This weekend Warner Brothers has released their latest reboot of the beloved ‘Scooby Doo’ franchise with ‘Scoob!’. Originally set for a full blown theatrical release, due to the global pandemic and theaters being closed worldwide, Warner Brothers saw an opportunity to entertain the masses right in the comfort of our own homes while we try to ride out the proverbial storm by releasing ‘Scoob!’ for both purchase and rental digitally through online services including Vudu and Movies Anywhere.
Let me preface this by saying that I am unabashedly a massive fan of the ‘Scooby Doo’ franchise and have been since I was old enough to pay attention to the television. When I first heard that Warner Brothers was rebooting the brand with an all new CG animated film that would retell the origins of the team, I was immediately interested. I was also very hesitant about getting my hopes up. As months went on leading up to the film’s release, we found out more and more about what was going to be included in the film; with characters from Hanna-Barbera’s back catalog including Captain Caveman, Dick Dastardly, and superhero duo Blue Falcon and Dyno-Mutt all set to make appearances. Jinkies! I knew this wasn’t going to be just another ‘Scooby Doo’ movie that retread the same old story again and again like so many had before it.
‘Scoob!’ is a movie that tells us an all new take on the story of Mystery Inc.’s origins, as well as a larger overall story about the value of friendship, living up to other peoples expectations, and most importantly, remembering to eat lunch! While this type of story is one we’ve seen told a number of times in various ways, we have rarely seen it done with such gusto. This movie has a lot of heart where it counts, which can really make or break a movie.
As promised in the trailers, we are told the origins of Shaggy and Scooby’s friendship (forged over a large sandwich and a wheel of compressed gyro meat) and the first adventure of Mystery Inc. (which is on Halloween no less)! I won’t get into spoiler territory here, but the entire origin story is over in the first 10 minutes of the movie and segues perfectly into a nostalgic montage that is an overloaded love letter to the original ‘Scooby Doo’ series that hits all the right notes.
Fans of the original series will be happy to hear that all of our classic Mystery Inc. characters are presented well with their personalities largely intact. Many of our usual ‘Scooby’ tropes are here including the Mystery Machine, oversized sandwiches, Scooby Snacks, multiple unmaskings of bad guys, and Shaggy and Scooby being a couple of scaredy cats. Fred’s famed ascot even makes an appearance! The gang is all here.
The voice cast for the Scooby gang are largely excellent choices, with Zac Efron (Fred), Amanda Seyfried (Daphne), and Gina Rodriguez (Velma) bringing their A-game to the table. All three of these actors are entirely new to these roles, but also all immediately feel like natural fits for their respective characters. Thankfully we also have the legendary Frank Welker back as everyone’s favorite mystery-solving-mutt Scooby Doo, who is right at home in his iconic role that he has played for nearly twenty years.
Then we have Will Forte as Shaggy, who is a complicated mixed bag. Forte provides a performance that is halfway between perfect and awful. Fifty-percent of the time it sounds like a great take on Shaggy and it WORKS, but the other fifty-percent of the time it literally just sounds like Will Forte doing a bad Shaggy impression. While you definitely get used to him over the course of the film, a big part of me wishes they just brought Matthew Lillard back (who has played the character in both live action and voiced him in every animated series/film since the original voice of Shaggy, Casey Kasem, retired in 2009). He wasn’t terrible by any means, and while I am generally a fan of Will Forte, I just personally found him very distracting as Shaggy.
Moving on to the bigger plot, which involves the gang getting snatched up and called into action by superheroes Blue Falcon and Dyno-Mutt, tracking down some ‘macguffins’ (including one that is in a subterranean prehistoric world and protected by Captain Caveman), and fending off the villainous Dick Dastardly who is literally trying to open the gates to hell (I’ll bet you $10 that you didn’t see that one coming as a plot point to a ‘Scooby Doo’ movie!) in search of ancient treasure (and more, but spoilers so I won’t say). The story is kind of all over the place, but in a weird way it really works well. They crammed a LOT of stuff into this movie, but it all seems to have its place and doesn’t feel overstuffed.
As far as the rest of our supporting characters? Mark Wahlberg’s Blue Falcon is… certainly something. Honestly, I kind of love it. He’s completely over the top in a way that I normally would have found annoying, but with how they set up the character, I ended up loving what they did with him. Blue Falcon (aka Brian) is a goofball trying to live up to the legacy of his father; the original Blue Falcon. The judgemental straight-man we have in Ken Jeong’s Dyno-Mutt certainly doesn’t make it any easier on him, although he’s quite a bit of fun for the audience!
