Scoob! (2020) Review
CUTE AND CHARMING
BUT A MESSY REBOOT STARTER
Scooby Doo….where are you? Everyone knows the name of animated Hannah-Barbara four-legged canine character as well as the rest of his human companions (i.e. Scooby gang) in their various adventures throughout the years. Created back 1969 by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, the original incarnation came from the cartoon TV show Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Was a Saturday morning that introduced many of the common themes / concepts that featured teenagers Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, and Norville “Shaggy” Rogers and their talking brown Great Dane named Scooby Doo, who solve mysteries involving supposedly supernatural creatures / beings through a series of antics and missteps. Following the success of the original series, the Hannah-Barbara Production (and its successor Warner Bros. Animation) have produced a franchise around Scooby Doo, including numerous follow-up and spin-off animated series as well as television specials and made-for-TV movies., a line of direct-to-video films, and two theatrical feature films. Some versions of Scooby-Doo feature variations on the show’s supernatural theme and include characters such as Scooby’s cousin, Scooby-Dum, and nephew, Scrappy-Doo in addition to some of the original characters. In 2013, TV Guide ranked Scooby-Doo as the fifth greatest TV cartoon of all time. Now, Warner Bros. Animation and director Tony Cervone present the latest Scoob-Doo adventure in the animated feature film Scoob!. Does the movie finds a happy medium of old vs. new or does this particular dog can’t learn some new cinematic tricks….even for a Scooby snack?
Meeting accidentally on Venice Beach when they were young, Norville “Shaggy” Rogers (Will Forte) and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) have become inseparable, sharing a love of goofy mischief and ravenous appetites. Eventually, the duo becomes a part of Mystery, Inc., joining fellow friends Fred Jones (Zac Efron), Daphne Blake (Amanda Seyfried), and Velma Dinkley (Gina Rodriguez) as they travel around town in the Mystery Machine looking for supernatural crimes to solve. However, as time passes by things are growing stale for the unit, which seeks an investor to take their small-town business to the next level. For Scooby and Shaggy, however, this triggers something else, soon targeted for collection by Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), who’s on the hunt for three giant dog skulls to reach an untold fortune in the underworld. Saving the day is Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), Dynomutt (Ken Jeong), and Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons), who pick up the frightened duo, giving the hungry pooch a superhero makeover as they speed along to thwart Dastardly’s destructive plans. But at what cost?
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Yes….like many out there…. I grew up watching Scooby Doo. While growing up in the 90s, I remember watching Cartoon Network a lot and always seeing either Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Or A Pup Named Scooby Doo. I also remember seeing a few other iterations of Scooby Doo from time to time, including The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo and Laff-A-Lympics (both of which saw a different take of classic Scooby Doo characters. In general, I enjoyed the classic Scooby Doo shows as it offered animated distraction of clue solving and mystery sleuthing of uncovering “the man / woman” behind the monster (a classic trademark for the franchise). Plus, the character themselves, though generic in some ways, were always fun and endearing, especially Scooby and Shaggy. Then there was 2002’s Scooby Doo, a live-action / CGI hybrid that feature the talents of Freddie Prinze Jr, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard. While the star power was there, I felt that the 2002 film (and its 2004 sequel) were cringeworthy terrible and nothing more than a failed attempt to capture the original cartoon’s charm and presentation, which proves the point that some animated properties can’t be translated into live-action. To me, what favored better was the DTV movie Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, which was released back in 1998. The movie was far better and delivered solid animation and a great story from the iconic cartoon series. This movie, of course, launched the DTV Scooby Doo movies…. though I haven’t watched any of them. In the end, the Scooby Doo franchise had endured over the years and still has some staying power throughout the generations in children’s entertainment.
This brings me back to talking about Scoob!, a 2020 animated feature film that brings everyone’s favorite canine to a new CGI platform of storytelling. To be honest, I really didn’t hear much when this movie was first announced. I think I might have heard something about a new Scooby-Doo movie, but the film itself was on my radar for quite some time. In truth, I didn’t really hear about the movie until the film’s movie trailer was released and I have to say that it was pretty good. Judging from the trailer alone, the movie seemed to capture the spirt of the classic Scooby-Doo (i.e. a focus on Scooby and Shaggy) as well as bringing in a few new nuances to update the material for modern audiences. Plus, as I mentioned above, I am a fan of Scooby-Doo, so I was definitely curious to see how this movie would ultimately play out. So, I was definitely down to see it when it came out in theaters on May 2020. However, with many theatrical releases being pushed back and shuffled around due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Scoob! was one of those releases that Warner Bros. Pictures decided to forgo theaters and head straight to digital format. So, I decided to purchase the movie (via Vudu) and check out what new adventure Scooby and the gang have going for them. And what did I think of it? Well, it’s hard for me to say as I liked it, but was a bit disappointed with it. In truth, Scoob! delivers a touching message of friendship and has plenty of laughs within its colorful animated tale, but struggles to establish for what it wants to be; biting off more than it can chew…. even for a cinematic Scooby Snack. Its not a terrible movie, but it gets bogged down very quickly by its hodgepodge storytelling.
