “Someday We’ll Know” (covered by none other than Hall & Oates, with backing vocals by Rundgren, on their 2003 album Do It for Love), frontman Gregg Alexander disbanded the group — he was the one constant member during their brief existence — and “You Get What You Give” became background music in grocery stores and shopping malls, not to mention motion pictures.
Halfway through Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, the gang has a moment of reflection and recalls a carefree time from their youth. (Who knew things could get so heavy for the Scooby gang, huh?) As they goof around throwing a Frisbee, flirting, and crashing into trees, “You Get What You Give” plays over the montage. My first thought was, “At least they picked a good song.”
After so many repeated viewings of the movie, I slowly stopped associating the New Radicals and their great song with the late ’90s and shopping malls (“You Get What You Give’s” video is set in a mall) and began associating it with the laughter I heard coming from Jacob and his big sister, Sophie. Around this time I discovered it on a coworker’s iTunes and copied it to my MP3 player. Soon enough, “You Get What You Give” became a pick-me-up as I trained for my last half marathon in late ’05. Three years later, the song remains on my MP3 player. I refuse to delete it. These lines, in particular, always hit home when I hear them:
This whole damn world can fall apart
You’ll be OK, follow your heart
You’re in harm’s way, I’m right behind
One of my great thrills as a music-loving parent is finding connections between songs that the kids know in other contexts — say, a movie or some lame cover version on Radio Disney — and helping them recognize the original work. It took a couple of plays of “You Get What You Give” before I could convince Sophie and Jacob that it was the same song from their movie.
“Hey, guys, this is that song from Scooby-Doo.”
Of course, Jacob had to correct me: “You mean Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.”
Sorry! Eventually, the connection was made, and it was, as I said, a thrill. I love seeing those smiles of recognition as they start to put the pieces of the puzzle together.
This past week some coworkers and I watched Surf’s Up, the Academy Award-nominated film about surfing penguins. (I work for an animation studio and it was on in the TV lounge during our lunch break.) There I was with my two friends when the final scene began and “You Get What You Give” started playing on the soundtrack. What happened next was completely unexpected — as the song swelled, I began to tear up.
It was difficult to conceal the fact that I was about to bawl my eyes out and that my emotions were getting the better of me. It wasn’t because the movie had reached some heart-wrenching climax. Instead, I sat there missing Sophie and Jacob. In that moment I realized how much “You Get What You Give” means to me. For all the times I’ve heard it, I thought it was just one of those songs I would look back on when the kids are older and say, “Hey, that’s the song from Scooby-Doo.” (Sorry — Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed.) I now know that when I look back on it I’ll be reminded of their smiles and laughs and the way they danced and the fun they had playing games together and the way they argued. Most of all, I’ll remember how much they love each other and care for each other. From this day on, whenever I hear “You Get What You Give,” whether it’s in a movie or in the mall or the grocery store or through the tiny speakers attached to my cheap MP3 player, my heart will overflow with joy thinking about the abundance of love my two kids bring me every day. And, of course, I’ll remember the first time we listened to the song together.
Scooby-Doo, my friends. Scooby-doobie-doo.