Scoob! isn’t a bad animated blockbuster. It’s just not a good Scooby-Doo movie. In fact, it’s barely a Scooby-Doo movie at all.
On the one hand, it has most of the elements that have come to define the mystery-kids genre over the past 51 years: meddling kids, a groovy van and special guest stars.
So. Many. Special. Guest. Stars.
Like, spoilers ahead.
As an origin story (ugh) Scoob! — now available for sale as a digital release — is just fine. Shaggy adopting a pup named Scooby Dooby Doo (or is it the other way around?) is as adorable as you’d expect, although the cartoons and even some live-action TV movies have tackled this moment before. With five decades of lore to explore, did we need to go here, again?
Hold onto that thought.
The movie is packed with nods and winks to various aspects of accumulated Scooby-Doo lore, even the Hex Girls (which still really need their own spinoff, by the way). The main problem is the narrative glosses over Scooby-Doo staples like actually solving mysteries and ripping off masks in a rush to get to the Hanna-Barbera superhero homages nobody asked for, and it once again goes all-in with the lazy idea that supernatural phenomena are “real” and not just a smoke-screen sham.
The animation itself is solid but unremarkable, although the purported main characters literally shine and Scooby himself is rendered beautifully.
Does the cartoon reboot bible specify that every movie like this needs a Stargate-type device and glowing green ectoplasm with cataclysmic consequences? Even amid all the other baggage there is to take aim at in a half-century-old franchise, this is, oddly, what’s really getting old.
Scoob! is full of fun, self-referential commentary worthy of late-stage Simpsons, something a franchise earns by virtue of simply being around this long. It’s also rife with modern messages skewering toxic masculinity and white male mediocrity. (Hello, Blue Falcon aka “Brian.”) But the determination to shoehorn half the Hanna-Barbera animation canon into this movie makes all the actual Scooby-Doo stuff feel more like a subplot rather than the main attraction it should have been.
Ken Jeong manages to steer the ship a bit as Dynomutt, the “Dog Wonder” — and he’s inexplicably the straight man here, with viewers groaning along with him for the most part. Dick Dastardly, Muttley, Captain Caveman. They’re all here. But — why? Just, why? Who really even knows, or cares, who these characters are anymore? If they can’t stand on their own, they shouldn’t have been assembled in this, of all, movies.
The MacGuffin fetch quest is pretty standard, inoffensive fare, and the subsequent revelations about Scooby-Doo’s ancestry is an interesting addition, if magic and antiquity must be involved. But where are the goofy spooks and scares? They’re shoved aside into a montage that bridges the Mystery Inc. origin story with what is really an incomplete but sincere Blue Falcon movie.
The writers of Scoob! were so focused on launching a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe that they forgot to build a solid foundation on, like, Earth first.
Warner Bros. has had a good thing going with its direct-to-video animated Scooby-Doo movies (which, by default because of the pandemic’s unprecedented effects on motion picture distribution, this apparently now counts as). There have been around 40 of them so far since the late 1980s. depending on how you count them. They had such a good thing in Matthew Lillard as the live-action Shaggy in the early 2000’s that they ported him over to the animated side of things as soon as ur-Shaggy Casey Kasey retired.
Scoob!, however, unceremoniously dumped Lillard in favor of Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte — the only member of the longtime ensemble retained is venerable voice-over legend Frank Welker, who used to do double duty as both Fred and Scooby-Doo but now is only playing the perpetually panicked pooch. Zac Efron, Gina Rodriguez, Amanda Seyfriend — Mystery Inc. has star power, but it feels wasted when the formula was already working.
I’ll leave you with this tweet from Lillard last week, showing class in the face his Scoob! snub, which really says it all here:
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Warner Bros. provided a screener copy of the movie for this review.