Scoob! is directed by Tony Cervone, whose previous works include director, animator, and producer on various project such as The Looney Tunes Show, Duck Dodgers, and Tom and Jerry Tales. Giving his background on working children’s animated endeavors, Cervone seems like a suitable choice to helm a project like this; aiming to bring the iconic Great Dane (and his pals) to the big-screen for a new generation to enjoy. In this aim, Cervone succeeds; trying to bridge the gap of old vs. new for Scoob! to walk, with nostalgia references from classic Scooby-Doo (and its Hannah-Barbara properties) as well as trying to make the feature’s story easy to follow and appealing for today’s modern viewers. It’s a bit messy for sure (more on that below), but the movie moves at brisk pace for a breezy animated capper that combines multiple characters into a superhero-esque “save the world” adventure. Cervone utilizes the goofy / zany premise of Scoob! to his advantage; making the film bountiful with cartoon antics, with some referencing the classic Scooby-Doo animated series (with iconic sound effects). Additionally, the film’s message is solid, which is to examine the bonds of friendship (most notably in Scooby and Shaggy) as well as the cohesive nature of the Mystery gang. Its not quite as strong as a Pixar endeavor, but definitely works and is easy for the younger viewers to get the message across for a wholesome thematic piece. The film’s humor throughout Scoob! was pretty funny. Yes, some might groan once or twice for some joke gags that the movie presents, but (overall) I enjoyed it and laughed many times. The jokes themselves can range from pop-culture references to classic ideals from the show (i.e. a joke about the original writers’ ideals of what teenagers’ sound like during the show is pretty hilarious). All in all, the humor in Scoob! is something I enjoyed as well as something I would expect from a Scooby-Doo movie (if you know what I mean). It’s a family friendly movie through and through.
Presentation-wise, Scoob! Is a solid animated feature, with bountiful colors aplenty and delightful display of detail throughout the movie. While the film doesn’t have the super hyper-real animation from a Disney / Pixar feature, the movie certainly has a very distinct look that definitely compliments many of the original Hannah-Barbara designs for the various characters in the feature. Thus, the character design work for almost every one of the main characters looks fun and pleasing to see throughout the film. Additionally, the animation is a washed with plenty of vibrant colors, which (again) is pleasing to look at it in the movie. Plus, I do have mention that the sound editing / mixing team on Scoob! is pretty good, with Cervone (as mentioned above) makes the film’s narrative have a lot of the same sound effects used in the classic Scooby-Doo cartoons, which is pretty great and definitely has a neat nostalgia references in the ears. Additionally, the film’s score, which was done by Junkie XL, delivers a fun / energetic soundtrack in many areas in the feature (be it action and / or soft moments) as well as the movie sharing plenty of recognizable songs throughout many will ring a sound of familiarity, especially those from my generation.
Unfortunately, there are some glaring problems that the movie can’t overcome, which makes Scoob! less effective that what Cervone intended it to be. Perhaps the biggest problem (and maybe the only one) that truly weighs the feature down is how jumbled the movie is. There’s a definite flow to the feature of which is simplistic enough to follow, but the movie takes a disjointed turn when it tries to broaden the narrative story up into a somewhat “shared universe” of Hannah-Barbara properties. The first ten or so minutes definitely works the best as the story focuses on the relationship between Scooby and Shaggy as well as the initial setup of the Mystery gang. After that, however, the movie takes a detour and starts to bring in other elements from other shows, including Blue Falcon, Dynomutt, Dick Dastardly, and even a cameo-like appearance from Captain Cave Man. It’s all well and good and I get where Cervone wanted to go with it, but it’s a bit too early to tackle on, especially for a single movie; resulting in a hodgepodge animated feature that struggles to nail down its characters correctly and muddling its story as the film progressives forward. Basically, the movie should’ve remained small (like a classic Scooby-Doo episode) rather than going big.
