With Scooby-Doo! Adventures: The Mystery Map, we get another Scooby-Doo mystery involving ghost pirates — having most recently tackled the ghost of Captain Skunkbeard in Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! — but this particular outing stands out from all their other adventures (be thee nautical in nature or other), by being the first to give us the Scooby gang in puppet form.
With character designs based on the series A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, this adventure takes place when the Scooby gang were elementary school-aged, while also taking some of that show’s wackier aspects that satirized the conventions of the show’s previous incarnations, but Scooby-Doo! Adventures: The Mystery Map is also a bit more surreal in nature than any other incarnation of Scooby-Doo. In this movie, we find the Scooby gang living in a rather large treehouse — with an interior even larger than its exterior as if part Tardis — and things kick off when the pizza Shaggy (Matthew Lillard) orders for him and Scooby-Doo turns out to include a treasure map inside one of the slices.
Velma (Stephanie D’Abruzzo) informs the gang that the map belonged to the notorious pirate Gnarlybeard (John Rhys-Davies) who had such a foul-smelling beard that it would often knock out his victims. This famed pirate was also known to have a maniacal sidekick named Ye Phantom Parrot (Dee Bradley Baker), a huge menacing parrot with a terrifying squawk. No sooner does Velma finish recounting this nautical nightmare than a giant parrot bursts into the room and steals the treasure map.
As mysteries go, the one found in Scooby-Doo! Adventures: The Mystery Map is, if not one of the better ones, is easily one of the more bizarre, due in no small part to the cast being weird-ass puppets, but there is an actual solid mystery holding it all together, and Velma is actually given solid clues to uncover the identity of the villain… or villains? The short forty-five-minute run-time doesn’t provide a lot of time for a plethora of suspects, so the gang is stuck with just two. First, there is archeologist Dr. Escobar (Grey Griffin), who accuses the Scooby gang of trying to steal her “great” discovery, and then there is creepy Lighthouse Lou (Jeff Bennett) who is guilty of… uh… being creepy, I guess.
Where Scooby-Doo! Adventures: The Mystery Map strays from the regular Scooby-Doo formula is that this movie is basically divided into two parts, with the first part dealing with the Scooby gang capturing Ye Phantom Parrot, and discovering it to be Stu Stukowski the pizza delivery boy who is possibly the sixth great-grandkid of Gnarlybeard, and who dropped the treasure map in the pizza he’d delivered. But the mystery isn’t over yet; as the gang continues to hunt for the treasure — again running afoul of Dr. Escobar and her assistant Shirley, who Fred (Frank Welker) thinks is cute and smells wonderful, much to Daphne’s (Grey Griffin) dismay — and before you know it, Shaggy and Scooby are shanghaied by none other than Gnarlybeard himself.
This movie does go off into some rather bizarre tangents, like Daphne revealing that her rich father leaves airplanes all over the world just in case he may need one, but some of the humour sadly focuses on what an idiot Fred really is, with him repeating something Velma or Daphne had already stated as if he had figured it out all along. Then we have the reveal that Gnarlybeard is Dr. Escobar’s assistant Shirley, who happens to be Stu’s sister and also after her “rightful” inheritance. Then, to make things even more bizarre, we learn that Dr. Escobar’s “most important discovery” was just her old teddy bear that Lighthouse Lou had given to her on their first date.
Having a puppet incarnation of Scooby-Doo and the gang was certainly a novel idea, and definitely better than The Happytime Murders which also tried a different take on The Muppets, but the execution of puppetry in this movie I found to be rather unnerving at times — what with their flapping mouths and dead eyes — so this particular format didn’t always work for me. On the other hand, I did enjoy some of the movie’s rather surreal elements.
• Fred’s mirrored reflection, while he works out, moves and talks independently of him.
• Daphne’s shoe collection appears to be sentient.
• The lighthouse stairwell briefly turns into an escalator with elevator muzak playing.
• Scooby Snacks have the ability to transform Scooby-Doo into a giant ball, knock over stone bowling pins and eventually into an actual rocket.
Note: Scooby Snacks giving our canine hero strange powers could be a nod to the nano-tech formula from Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!
Scooby-Doo! Adventures: The Mystery Map will go down as one of the more peculiar entries in the history of Scooby-Doo, even more than the delightfully bizarre run of Be Cool, Scooby-Doo, and though the puppet medium didn’t quite work for me, that doesn’t necessarily mean other viewers won’t find this felt adventure to be right up their alley.
You can find all my reviews of the various Scooby-Doo shows and movies collected here: The Wonderful World of Scooby-Doo.
Scooby Doo! Adventures: The Mystery Map (2013)
Movie Rank - 7/10
A puppet version of Scooby-Doo may have worked better for me if it wasn’t based the A Pup Named Scooby-Doo era, as it was run I was never a fan off, and if instead it had been about the gang being transformed into puppets by some nefarious spell, regardless the mystery of Scooby-Doo! Adventures: The Mystery Map was a fairly solid direct-to-video movie.