Synopsis: Scooby and the gang face their most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. As they race to stop this dogpocalypse, the gang discovers that Scooby has an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined.
Stars: Will Forte, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Mark Wahlberg, Frank Welker, Jason Isaacs, Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan
Director: Tony Cervone
Running Length: 94 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: If there’ s one thing that’s gotten me through these past few months of uncertainty and #StayHome / #StaySafe decrees, it’s comfort food and comfort media. While the comfort food and it’s delicious temptations has assisted in my transitioning to pajama pants exclusively, at least the TV and film that I’ve found so soothing hasn’t packed any extra pounds onto my frame. From 80s comedies to classic nor thrillers and episodes lifted out of ABC’s TGIF line-up, I haven’t been lacking in something on the boob tube to keep me distracted/entertained.
Then there are the cartoons. Now, normally I’m not that much of a cartoon guy and my eyebrows shoot to the skies when I hear about the whole obsession with My Little Pony but when presented with a cartoon from my youth I just can’t resist. The nostalgia factor is so high that it almost makes up for the sad truth that many of these shows nowadays are hard to watch due to the crude animation and silly plot mechanics. Still…back in the day there was a treasure trove of programming available to kids like me. Could be Ducktales, could be The Jetsons, might be the Snorks, but if it showed up on a Saturday morning there was a high probability I was tuned in for it and you better believe when anything related to Scooby-Doo was airing I was not to be disturbed.
The cartoon about teen sleuths and their ever-hungry talking Great Dane had been around since 1969 but by the time I was parked in front of the TV all bleary-eyed and mussed-haired it was already in one of its numerous offshoots featuring Scooby’s wise-talking nephew Scrappy-Doo. As I grew up, my interest in other animated weekend offerings waned but there was something about Scooby and the gang that stuck with me. I whole-heartedly admit to owning the entire original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! series as well as the popular but chintzy live-action films they made in the 2000s. Sure, I’ve seen the numerous straight to video animated movies that have been released and I have a particular fondness for 1988’s Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School as well as my all-time favorite, Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf, released the same year.
As a fan of this franchise, I wasn’t clutching my pearls too much when I got a look at the preview for Scoob! which was originally intended to be an early summer theatrical release for Warner Brother Animation. With the coronavirus outbreak, Warner Brothers pivoted their plans and have released the film on demand and I think they’ll see a good profit from this family friendly, colorful reboot that captures the spirit of the show while also making it accessible for a new generation. Though it does have a few minor missteps, it avoids the outright errors from the live-action version and winds up being more pleasing than painful to fans.
Acting a bit as an origin story, the film opens with a young Shaggy meeting a pup he names Scooby Dooby Doo on a California beach. Both loners, not necessarily by choice, the two bond over their love of food and their friendship is sealed then and there. When they’re accosted on Halloween night by some mean bullies who steal their candy and hide it in a supposedly haunted house, who should come to the rescue but a young Fred, Daphne, and Velma. Together, the five solve their first mystery, setting the stage for the next decade of working as a team which brings us to the present (the film is set in modern times) when the gang is deciding on how to take their business to the next level.
Following a standard outline like many of the episodes, Shaggy and Scooby are separated from the other three by a series of occurrences as they both work on disparate mysteries that eventually have a common thread. Shaggy (Will Forte, Nebraska) and Scooby (Frank Welker, Aladdin) team up with a bumbling superhero (Mark Wahlberg, All the Money in the World) and his sidekicks (Ken Jeong, Crazy Rich Asians and Kiersey Clemons, Lady and the Tramp) while Fred (Zac Efron, The Greatest Showman), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again), and Velma (Gina Rodriguez, Annihilation) track down Dick Dasterdly (Jason Isaacs, Dragonheart) who has plans to resurrect a monster from Greek mythology. This brings all on a globe-hopping (and time-traveling) race against time to stop Dick before he can obtain what he needs to unleash the powerful beast.
At 94 minutes, Scoob! plays like an especially long episode of the show and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The four screenwriters clearly have done their homework and have pulled the best of the characters through to this update, gently smoothing some of the rougher edges while still maintaining the ostensible traits that make them so unique. As you might expect, for young audiences viewing this now the filmmakers have amped up the action so there are times when the proceedings get especially manic, with the volume on the antics turned up high. That works for some of the more outlandish characters (like Isaacs having a field day as the villainous Dasterdly) but tends to sink secondary ones. Thankfully, while the flick does have its scary moments (this is about bringing a teeth-gnashing three headed dog back to life, after all), it’s goofy charm keeps the film on the lighter side of the PG scale, and that’s not something a number of supposedly family friendly films can claim.
It’s been a long time since a Scooby-Doo movie played in theaters and while I think Scoob! will do well in this on-demand setting, I do think this release platform will hinder chances for future theatrical offerings down the road. Seeing that the lovable pooch and his friends have routinely turned up in direct to video mysteries for years already, it might be hard to separate this effort (which is quite entertaining) from the others which can come off as quickie money grabs (which they often are). You can’t keep a good dog down, though, so I’m not too worried about Scooby making a nice comeback soon…besides, we still need to get re-introduced to Scrappy-Doo!