It shouldn’t be this hard to make a decent Scooby-Doo movie. After all, since Scooby and the gang first appeared on television screens in 1969, they’ve been in 14 separate TV shows, more than 35 direct-to-video animated adventures, and two live-action movies.
There’s even, famously, a template for a good Scooby-Doo story: an alleged supernatural mystery brings our gang of Fred (Zac Efron), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), Shaggy (Will Forte), and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) to the scene. They go sleuthing, find some clues, and in the climactic scene, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy usually act as bait while the other three set a trap, only for the spooky villain to be unmasked as a disgruntled human we’d met earlier in the story!
That’s what makes Scoob! such an infuriating new entry in the legacy of Scooby-Doo projects. It seems like the producers and writers spent a lot of time watching Scooby-Doo and then decided to instead make a Scooby-Doo origin story that avoids most of what audiences like about these stories.
The plot begins with a young Shaggy meeting a stray Great Dane pup and giving him his iconic name. They then befriend the rest of the gang and, after a short recreation of the Scooby-Doo, Where are You! theme song, the story jumps forward in time to find them as fully-formed mystery-solvers.
This happens within the first 15-minutes of Scoob! and it’s the best part of the movie. The rest is an embarrassingly transparent attempt to create the Hanna-Barbera version of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) by introducing characters such as Blue Falcon, Dynomutt, Captain Boomerang, and Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs). This separates the original team for the next hour, the bulk of the movie. Scooby-Doo and Shaggy are dragged into an attempt to unlock the Underworld. Yes, the Underworld.
If this seems like the antithesis of Scooby-Doo’s “nothing is supernatural, it’s all just tricks and human villains at the end”, you’re damned right. In this sense, it shares some similarities with the 2002 movie, which gave us demons and ghosts and the unnerving sight of Rowan Atkinson as the villain. However, while the live-action version was still technically a mystery with clues for the gang to solve, this iteration has close to none. Besides Velma solving a few mysteries, the rest of the team does no actual sleuthing. This section is instead outsourced to other Hanna-Barbera characters in the mix.
Scoob! doesn’t set audience expectations properly and thus can’t meet them. The vocal actors and dialogue don’t help. The entire cast, except Frank Welker (who only voices Scooby, not Fred as he usually does) is new to the franchise. Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, and Will Forte don’t get enough screentime to make these characters sound three-dimensional. Each of them is summed up as a stereotype (the jock in love with his car, the sweet airhead, the scaredy-cat), which gets old fast. Shaggy is especially grating and annoying, as we’re treated to one and a half hours of him complaining and being scared about everything around him. We don’t see that part of Shaggy that’s just a chilled-out stoner.
After the opening, the characters all remain as teenagers. At least… I think they’re teenagers. It’s hard to know for sure when one of the first jokes they make is about remembering to pay taxes. Other jokes are similarly tuned to older sensibilities, but juxtaposed with visual gags that are better suited for children. The tone is uneven. The dialogue is awkward and gives off ‘old men writing young slang’ vibes. It bounces back and forth between sentimental dialogue about friendship on the one hand, and barbs about Harry Potter and American Idol on the other.
I’m just not sure who this film is meant to appeal to. Children who haven’t been introduced to Scooby-Doo won’t understand most of the jokes, and the flattening of characters and plot points mean they’ll probably walk away talking about the superhero featured in the story and not the actual Scooby gang.
And the adults who want nostalgia don’t get anything that evokes the charm of the original cartoon, except seeing these characters in a new CGI form. None of the characters (except Frank Welker) are voiced by the current slate of Scooby-Doo voice actors, either, which angered fans long before the film was released. Scoob! goes out of its way to avoid its most famous features and catchphrases, with an unmasking at the end that does nothing new at all. It feels like the screenwriters got sick and tired of watching the original series, and wanted to charmlessly critique it.
In the end, what we get is a terrible animated film that doesn’t deserve to sit among the direct-to-video films in the Scooby-Doo franchise. Even the divisive live-action films were better.
Voices & Crew
director: Tony Cervone.
writers: Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson, Derek Elliott (story by Matt Lieberman, Eyal Podell & Jonathan E. Stewart, based on ‘Scooby-Doo’ by Kean Spears & characters by Hanna-Barbera Productions).
voices: Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan & Frank Welker).