WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Scoob!, available now on video-on-demand services.
Scoob! premiered on premium video-on-demand over the weekend, and it finally answered the franchise’s own version of the chicken-or-the-egg question. And no, it’s not who’s under the mask or whether they’d have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids,
The new film is a CGI update of the Hanna-Barbera television series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, which launched in 1969 and continued in various spin-offs and reboots through the 2010s. Every iteration had the essential components: Fred, Daphne, Velma, the Mystery Machine, groovy music, plenty of high jinks, plus Shaggy, Scooby and his titular snacks. But throughout every version of the show, fans have wondered if the snacks were named after the dog, or if the dog was named after the snacks. Well, those curious fans are in luck because Scoob! finally provides the answer.
It’s as low stakes a mystery as the teenagers in question usually task themselves with solving, but Scoob! solves it within the first few minutes, in a surprisingly sweet way, and the movie is better for it. Scoob! begins with a pre-title sequence in which a stray Great Dane pup on the run from authorities finds a loner kid who’s ambling about, embarrassed to admit to his mother he doesn’t have friends. A much younger Shaggy pretends that the dog belongs to him, to keep the pup out of trouble, but really so he can have someone to talk to. When an officer asks Shaggy what his pet’s name is, his eyes search for a word — any word — and they land on a box of Scooby Snacks. “Scooby,” Shaggy replies. The officer asks him for a middle and last name. That provides the origin story for Dooby and Doo, and the authority figure decides that any dog that has a middle name must, according to his own logic, have an owner.
Then, the audience is treated to a quick montage that establishes the immediate strength of their bond. It effectively glosses over the fact that human and canine can communicate with each other; Scooby-Doo has always been genre-light kitsch, and it’s better if we just go with whatever fantasy elements are necessary for the story to progress. Instead, it becomes clear that 2020’s take on the animated classic will be — as so many kids properties are — about the power of friendship. Shaggy gives Scooby a shiny new collar bearing his initials, and the dog, flattered and deeply touched, promises he will never take it off. Even the children watching can probably guess that this is Scoob!‘s pivotal moment, and there will most certainly come a time, later in the movie, in which the adult Scooby will have to make a decision regarding the collar.
The movie’s opening sequence is slightly more sentimental than is usually the franchise’s style, but that’s on purpose. A fair portion of today’s kids recognize Scooby-Doo, and maybe even the rest of the Mystery Inc. team. They might even consume his snacks, but they probably aren’t as familiar with or nostalgic for the show’s retro vibe and narrative beats as their parents. Introducing Scooby and Shaggy in their youth, all innocent and vulnerable gives kids an inroad with which to better identify with these characters. Scoob! might not be the kind of animated children’s movie that tries to elevate itself, but it plays well to its split-screen audiences of adults who grew up with Scooby and kids who just want to watch the latest thing. It does so with a fun, fine mix of callbacks, quips and a heartfelt if formulaic central story. And if you happen to be watching Scoob! at home with a box of those Scooby Snacks, you can now be sure they were always intended for humans.
Scoob! is directed by Tony Cervone and 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 available now on digital home video services.
Scoob! finally reveals the answer to the Scooby Snack mystery in a surprisingly sweet way, but fans should have known all along.