Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Scoob! is not a good movie. The story’s structure is a mess, the plot is convoluted and the jokes elicit chuckles more often than belly laughs. This may have fans thinking ruh-roh, but for those who spent a decent chunk of their youth hanging out with these meddling kids and their talking Great Dane, as well as other Hanna-Barbera cartoons, the animated reboot is a fun exercise in nostalgia. Meanwhile, the brightly animated action-adventure will keep kids occupied for 90 minutes.
Scoob! is an origin story, with a prologue devoted to showing how a young Shaggy and Scooby-Doo found each other, and how the pair then met and bonded with Fred, Velma and Daphne while inadvertently solving their first case. The story then jumps ahead 10 years as Shaggy and Scooby find themselves at the center of a new globe-spanning mystery that leads them to team up with the superhero Blue Falcon and his sidekick Dynomutt. Meanwhile, Fred, Velma and Daphne are left on their own to figure out what happened to their pals. Over the course of the film, Scooby learns he has a far more illustrious lineage than anyone could have imagined, and the whole gang eventually reunites to foil a plan by the villainous Dick Dastardly.
It’s not until about one-third of the way into the film that the story finally gains momentum and focus. Until then, it consists of a series of sequences that come across more as loose sketches and gags. That’s not to say they aren’t entertaining, however. These segments establish the characters’ familiar traits and relationships, especially the bond between Scooby and Shaggy, which comes across as something between a friendship and a romance. And while the plot, when it finally kicks into gear, is driven along by McGuffins that don’t amount to much, and aren’t especially well-explained, it hardly matters when the real point of the film is to hang out with Scooby and friends.
The movie was directed by Tony Cervone and written by a long list of scribes that suggests a movie made by committee. However, the filmmakers’ love and knowledge of Scooby-Doo and Hanna-Barbera cartoons in general shines through. The movie includes numerous familiar nods to the cartoon that longtime fans will love, including an almost shot-for-shot recreation of the opening credits. Other references both big and small to the world of Hanna-Barbara, including a noteworthy cameo by Captain Caveman (voiced by Tracy Morgan), make it seem that Scoob! is eyeing the launch of a Hanna-Barbera shared universe.
Whether or not that happens, it’s an awful lot of fun to see these characters again. Shaggy and Scooby are just as you remember them — perpetually hungry scaredy cats who somehow get the job done anyway. Velma is still the smartest person in the room, and Daphne is further fleshed out, leading her to become the glue that holds the group together. The character that’s perhaps the most different is Fred, who is a lot more likable in the film than he ever was in the cartoon. That works in the context of the movie, however. And the voice actors, especially Mark Wahlberg as Blue Falcon and Jason Isaacs as Dick Dastardly, bring a lot to their roles.
Much like Universal’s decision to release Trolls World Tour directly on VOD, Warner Bros. may benefit from doing the same with Scoob! While many viewers might not feel the movie’s worth the price of a movie ticket, it’s much more appealing as a 48-hour VOD rental that will help kids and their nostalgic parents pass the time at home. Plus, its trite but moving message about friendship gives the upbeat movie a positive tone at a time when things have felt overwhelmingly bleak. Scoob! isn’t a triumph of modern cinema, but it is a fun diversion that will keep fans and their little ones amused — and in times like these, that may be exactly what we need.
Directed by Tony Cervone, Scoob! stars the voices of Frank Welker, Zac Efron, Gina Rodriguez, Will Forte, Amanda Seyfried, Tracy Morgan, Ken Jeong, Kiersey Clemons, Mark Wahlberg and Jason Isaacs. The film is now available on VOD.
Scoob! may not be a great film, but for nostalgic parents and their kids it's awfully fun to spend time with the Mystery Inc. gang.