Back in the late 90s, we were treated to several Scooby-Doo movies where the fantastical creatures were actually real — starting with Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island and ending with Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase — but after those films, the formula returned to the typical “Dudes in Masks” type of mysteries, that is until the release of Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King. Not only was the title threat an honest-to-goodness monster — the powerful ruler of Halloween World — but we also learned that pretty much all other types of monsters were real as well. How does such a shift in continuity work? Can this movie explain the supernatural world and how it fits into the Scooby-Doo universe? Sadly, the answers to such pertinent questions are few and far between this time around.
Our story opens with the Scooby gang visiting the Coolsville Halloween Carnival, where we see Shaggy (Casey Kasem) and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) reveling in the fact that they aren’t afraid of “Any phony old frights,” because “Halloween is the one night when you know everything is fake.” This attitude leads them to heckle a carnival magician named “The Amazing Krudsky” (Wayne Knight) and expose him for being a fraud. This not only gets the gang thrown out of the carnival but it also turns Krudsky into this movie’s vengeful villain. Yet how can a third-rate stage magician pose a threat to our heroes?
A rebellious Fairy Princess named Willow (Hayden Panettiere) enters Krudsky’s tent and through her clumsiness, she reveals her presence and the fact that an item called “The Goblin Scepter” could give Krudsky “Ultimate Power” over the Halloween World. The bumbling magician captures the Fairy Princess, absorbs her fairy magic, and proceeds with his goal of getting his grubby little hands on that scepter.
Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King is a rare Scooby-Doo mystery in that it isn’t a mystery at all as we know right from the start that the story’s antagonist is the magician Krudsky — sure, we do get the Goblin King later on but he’s not really the force that drives the plot forward — and it is this element that leads to the movie’s chief failing. Without a mystery, there really isn’t much for Fred (Frank Welker), Daphne (Grey Griffin) or Velma (Mindy Cohn) to do. If you thought they were stuck in the background during the events of Chill Out, Scooby-Doo! well, in this film they barely have any screen time at all. Instead, we follow Shaggy and Scooby as they venture into the Halloween World to steal the scepter from the Goblin King (Tim Curry) before Krudsky has a chance to.
And why exactly would our resident cowards take on such a perilous quest? The helpful proprietor of the magic shop, Mr. Gibbles (Wallace Shawn), who is a faerie creature himself, tells the duo that if the Goblin King’s scepter falls into Krudsky’s possession it would cause an imbalance in the supernatural order, but on a more personal note Krudsky will turn Fred, Daphne, and Velma into monsters if he doesn’t get what he wants.
What follows is a collection of fantastical set-pieces that deal with Shaggy and Scooby and their quest to steal the scepter; they will have to bluff their way past a werewolf bar owner (Tim Curry) — this so that we can get a pointless musical number — then they visit the Grand Witch (Lauren Bacall) to get directions to the Goblin King’s castle and also borrow a broom, but one of the larger sequences involves our two dumb-dumbs teaming up with a talking Jack O’Lantern (Jay Leno) who needs their help escaping The Headless Horseman. It has nothing to do with the plot, but it sure was cool.
• The audience for “The Amazing Krudsky” seemed really upset that he wasn’t using real magic. Do the people in Coolsville not understand that stage magic isn’t real?
• During Shaggy and Scooby’s visit to a Halloween World bar, we see many monsters from previous Scooby-Doo mysteries, such as Phantom Shadow from “A Night of Fright is No Delight,” and the Creeper from “Jeepers! It’s the Creeper,” to just name a couple, and the sequence works as a nice Easter Egg Hunt for fans of Scooby-Doo.
• Velma is treated terribly in this movie. When witnessing real magic she babbles, “Rational mind, shutting down,” and faints. Velma is my favourite character and this moment was just insulting.
• Shaggy and Scooby are given a deadline that they must retrieve the scepter before midnight or be trapped in Halloween World forever. This is basically forgotten as it seems that a simple broom ride is all it takes to escape.
• Gibbles gives Shaggy and Scooby magic cards that perform spells just by reading the inscription on each one, but none of them are really all that effective and just provide a random amount of sight-gags.
• The film gives us a surprise reveal that Fairy Princess Willow is the daughter of the Goblin King, but how in the hell is a tiny fairy princess the daughter of an all-powerful goblin? Was she adopted?
• Shaggy and Scooby disguise themselves as Daphne and Velma to get inside the Goblin King’s castle. Why this works is beyond me.
As an animated film, Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King has a very definite “Disney Movie” feel to it, what with the big musical numbers interrupting the “plot” every now and then — one particular song, “Goblin Oogie Boogie” sung by Jim Belushi went on forever — and even some of the character designs looked borrowed from the Disney Archives, especially in the case of the aforementioned Headless Horseman who looked like he’d been lifted right out of Disney’s The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Even the settings seemed cribbed from Disney animated classics; the Goblin King’s castle had a foreboding blend of both Maleficent’s castle and the abode of the Horned King from The Black Cauldron.
The main failing of Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King is the lack of a central threat; both Krudsky and the Goblin King have very little screen-time and seem mostly forgotten by the screenwriters — Krudsky is supposedly the main villain, but he disappears for the bulk of the movie until the grand finale — and so we are left with a series of episodic adventures starring Shaggy and Scooby-Doo. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if handled well, as these are the kind of hijinks and shenanigans that most kids want to see, but with such a great cast of voice talent, and amazing if a little plagiarized character designs, it could have been so much better. The sidelining of Fred, Daphne, and Velma, as well as the lack of an actual mystery, prevents Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King from becoming a classic like Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island. It’s not a terrible entry in the Scooby-Doo lexicon but it could have easily been so much better.
Note: Tim Curry, who provided the voice for The Goblin King, had previously played the villain in Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost.
Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King (2008)
Movie Rank - 6/10
Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King is a visually chaotic wonderland of fantastical fun, with Shaggy and Scooby taking on numerous monsters and ghouls, on the downside, it’s at the expense of a solid story and the rest of the Scooby gang.