Who’s to blame? Well, there is a part of Cervone’s fault for directing the feature this way, but also on the film’s script, which was penned by Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson, Derek Elliot, Eyal Podell, and Jonathan E. Stewart. If you’re seeing all those names, then you’ll know that there seems to be too many writers in the script handling (i.e. too many cooks in the kitchen), which is clearly visible in the shaping of Scoob!’s story. To me, the movie could’ve achieved this “shared universe” / “save the world” direction, but only if the prior standalone feature films were created to establish the characters and set-up. Think like 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers and how that was setup, with standalone entries for each of the superhero prior to its release. The payoff worked and each character, who was already established in their own separate movie, was allowed to focus more on the actual plot than trying to establish everything in one single film. Think of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and how busy the movie was by trying to setup everything the way it did by serving “too many masters”. That’s what Scoob! does and, while its an admirable attempt, it just doesn’t work. In truth, Scoob! really should’ve been focused squarely on the original Scooby / Mystery gang. Then maybe later…. explore the ideas of opening animated universe up to other characters from the Hannah-Barbara vault. Unfortunately, the end result of the feature bares the weigh of that decision and its ambitious aim to project, it ultimately doesn’t work. There’s just too little time for many of movie to wraps its head around its various characters, story beats, and poignant moments. I do praise the movie for moving at a brisk pace, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of character developments or narrative pieces. Speaking of narrative, the script also struggles to establish a strong main plot thread, with only a vague explanation here and there, but that only comes about halfway through the movie and (as I said above) gets messy within its own “superhero” aspects and “team up” nuances. In addition, the script handling is a bit heavy-handed in its foreshadowing of events (even for a kid’s flick) and a tad cliché in its dialogue lines. Plus, while I do like a few pop-culture references here and there, the movie’s script gets a bit too heavy in utilizing them. To sum it all up, Scoob! struggles to bring it altogether in a cohesive way. There’s definitely something that works in the shaping of it all, but their strain in the old vs. new ideas for Scooby-Doo and gang, which makes the feature all the more disappointing. Still, for what it’s worth, I enjoyed….I just wished that it was better handled.
What definitely helps in overlooking that glaring criticism is in the voice talents that are in Scoob!, which helps brings these classic Hannah-Barbara characters to life. Leading the charge and headlining the feature for most of the time are the central characters of Scooby-Doo and Shaggy, who are voiced by actors Frank Welker and Will Forte. Naturally, Welker, who has done many, many voiceover works in his career, including voicing Megatron in the Transformers original animated series and Fred Jones himself in Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?. So, it comes as no surprise that that Welker would provide the voice of Scooby-Doo in the movie and he does a great job in the role, delivering the iconic voice for the Great Dane character in way that makes him quite endearing from start to finish. Complimenting Welker’s voice is Forte, who is known for his roles in Good Boys, Booksmart, and MacGruber, who certainly nails the voice of Shaggy in a way that it almost seems a bit uncanny that its not the original voice playing the character. The sometimes scratch / high-pitch voice of a Shaggy is still there as Forte emulate the iconic persona quite well as well as handling some of the dramatic message moments of dialogue in equal measure. Together, both Welker and Forte are perfect in the roles of Scoob and Shaggy and definitely make a great team.
The rest of the Scooby gang is pretty much what you would expect from a movie project like this, which is to slightly tweak the established characters for a modern world but still keeping the classic personas that many have grown accustomed to throughout the years of the Scooby-Doo franchise. Thus, the characters of Daphne and Velma, who are voiced by actresses Amanda Seyfried (Dear John and Mamma Mia!) and Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin and Deepwater Horizon), are perfectly utilized in their respective roles as the empathy teen and the brains characters of the group (something that’s been there trademark for most of the franchise). Rest assured that both Seyfried and Rodriguez do fine jobs in their roles (no problems with them). Fred, however, gets a little bit more screen-time than Daphne or Velma and seems a bit livelier than most of his past iterations. He’s still the somewhat de-facto leader of the group and still drives the Mystery Machine around, but there seems more for him to do. Perhaps it is because he’s voiced by actor Zac Efron (High School Musical and The Greatest Showman), who brings a bit of new life into Fred, which does certainly make him more memorable than past portrayals of the character. Together all three talents are good in the movie (as well as their characters themselves), but the movie sort of pushes them aside for most of the second act, which is disappointing. That being said, I do have admit that the young voice talents of actor Iain Armitage (Young Sheldon and The Glass Castle), actress McKenna Grace (Gifted and Annabelle Comes Home), actor Pierce Gagnon (Tomorrowland and Looper), and actress Ariana Greenblatt (Avengers: Infinity War and A Bad Moms Christmas) do a great job in voicing the younger iterations of Shaggy, Daphne, Fred, and Velma…..even though their screen is quite limited. Kind of wished the movie focused on the younger Scooby gang for the first installment and then move to the more older teen versions in a follow-up endeavor.
