Mystery Incorporated are back on the case in the latest cinematic outing for the Scooby Gang. There’s rarely been a time that Scooby hasn’t been on the small screen in some fashion since his creation in the original Hanna-Barbera cartoons back in 1969. The last time we saw Scoob, Shaggy Fred, Daphne and Velma in a big budget cinematic adventure was in live-action form some 16 years ago now (oh God, really!?), in Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. Those James Gunn penned movies have gone on to have a loyal following amongst the generation that grew up with them, so it would seem Warner Brothers felt it was time to dust off the intellectual property once more for a new generation.
This time around, it is all about building a cinematic universe. With Mystery Inc growing more and more successful, Shaggy (voiced by Will Forte) and Scooby (Frank Weller) are forced to think about just what their place is in the group. They won’t have long to think, because they soon find themselves thrust on a mission to protect the world when Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) and Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons) come calling. Soon, Scooby and the gang find that they are part of a much bigger universe than any of them could have imagined.
It is not hard to see how this latest Scooby-Doo adventure has been constructed, and just what the blueprint is the studio is pulling from. With characters appearing from other Hanna-Barbera cartoons and more outlandish science fiction action, it is very clear that Scooby is getting the Marvel treatment. As a result, anything that this film has that is close to resembling a heart is pretty quickly discarded in favour of an over-crowded attempt to franchise the thing. What’s left is a largely inspired product that feels too cynically designed to enjoy all that much.
It is a shame because the proceedings kick off in quite promising fashion. The opening rolls the clock back a bit to show how Shaggy meets Scooby, and how the oddball pairing ended up becoming friends with Fred, Daphne and Velma. It is here where the film is at its most engaging, as it actually appears to be about something, something simple and sweet: friendship. But then as we fast forward and the film becomes more about prophecies, superpowers and world-ending plots, it loses much of that core idea in favour of copying blockbuster beats and visual details.
It doesn’t help that for the most part, the Scooby Gang are barely together. The film becomes overcrowded with subplots and characters, involving Blue Falcon and Dynomutt’s superhero team, Dick Dastardly’s evil plot, and a journey to the centre of the Earth where a certain Captain Caveman resides. It’s a wonder the film is even called Scoob as it is often that these beloved characters don’t particularly ever feel like themselves, with most of them barely making an impact in the story in a meaningful way.
Animation wise, the film is designed brightly enough, with some faithful 3D recreations of classic characters. The voice cast are all in fine form too, with Wahlberg as the man child that is Blue Falcon proving to be a highlight. They are let down by a script that seems out of fresh ideas beyond the idea of introducing multiple Hanna-Barbera in one go. The Marvel cribbing doesn’t stop there, as it even extends to characterisations. Blue Falcon is very much a Thor-esque figure, the introduction of Captain Caveman is straight out of Thor: Ragnarok, and even Dee Dee Sykes’ costume is a copy of Captain Marvel’s design. While there’s an attempt to bring it all back round to the idea of friendship, the overall experience has been far too frenetic and derivative, meaning that its heart just doesn’t prove convincing
There’s no doubt kids will enjoy the fast-moving action and vibrant design, but there’s little here to believe it’s going to have much lasting impact. As a means to keep the kids entertained for an hour and a half, it serves its functions, but despite some clearly well-executed animation and some initial promise, this is decidedly lacking in anything that allows this to stand as little more than an exercise in exploiting intellectual property.
Dir: Tony Cervone
Scr: Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson, Derek Elliott, Matt Lieberman, based on characters
by Hanna-Barbera Productions
Cast: Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, Frank Welker
Prd: Pam Coats, Allison Abbate
Music: Tom Holkenborg
Runtime: 94 minutes
Scoob! is out on DVD and Blu-Ray from September 28th 2020.