Hanna-Barbera gives Scooby-Doo a superpowered reboot and loses most of its charm along the way.
Fred says it best: this time the mystery crew isn’t up against baddies wearing masks. Directed by Hanna-Barbera’s own Tony Cervone (collaborating with a team of writers including Matt Lieberman, the scribe behind last year’s animated reboot of The Addams Family), Scoob! early and often makes puzzling decisions. It takes viewers out of the whodunit structure of the classic animated series in favor of a story that switches the masked baddies for something more legitimately supernatural.
Approached by Simon Cowell (don’t ask) with a business opportunity to take the homegrown Scooby Gang to the next level, the team is taken to a crossroads. Fred (a low-energy Zac Efron), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried exuding empathy and charm), and Velma (Gina Rodriguez) comprise the branch of the unit that actually pieces the mystery together.
Meanwhile, Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby (Frank Welker) behave cowardly and usually have oversized sandwiches on the mind. Forte plays Shaggy capably, though he pales in comparison to previous performers; as for Welker, he’s still magnetic and iconic as the beloved pooch, but his aging voice has some noticeable wear and tear.
This dynamic breaks up the groups early on, presumably to allow the relationship between Shaggy and Scooby to take center stage. Scoob! opens with a heartwarming sequence illustrating how they met one another a decade ago (and by extension, the rest of the gang), placing emphasis on the unbreakable bond they share. The film also goes on to milk the friendship for all its worth during the climax. Admittedly, it’s genuinely touching.
But Scoob! is also unnecessarily stuffed with subplots, including Shaggy and Scooby stumbling across scorpion robot minions that work for Dick Dastardly (a mustache-twirling no-gooder voiced by Jason Isaacs). This leads to an escape that leads them to meet Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), settling into the superheroed footsteps of his newly retired father. Aboard Falcon’s fancy airship is a robotic canine companion (Ken Jeong) and an assistant voiced by Kiersey Clemons pushes him into performing his heroic duties.
Seriously, Shaggy and Scooby easily getting petrified is nothing compared to a guy that has wings on his costume but is still afraid to fight for what’s right. And yet, much of Scoob! is dedicated to Scooby wrestling with his destiny as the superhero Dynomutt, another distraction from the core friendship that should be the movie’s heart.
If these developments don’t already feel out of place, everyone eventually has to join forces to prevent the gates to the underworld from opening. It’s nice that the narrative comes up with excuses to globetrot, but some of their stops only lead to stranger events that leave you to question what the hell any of this has to do with Scooby-Doo.
Much of Scoob! is dedicated to Scooby having to wrestle with his destiny as the superhero Dynomutt, another distraction from the core friendship that should be the movie’s heart.
Chances are, if you are showing Dynomutt literally saving lives during peril, you’re going to care even less about the friction brewing between Shaggy and Scooby, the typical jealousy-fueled friction that leads to buddy breakups in these kinds of movies.
Combined with some cringe humor, embarrassing needle drops (both contemporary and smash hits of yesteryear), and a story that has no mystery, Scoob! is a mess conjured up by filmmakers that simply don’t know how to revitalize the classic animated series for modern audiences. It tries to cash in on the superhero craze, but also throws in real supernatural beasties, which feels doubly antithetical to the goofy antics Scooby-Doo is known for.
Not even the plethora of cute homages to the cartoon are enough to overcome a story that fumbles a story on the importance of friendship. This time, the real monster is the movie itself.
Scoob! is rurrently rerailable on Ree-Oh-Dee.
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