Scoob! is the supposed origin story of Shaggy (Will Forte), Scooby (Frank Welker), Fred (Zac Efron), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), and Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), except their childhood history is cut short by a CGI remake of the intro to Where Are You?. Mystery Incorporated is looking to expand their business with investors like Simon Cowell (Simon Cowell), if they had his inclination to lose the hungry duo because they’re apparently the weakest link. After separating, Shaggy and Scooby are recruited by the Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and his team consisting of Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) and Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons). They’re on a mission to catch Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) who’s stealing historic bones for his own evil scheme.
Scooby Doo was a series I grew up with for better or worse. I’ve seen every incarnation from the repetitive original series, to the many spin-offs involving an infamous puppy, to the popular comeback that started with Zombie Island, to the monstrosity that is the Raja Gosnell live-action duology. Come Halloween season, it’s tradition for TheCinematicBandicoot to cover at least one version of Scooby Doo regardless of quality.
Having an animated movie with a theatrical budget was a long overdue redemption after my generation was force-fed god knows how many live-action adaptations of cartoons, no matter how uncanny the final result was. However like Trolls: World Tour, its theatrical release was cut short, like the rest of society. So for only $20, you can rent Scoob! for two days, or purchase for keeps with four additional dollars. You know what else you could get for that kind of money? Any necessary groceries plus a Netflix subscription with smarter entertainment. Because unfortunately this is one of the most mediocre children’s films disguising itself as a family feature (there’s a difference)…..in the writing. The animation on the other hand is very creative, and not just by Hanna-Barbera standards. Sure it might not look the best with the toy-like skins on the humans, but there’s a lot of quick and expressive movements complimenting the character designs. It also leads to the few laughs that are the brightest spots after spending most of the movie waiting for something new to be added to anyone’s personality. Some might debate that this kind of animation doesn’t belong on the big screen, but it has its advantages. Whatever Hanna-Barbera lacked in realistic and fluid animation, it made up for with pinpoint timing, unique character structures, and gigantic expressions.
It’s a shame that the story itself isn’t even half the quality of the animation. This was supposed to be an fresh start for the characters, but instead it chucks all those intentions out the window in order to introduce the universe more than a new take on the formula. Everything that’s shown from beginning to end, after the intro, has already been done in past adaptations be it movies or television. And while the focus on both Shaggy and Scooby works on some levels, it doesn’t help develop Fred, Velma, or Daphne. For an origin story, this banks on the idea that you have seen previous incarnations after marketing the promise of adding new lore to the franchise. This is a case where Warner Brothers saw a property that people liked and decided to trade its Lego Movie series without even realizing what made the great dane a household name in the first place. To its credit, the payoff leans more towards the supernatural than a person in a mask, which has always been a fresh direction to go after hearing the meddling kids line for the 500th time. And there’s some fun to be had with pointing out all the references to other Hanna-Barbera characters, but a movie’s backbone shouldn’t rely on such a minor detail. And even the supernatural conclusion leads to a big cop out after an initially daring move that would’ve frightened the spirit of a dead parent from any Disney movie.
Recently Matthew Lillard and Grey Delisle took to twitter expressing their dissatisfaction with not being contacted to voice their respected characters. And that would be fine if the celebrities they got to replace them were half as decent as people like Billy West, who’s relegated to a few lines for a surprise character. Unfortunately this is a case where the studio hired Zac Efron and Mark Wahlberg for promotional reasons, and not because they hold a candle to people like John DiMaggio or BJ Ward, because it’s some of the worst casting since Rosie O’Donnell as Betty Rubble in the live-action Flintstones. All the celebrities sound like they’re speaking into a microphone instead of embodying a character, especially Will Forte as Shaggy. Every time he speaks. it sounds like an audition that can’t match up to Casey Kasem, Scott Innes, or the aforementioned Mathew Lillard. To quote this film, “He was some middle-aged man’s idea of how a hippie talks.” Meanwhile Frank Welker, for some reason, doesn’t even get to voice neither Fred nor Dynomutt, even with his tenure on both characters. The only celebrity that truly embraces his character is Jason Isaac as Dick Dastardly. Apart from his angular body structure, Isaac really know how to make him both intimidating and a comedic foil to everything around him. His delivery is maniacal and the switch from evil to sympathetic is believable. Now if only he wasn’t injected with Minion syndrome in the form of his robots sidekicks. Because if it worked in all the other movies trying to cash in on that Despicable Me trend, surely it’ll work for the umpteenth time right?(Sarcasm). It’s not like there haven’t been other voices to play theses characters, but at least there was effort to sound like an actual character, not a celebrity imitating an character.
Scoob! has moments of genuine laughs, a fun villain in the form of Dick Dastardly, and animation that has a lot of effort put into every frame, but everything else feels like a book for spotting references than an new take on Scooby Doo. The story has little to no new lore to add to the franchise, making the characters even flatter than their original incarnations, the voice acting is more of a marketing ploy than a talented matchup (save Frank Welker), and the expanded world takes more of a front seat than the actual mystery. I’m actually not against seeing a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe since they technically kicked off the crossover idea long before the Avengers hit the scene, and it’s a more natural fit compared to their wrestlers collaborations. But if they want to start out with their most iconic series, treat the movie like a mystery and do something new with the characters. A Pup Named Scooby Doo accomplished this 20 years ago with a tv series, but Warner Brothers can’t do the same with a big budgeted animated movie? If you have kids who want to see it, make sure everyone else is part of the majority because 20 dollars to rent these new films on a smaller screen is really pushing one’s wallet without the giant screen experience. However this shouldn’t be the introduction to the series for newcomers because there are better options on television like Mystery Incorporated, movies like Zombie Island, and even video games like Night of 100 Frights. This actually makes Scrappy Doo look like a pain-killer after witnessing all this wasted potential, and he’s the reason why Tim Curry opted out of starring in the first live-action movie.