By AUSTIN MYERS
Evil villains, transforming robots, superheroes and the Mystery Machine? In this Scooby-doo reboot, “Scoob!”, the gang takes on a case like we have never seen before.
At the beginning of the movie we see a young version of Shaggy (Will Forte) on the sandy beaches of California befriend a gyro stealing mutt named Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker). Later, on a fateful Halloween night the duo runs into the trio of Fred (Zac Efron), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and Velma (Gina Rodriguez) to solve their first mystery. A classic animated opening styled after the cartoon opening theme ensues, then nostalgically fast forwards to a present day coffee shop to a meeting between Mystery Inc. and Simon Cowell. Yes that’s right, Simon Cowell.
At this point in the movie the plot strays away from the classic unmasking of the culprit to a superhero-like storyline with appearances of classic Hanna-Barbera characters such as Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) and Captain Caveman (Tracy Morgan) in various parts of the film. For example, after being told that they were the “weakest link” by Simon Cowell, Scooby and Shaggy decide to go bowling alone only to be attacked by transforming robots. If that isn’t random enough; they are then beamed to safety and greeted by Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and Dynomutt who inform them about Dick Dastardly’s plan to take over the world. This then leads to a narrative that goes all over the place to accommodate the nostalgic Hanna-Barbera crossover. This world building style seems to come less from a practical storytelling perspective and more from a real world business scenario in which this movie could lead to multiple different spinoffs.
Aside from the various characters added, the mystery gang actually spends most of the movie apart. Without giving too much away, the movie peaks with an end of the world scenario that the gang, along with Blue Falcon and Dynomutt, try to stop in classic superhero fashion. This move by the director again seems jarring to the classic narrative that was in the original show. At the same time, we spend the whole movie waiting for the gang to reunite, and when they finally do, there is barely 30 minutes left, and it leaves something to be desired.
While it was enjoyable seeing glimpses of classic moments from the cartoons—Shaggy and Scooby take food orders for robots to distract them, and there are—classic in and out of frame chase scenes, the movie also seemed to go out of its way to include trendy up to date references. Mentions of Netflix, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, toxic masuclinity and Wonder Woman all sounded a little forced and unnatural in certain instances. The timing and pacing of these jokes seem to be almost a reminder to the adults that the movie was “current” to today’s times. Another disappointment was the feeling that Freddy, Velma, and Daphne were treated as minor supporting characters rather than equals to Scooby and Shaggy. The animation itself, while trying its best to stay true to its original 2-D designs, was very smooth but seemed a bit off. While it is very effective to get cartoonish effects across, the character designs seemed caught between realistic humans and cartoon humans.
Another obvious change in the movie was that the original cast of voice actors were not a part of this reboot. As the classic shows and movies used the same voice actors across iterations of Scooby Doo, these replacements, with the exception of Scooby and Velma, just didn’t seem to have the same effect. I found myself recognizing certain actors just due to their voice and characters like Fred, Blue Falcon and Dynomutt just didn’t seem to match the character. Others like Daphne and Velma were not distinct enough to match up to their characters. The “millenialization” of the characters also stung. Fred came off more as a dumb, ascotless jock while Velma didn’t even lose her glasses once! This honestly ended up being a big distraction throughout the movie; sadly as it felt like I was watching an off brand version of the gang.
All in all this direct to streaming movie, while full of quirky humor, pop culture references, and tons of nostalgia for ‘90s and 2000s babies, this movie does seem to be overtaken by the current superhero focused market in the movie industry. By straying away from the classic catch and reveal plot in favor of a more theatrical action narrative, it leads to an unrealistic world where these characters just happen to bump into each other. Overall, I’m not sure if “Scoob!” deserves a scooby snack for this one.