This heroic duo is joined by their pilot Dee Dee Skyes (who some, albeit probably very few, of you might remember as a character from the 1977 animated series ‘Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels’) who is clearly the most qualified for hero-work of the lot of them. Dee Dee is a great character, who I hope we will see more of in the future, in no small part due to voice actress Kiersey Clemons. I also really can’t give enough credit to whoever cast Tracey Morgan as Captain Caveman because he is easily some of the best voice casting I have ever seen and has some of the best lines in the film during his all too brief appearance.
Dick Dastardly is an odd choice for a ‘Scooby Doo’ movie villain, but I love his portrayal. While I miss his goofy hat, I really enjoyed his story arc and the truth behind all of his motives. Jason Isaacs was an inspired casting choice here bringing just the right level of villainy to a character you’re meant to hate but can’t help to sympathize with. Dastardly works well as a ‘big bad’ for the film but never once manages to feel like a ‘Scooby Doo’ villain, which is disappointing. He uses an army of little transforming robots and while they’re certainly neat, they feel decidedly not very ‘Scooby Doo’, if that makes sense?
The animation for this film is a dream come true for fans of the original series. It takes the stylized look of the classic animated show and transitions it perfectly into 3D computer generated animation that looks very fluid and shiny in all the right ways. This style of animation had evolved quite a bit in recent years and ‘Scoob!’ is visually at the top of the game here. The animators managed to flawlessly translate much of this classic Hanna-Barbera style into a whole new dimension without losing any of the heart and soul of these classic characters.
For kids, you’ve got a really fun story that introduces a whole new generation to so many of the classic characters that the Hanna-Barbera brand has to offer, and for parents you’ve got… a bunch of gags and jokes that the kids probably won’t get. This movie is jam-packed with references to popular culture. While they make sense now and are kind of fun, I worry that these may be the film’s downfall in the long run as a number of these references ALREADY feel dated. Just in passing I caught references to The Backstreet Boys, Judge Judy, Gerard Depardieu, Kelly Clarkson, Tinder, “stealing Netflix”, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and one line in particular referring to Fred as a “poor man’s Hemsworth” (“wait, Chris or Liam?!”). A major plot point of the film also revolved around (and continuously referenced) Simon Cowell of ‘American Idol’ fame but… do kids even know who he is anymore? Is this script recycled from a decade ago and they forgot to replace him? I just don’t entirely understand what Simon Cowell is doing in a modern ‘Scooby Doo’ film that is actually meant for kids when he feels like a character that we would have seen guest star in one of the various direct-to-DVD releases from over the years.
While they didn’t actually get name dropped, I did personally appreciate the gag featuring two teens on Halloween with face makeup reminiscent of the rap group ‘The Insane Clown Posse’, as one of the groups members shares a name with one of our film’s protagonists, Shaggy. The film’s soundtrack also features a number of deep cuts (none of which make it onto the officially released soundtrack tracklist, unfortunately) that caused me to pause and almost do a double take. Not because they were bad, but because they came seemingly out of nowhere (Outkast’s ‘Bombs Over Baghdad’ in a kid’s movie?!).
At the end of the day, ‘Scoob’! is a fantastic love letter to the classic Hanna-Barbera animated universe that myself and countless others grew up on. This film opens the door for a new generation of kids to meet these wonderful characters and get to know them. ‘Scoob!’ is a fun film, but sadly is really never the ‘Scooby Doo’ movie we were promised after the first fifteen minutes or so. I do want to clarify, that doesn’t make it a bad movie – it’s actually quite good and a lot of fun for what it is. But what it is isn’t a ‘Scooby Doo’ movie. It is more or less what I assume is the studio hoping to be the gateway to an entire franchise of new Hanna-Barbera animated films, and it does what it does very well. I would very much like to see more of Blue Falcon and Dyno-Mutt, Captain Caveman and who even knows how many others that this film could potentially lead to? The movie has lots of adventure for the kids, plenty of clever jokes for the adults in the room, and a whole lot of heart where it counts. Your kids are undoubtedly going to love it, and that’s the whole point isn’t it?
I would definitely recommend that you do (Scooby-Dooby-Doo even!) check out ‘Scoob!’ and enjoy an hour and a half of nostalgia filled animated entertainment that will keep everyone in the family happy. You can rent or purchase ‘Scoob!’ digitally on Vudu, Movies Anywhere, Amazon, Google Play, and more! A physical Blu-Ray and DVD release is expected to hit the market later this year.