Continuity has never been Scooby-Doo’s strong suit, with ghosts and monsters switching between fake and real depending on the particular run of the show, but Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf hits new lows by completely ignoring the previous film; one that came out the same bloody year! In Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School, our heroes were briefly teachers for the daughters of the Universal Monsters, where they even had a rather “affable” relationship with the parents, but in Reluctant Werewolf, we have Dracula playing the part of lead antagonist for this group of monsters. Now, I didn’t expect this movie to be a direct sequel, but having characters perform complete one-eighties is a symptom of lazy writing.
There really isn’t much of a plot to Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf as this movie is simply a lazy imitation of Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Races where, in this case, instead of Dick Dastardly and Muttley, we get Dracula and his monster crew. The basic story here is that fearing he will have to cancel the annual Monster Road Rally, due to the Wolfman retiring to Florida, Dracula (Hamilton Camp) consults “The Grimness Book of Records” to discover how to get a new werewolf. According to the book, “Every five hundred years, the moon comes into perfect position, on three consecutive nights, to create a new werewolf, and it starts tomorrow night,” and to seal the deal, the book includes a picture of Shaggy (Casey Kasem) as the next person destined to become a werewolf.
Dracula sends twin hunchbacks, who call themselves “The Hunch Bunch,” to ensure that Shaggy becomes a werewolf, which is rather odd considering the prophecy made this seem like a done deal, but regardless of this unnecessary bit of stupidity, this bumbling pair of morons are sent to America to retrieve Shaggy. Somehow, they end up bringing along Scooby-Doo and Scrappy (Don Messick) as well as Shaggy’s “Adoring and liberated girlfriend, Googie” (B.J. Ward ), a character who seems madly in love with Shaggy but is never seen again in any further Scooby television shows or movies.
Once Dracula’s hunchbacked henchmen capture our heroes and ferry them off to Transylvania, the movie’s “plot” is set into gear when Shaggy refuses to participate in the Monster Road Rally. However, when facing imminent death, he makes a deal with Dracula, stating that he’ll race under the condition that if he wins, Dracula must return him back to his human state and allow him and his friends to leave. What follows is your standard Wacky Races shenanigans with Dracula doing his best to guarantee that Shaggy and Scooby lose the race, and with the “help” of fellow racers (consisting of Frankenstein’s monster, his wife Repulsa, a Mummy, the Witch Sisters, Dragonfly, Dr. Jackyll/Mr. Snyde, Swamp Thing, and Bone Jangles the Skeleton), who cheats constantly throughout the entire race, it would seem unlikely that Shaggy and the gang could possibly win.
• From gym teacher to race car driver, Shaggy does seem to have numerous talents, though his history as an abject coward makes him being a stock car driver rather out of character, as racing is one of the more dangerous sports.
• Apparently, in this universe, being bitten by a werewolf doesn’t spread the curse. Instead, you have to wait every 500 years for a particular moonlit night.
• Why did the Hunch Bunch need to go out of their way to expose Shaggy to moonlight? It’s not as if we don’t see Shaggy out and about at night during this prophesied full moon.
• Even this movie’s writers couldn’t come up with an explanation as to why hiccups would cause Shaggy to instantly switch back and forth between his human and werewolf form.
• Dracula literally has a Bat-Copter and a Bat-Plane — not that this makes him much of a caped crusader.
• This is not the first time Shaggy has been turned into a werewolf, as it happened before in the episode “Moonlight Madness” from the second run of Scooby-Doo and Scrappy. Only this time no magic medallion was required.
• Shaggy and Scooby find themselves way out in the lead multiple times despite all the sabotage and setbacks that plague them during the race; maybe Dracula shouldn’t have given them such a good car if he wanted them to lose.
Simply put, Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf is a bad movie, not even just as an example of a bad Scooby-Doo movie, as it fails on multiple levels — if you thought the lazy puns in Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School were bad, they’ve got nothing on this movie. Frustratingly, once again, there isn’t a mystery to solve, nor are Fred, Velma or Daphne anywhere to be seen. The only genuinely funny character in this entire film is Vanna Pira (Pat Musick), a hybrid of Vampira and Wheel of Fortune’s Vanna White, whose idea of good colour commentary during the race consists of her pointing out random colours, “Like, there’s some brown, and there’s some grey and there’s some green,” and sure, that is a pretty silly joke, but it’s also about the only one that landed in this ninety-minute mess. We certainly could have used more Vanna Pira and less of the Hunch Bunch, because if you want to know what could be more annoying than Scrappy-Doo, it’d be these guys.
The sad thing here is that there was a simple way to make this a better movie: make Dracula one of the good guys. In the previous film, it’d already been established that Dracula and the Scooby gang were on friendly terms, with them teaching Dracula’s daughter at the Ghoul School, so with Dracula needing a werewolf to enter the Monster Road Rally, he could have approached Shaggy and Scooby for their help. What could be easier? As it stands, we have a movie where Dracula needs Shaggy for the race, to the point where he Shanghai’s him to Transylvania and blackmails him into competing, but then he proceeds to work against him for the rest of the movie. Wouldn’t it have been more interesting if Dracula needed them to win the race and some other mysterious villain was working behind the scenes to see that they failed? A movie where Shaggy becomes a monster is rife with possibilities, but the writers of The Reluctant Werewolf apparently couldn’t care less. I’m also not sure what sort of lycanthropy Shaggy suffered from because once he becomes a werewolf, he remains one for the rest of the film and doesn’t seem to be affected by the moon anymore.
“Even an idiot who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the Autumn moon is bright.”
Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf is easily one of the worst of the Scooby-Doo animated movies. Its collection of lame jokes and sight gags is something even most five-year-olds would find tired and boring. The only positive thing I can say about this movie is that it also featured the last appearance of Scrappy-Doo (that is until his return in the live-action Scooby-Doo movie).
You can find all my reviews of the various Scooby-Doo shows and movies collected here: The Wonderful World of Scooby-Doo.
Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf (1988) – Review
Movie Rank - 3.5/10
There are a fair amount of duds when it comes to Scooby-Doo movies but this one stands apart as being one of the worst, from its moronic plot to the lame collection of jokes there is nothing here for Scooby-Doo fans to enjoy.