Every generation has its incarnation of the classic Hannah Barbera character and his mystery-solving best buds. Who among us doesn’t have memories of our favorite Scooby-Doo episodes and our preference as to which Mystery Inc. show was the best? Four teenage friends and their talking dog going on adventures, solving spooky cases is pretty much the simplest and coolest way for kids to get a dose of horror before they’re ready for the stuff Scooby-Doo originally sought to poke fun at. Each iteration has increased in scope and the various gimmicks employed to reach out to new kids each time have resulted in some wild and weird projects.
Such as the favored oddity, Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery. It’s silly. It’s borderline embarrassing from a creative standpoint, but if kids like it – who are we to judge? There’s a kid out there who is probably pumped to see John Cena munch on some Scooby Snacks with the Mystery Gang, and if the core of the series is still intact – all the better.
Though many might be deeply conflicted by Scoob!, the latest iteration of the aforementioned gang. People of all ages love Scooby-Doo and I too, since childhood. The opening scenes with a young Scooby and Shaggy will have plenty feeling a little emotional. Simply because their friendship and the idea at play is so charming. This is, unfortunately, lost within the cinematic noise surrounding it. Taking a left turn into ever-escalating silliness and high-tech nonsense that will make many wonder if they perhaps have aged out of this franchise? Perhaps this film was strictly for kids only?
A notion that can be entertained until the movie makes a Tinder joke. Then it becomes clear that Scoob! aspires to the all-ages meta humor of films like The LEGO Batman Movie and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. It just simply lacks the heart and intelligence that those films employed to become some of the best of their medium. Scoob! veers wildly from poop jokes to a bizarre scene in which Scooby and Shaggy sing “Shallow” from A Star is Born, an extended gag that will confuse kids and annoy adults.
Hurt further by the film’s surprisingly lackluster animation, feeling like a cross between the stylings of Pixar and Dreamworks. It isn’t even particularly fun to look at. There is a fine amount of detail and it’s not poorly animated, so much as it is awkwardly designed. Every now and again it feels as if you are watching Illumination’s Scoob!, if the company is operating at its weakest. Which is a shame given how good Warner Animation Group can be. Junkie XL provides an unsurprisingly grating score that is either dull or obnoxious, depending on how many robots are on screen. Otherwise it is technically very competent, but in a world where Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse exists – one cannot help but wish for more creative styling.
The film follows Scooby-Doo and Shaggy (played with great energy by Scoob veteran Frank Welker and the delightful Will Forte), as they are brought into the larger world of Hannah Barbera characters such as Falcon Fury (Mark Wahlberg), Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), and many others. As with every other Scooby-Doo film, our characters are split up in an effort to focus on Shaggy and Scooby (who admittedly have always been significantly more interesting and fun to watch than the others), while giving Fred (Zac Efron having a blast), Daphne (a very funny Amanda Seyfried), and Velma (Gina Rodriguez) something else to do.
It’s frustrating and makes one wish for a film where the gang simply comes together, stays together, and solves a mystery. But in the over-plotted world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and various other showy blockbusters, that is simply no longer an option. The gang goes on a super heroic adventure in which Scooby-Doo himself dons a costume and various battles with robots occur. The actual mystery elements are sprinkled conservatively throughout the film and any horror elements are all but gone. This is Scooby-Doo for a generation raised on Tony Stark and 2 post-credit scenes.
It’s important to point out that, in theory, none of this is inherently a bad thing. If kids want Scooby-Doo to dress up and fight robots, more power to them. So long as the core dynamic of Scooby-Doo, and what makes the original show still so fun to watch all these years later – is not gone. The simple thrill of a spooky villain being unmasked. Alas, Scoob! represents the further descent of a culture dominated by films advertising their sequels before the credits have even rolled. A film that kids will love, but will have other fans of the characters wondering…
Scooby-Doo, where are you?