If it’s possible for a film to be both too much and not enough, then that’s probably the best way to describe Scoob!, the latest studio feature film that was originally scheduled to be released theatrically and now has gone the home-streaming route. And much like its predecessor—and fellow kid-friendly animated work—Trolls World Tour, the thinking behind pushing this film out for home viewing is that parents are desperate to give their kids something, anything new to watch for 90-some minutes while adults get a much-needed break. The formula worked like gangbusters for the Trolls sequel, and there’s no reason to think it won’t do the same for a new Scooby-Doo movie, perhaps even more so since so many parents grew up watching the “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” Hanna-Barbera series and might be pulled into watching the film out of curiosity or a touch of nostalgia.
The most shocking thing about Scoob! is, in fact, how little things have changed in the Scooby-Doo world since its debut in 1969. Scooby (Frank Welker, who has been doing the voice since the early 2000s; he was also the original actor who voiced Fred, as well as Dynomutt and the Transformers baddy Megatron, both in the cartoons and Michael Bay films) and his best friend Shaggy (Will Forte) still hang out with fellow mystery solvers Fred (Zac Effron), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and Velma (Gina Rodriguez); they still drive around in the Mystery Machine van; and most of their mysteries have a distinct supernatural element to them, with self-professed cowards Scooby and Shaggy eager to stay out of danger. (It’s beyond me why no one ever just admits that Shaggy is a hippie stoner who always has the munchies.)
The film opens promisingly with a touching origin story about how Scooby and Shaggy (the younger version of which is voiced by “Young Sheldon” star Iain Armitage) first met, both connecting based on their desperate need as youngsters to make friends in world filled with judgmental jerks. After finding out how the pair meet the rest of Mystery Inc., the film jumps ahead to them fully engaged as mystery solvers, with hundreds of cases already solves but their biggest one yet to come—one that might involve the actual fate of the world. Since we live in a world of shared cinematic universes now, it seems only right that Scoob! incorporates other Hanna-Barbera characters in its story. The villain with the subtle name of Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) is collecting three rather large dog skulls for some nefarious purpose that also involves his wanting to kidnap Scooby-Doo.
In order to stop Dastardly, the superhero Blue Falcon (or more specifically, his son who has taken on his crimefighting ways and is voiced by Mark Wahlberg) snatches up Scooby and Shaggy to protect them. His sidekicks include the robot dog Dynomutt, Dog Wonder (Ken Jeong) and Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons), who seem more focused and generally interested in being superheroes than Blue Falcon. The good-guy crew also cross paths with Captain Caveman (Tracy Morgan), who has been charged with protecting one of the skulls hidden somewhere around the world and is quite and effective fighter, to be honest. Throughout the film, there are glimpses of other Hanna-Barbera characters, as well as a few random Warner Bros. intellectual property, just to remind us who is putting this film out. A good Easter egg hunt is always fun, but like a real one, it gets tiresome after a while.
Marking the feature debut for director Tony Cervone (who has helmed a great deal of animated works, including Scooby-Doo! And Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery), Scoob! has an energy and color palette that is both eye-opening and exhausting. I mean, Junkie XL does the score, the guy who also did the recent Sonic the Hedgehog movie as well as Alita: Battle Angel, Batman v Superman, the original Deadpool, and most famously Mad Max: Fury Road. He is exceedingly talented, and in no way subtle. But weirdly enough, he seems like the exact right composer for any story involving the possible end of the world. So when we discover that the three dog skulls belong to Cerberus and that bringing them together will open a gate to hell (pretty dark stuff for a kids movie), Junkie XL’s pounding beats will feel like the right soundtrack to the apocalypse.
But it’s when the story takes the time to find smaller, more intimate moments that it works the best. And the film’s four (!) writers have the sense to always bring it back to the friendship between Scooby and Shaggy, which features a climactic moment that feels right out of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which is a lot heavier than I thought this film might get. But those meddling kids and a fledgling superhero find the right combination to meet Dastardly head on, and the results are massive and massively predictable, as is much of Scoob! For the most part, the movie feels underdeveloped at best and flat out lazy the rest of the time. I’m not attempting to oversell the source material by any stretch, but at least the animated series has some laughs playing with and debunking its horror elements. There’s a great deal of heart in its framework, but not much else to recommend in this film.
The film is now available for a $19.99 48-hour rental and $24.99 purchase from most digital streaming services and digital retailers.
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