Looking beyond the Scooby gang, the movie supporting players (though can be regard as large players in the movie) comes in the form of the Blue Falcon team (another Hannah-Barbara IP from their animated vault), with actor Mark Wahlberg (The Departed and The Fighter) lead the charge as Blue Falcon himself (or rather Brian, the original Blue Falcon’s son). Wahlberg is solid in the role; demonstrating the right balance of lightheartedness and charismatic voicing to the role, which definitely works and is sometimes a great foil to many of the characters that he interacts with. Likewise, actor Ken Jeong (The Hangover and Crazy Rich Asians) is perhaps one of the more memorable voices characters in the movie; providing the voice of Dynomutt, who is Blue Falcon’s sidekick, with Jeong making the cybernetic dog have a cynical tone. Also, actress Kiersey Clemons (Dope and Sweetheart) does a good job in the role of Dee Dee Sykes, the third member of the Blue Falcon, but her character isn’t fully fleshed out is mostly there for just moving plot points forward (if you know what I mean). Collectively, these three are solid in their respective roles and I kind of wished that there was a standalone movie that featured the Blue Falcon team. Lastly, in the villain category, I do have to say that actor Jason Issacs (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) does do an impressive job in bringing the cartoon villain of Dick Dastardly to life in a way that definitely speaks to the original persona of the character (i.e a baddie, but a larger-than-life / over-the-top cartoon baddie).
The only voice that I thought was a miscast was in Captain Caveman, who is voiced by actor Tracy Morgan (30 Rock and Boxtrolls), who just doesn’t seem to voice the classic Hannah-Barbara character correctly and seems off-putting. I understand why they chose Morgan, but it doesn’t work. The same goes for his cameo-like appearance in the movie as it just seems like a gratuitous cameo that the script was trying (or straining) to bring in.
Scooby, Shaggy, and the rest of the Scooby gang face their greatest challenge of saving the world from the wickedness of Dick Dastardly in the movie Scoob!. Director Tony Cervone latest film takes the classic Scooby-Doo characters (and friends) and translate that aspect for a new generation of viewers; sharing plenty of animated antics and comedic bits (as well as heart) throughout the adventure. While the “save the world” bit was a bit too much for a Scooby-Doo tale and the whole movie is quite overstuffed with too many secondary characters (an attempt to establish a entire shared universe for a possible new animated franchise), the movie is still able to sustain itself from trouble thanks to its colorful animation, solid voice talents, a few nostalgia references, and some tender moments of friendship. Personally, I’m a little torn about this movie. Yes, I enjoyed it, but at the same time, I was a little disappointed by it. I love the characters and the jokes / gags throughout, but the whole “shared universe” for the Hannah-Barbara properties just didn’t work. Although, I do think its better than the 2002 live-action film version of Scooby-Doo….by a long shot. The movie’s targeted demographic age range will surely like it and maybe even some of the older Scooby-Doo fans out there (for nostalgia purposes). Thus, my recommendation for this movie is a “iffy-choice” as some like it, while others won’t. It’s a hard to make a decision with so many mixed feelings about the film. While the ending of the movie prompts ideas for future sequels, I find it unlikely that second installment will materialize in the near future (unless there is a massive reworking focus of the story). In the end, Scoob! is one of those animated movies that works but doesn’t at the same time. Its enjoyable, but its not the best. It’s not terrible, but its not quite memorable. Let’s hope that Scooby and the Mystery gang live to see another day in the modern realm of children’s CGI animated entertainment….in some shape or form one day again.
3.4 Out of 5 (Iffy-Choice)
Released On: May 15th, 2020
Reviewed On: May 20th, 2020
Scoob! is 94 minutes long and is rated PG for some action, language, and rude / suggestive humor