With the release of Scoob! we finally see the Scooby-Doo gang making their big move into computer animation, which is about time considering we’ve already had live-action and even puppet versions of Scooby-Doo. But with this particular outing, the writers veered into Scrappy-Doo territory without actually including Scrappy-Doo, and by that I mean Fred, Daphne and Velma are sidelined for much of the film’s screen-time just as they were in the original Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo Show.
The movie opens with a new origin story of how a young Shaggy met a pup named Scooby-Doo and how they had their first mystery team-up with fellow trick-or-treaters Fred, Daphne and Velma as they bust a crook using a supposed haunted house to hide his ill-gotten gains. However, once our introduction to our crime-busting gang is over with, the film jumps to the present day where Fred (Zac Efron) informs the gang that they’ve got to put Mystery Inc. on a more professional footing if they hope to make enough money to repair the Mystery Machine. Enter Simon Cowell, who explains to the group that if he is to consider investing money into Mystery Inc., they need to be a better group and that means losing the deadwood. He states that Fred is the muscle, Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) is the people-person, and Velma (Gina Rodriguez) has the smarts and the technical savvy, while Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby (Frank Welker) are the Weakest Links.
It’s this division in the ranks that propels the story forward as our dejected duo soon find themselves being targeted for collection by Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), who’s on the hunt for three giant dog skulls that will allow him to access a fortune in gold located in the underworld. Turns out, the legendary Alexander the Great hid his vast treasure within the Greek Underworld, as one would tend to do, but to “safely” open a doorway, a direct descendant of Peritas (Alexander the Great’s dog) is needed.
Even as far as Scooby-Doo plotlines go, this one is a tad convoluted. Not only does it bring up all this bizarre mythology, it also throws in a backstory regarding how Dick Dastardly lost his faithful dog, Muttley, in his first attempt at getting the treasure — in a scene reminiscent of Stargate. We also have a whole subplot with the Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and Dynomutt (Ken Jeong), where we learn that this isn’t the original Blue Falcon but rather his incompetent son, who is an egocentric buffoon with confidence issues stemming from not being as good as his dad.
With all our characters finally introduced and established, including Blue Falcon’s version of Luscious Fox in the form of Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons) — who pilots the ship and is mostly in charge of exposition — the mystery is finally ready to get underway. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a mystery to be solved. Scoob! is more of a “treasure hunt” movie, with different teams running around trying to acquire a particular MacGuffin, rather than your standard Scooby-Doo mystery.
And speaking of teams, what is the rest of Mystery Inc. doing while Shaggy and Scooby are flying around with the Blue Falcon? We do check in on Fred, Daphne, and Velma occasionally, as they try and track down the “abducted” Shaggy and Scooby, but they don’t have much effect on the plot other than to hammer in the idea that “friendship is important” during the film’s climax, and stating that Shaggy and Scooby are, “The heart of Mystery Inc.”
• The title sequence is a nice homage to the opening of the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
• In their “ghostly” encounter at the Rigby House, for the first time in Scooby-Doo history, the rigging for the fake ghost is quickly spotted by our heroes.
• Apparently, dog kennel registries keep track of lineages of their dogs going as far back as ancient Macedonia. Who knew?
• The three mystical skulls Dastardly needs for his evil plan is a complete lift from the 1996 comic book movie The Phantom.
• The bowling alley where Shaggy and Scooby are attacked is named Takamoto Bowl, after Scooby-Doo’s original designer, Iwao Takamoto.
• The third skull is located below Messick Mountain, a nice nod to original Scooby-Doo voice actor Don Messick.
• In the original Dynomutt Show, it was Dynomutt who was the clumsy comic relief, but in this incarnation, it’s Blue Falcon’s son who is the goofball. Is this another case of subverting expectations?
• We get plenty of references to other Hanna-Barbera animated properties, such as Peebles’ Pet Store from The Magilla Gorilla Show, Dick Dastardly is obviously from Wacky Races, Velma’s laptop was from Quest Labs, and posters for Hong Kong Phooey and the Hex Girls can be spotted in the Funland Amusement Park. These are all pretty fun items for fans to find, but there was one painful reference that set my teeth on edge.
If you’ve been longing to see a return of Captain Caveman, this movie may spark some joy, but Tracy Morgan was so horribly miscast in the part that I’m thinking more horror than joy will be sparked here. His signature scream of “Captain Caveman!” is another hollow reference by writers who don’t seem to understand the source material.
Director Tony Cervone keeps things pretty lively throughout the film’s ninety-plus-minute run-time, with wacky hijinks and shenanigans for the cast of characters to bounce through, but I never once felt like I was watching a Scooby-Doo movie. It was more a parody of the superhero genre, and part of that stems from the fact that Mark Wahlberg’s Blue Falcon looked to be trying very hard to be Will Arnett’s Lego Batman, but without the charm or humour. Overall, the writing was fairly uninspired, with the nostalgia factor being the only tool the filmmakers had under their belt — references to other cartoons will only get you so far — and without the team dynamic that fans of Scooby-Doo have grown to love, all the speeches about heart and friendship will fall rather flat.
On the voice-casting side of things, it’s really a shame that only Frank Welker was asked to return, as Matthew Lillard (who has voiced Shaggy in most incarnations ever since he took the role back in 2002), is greatly missed here as Will Forte sounds nothing like Shaggy. Zac Efron is so blandly boring as Fred Jones that he’s almost instantly forgettable. Amanda Seyfried and Gina Rodriguez do better as Daphne and Velma, but as they are not given all that much to do storywise, one must ask why such talented actors were wasted on such thankless parts. The only actor to come out of this thing fairly unscathed is Jason Isaacs as Dick Dastardly; he perfectly captured the nefarious cartoon villain, which brings us back to the problem of plotting. We are given the ridiculous premise of Scooby being needed to open a doorway to the underworld, and then the film simply bounces us from one location to the next for the sole purpose of setting up a series of random, weak jokes.
On the plus side, the computer animation this film had to offer is at times quite spectacular, and re-imagined classic characters are brought wonderfully to life. I just wish they’d married this artwork with a better story. Scoob! is nowhere near the worst of the Scooby-Doo movies, but as a film that was supposed to be a theatrical release, it’s quite disappointing, as all the cool visuals in the world can’t hide lazy writing.
You can find all my reviews of the various Scooby-Doo shows and movies collected here: The Wonderful World of Scooby-Doo.
Movie Rank - 5/10
This movie had a lot of potential it’s just unfortunate that the filmmakers fell back on lazy screenwriting tropes and nostalgic offerings in the hope that no one would notice their film was a shallow mess.