Destined to divide opinion, SCOOB! was to be the first theatrical Scooby-Doo film since the poorly received live- action sequel Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleased way back in 2004, and amazingly was the first animated adaptation of the Hanna-Barbera creation billed to receive a full theatrical release – that is, until Coronavirus entered the picture!
The film begins by depicting the meeting of lonely pre-teen Norville “Shaggy” Rogers and a stray Great Dane puppy on Venice Beach, California, where the two instantly become best buddies. After a chance encounter with three friends (Fred, Velma and Daphne) on Halloween, the fivesome discover their knack for solving mysteries when they inadvertently expose a local criminal. Fast forward ten years, the established ‘Mystery Inc.’ gang team up with superhero duo Blue Falcon and Dynomutt (also Hanna-Barbera characters that originally debuted in 1976), in order to halt a plot to unleash the monstrous three-headed ghost dog Cerberus on the world, by none other than – yep, you guessed it – Dick Dastardly (of Wacky Races origin).
On paper this sounds completely nuts, and I anticipate that the biggest complaint from audiences will relate to the somewhat predictable story – or rather, the lack of ‘mystery’ that defined the original television series. To an extent I can understand the desire to shake up the formula for the big screen, but this will forever be a gamble with such well-loved source material. However, I must say the film still has a lot going for it, regardless!
Let us first consider the vocal talent on display here. As Shaggy, Fred, Daphne and Velma, we have Will Forte, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried and Gina Rodriguez, respectively – each bringing something new to the classic personalities without ever resorting to imitation – while Frank Welker reprises his role as Scooby-Doo, having voiced the animated incarnation of the canine since 2002. Joining them are the likes of Mark Wahlberg as the airheaded Blue Falcon (who has recently donned the suit following his father’s retirement), Ken Jeong as his trusty robot dog sidekick Dynomutt, and Jason Isaacs who brilliantly brings the moustache-twirling techno-villain Dick Dastardly to life.
Warner Animation Group, the studio behind The LEGO Movies (who are also due to release their first live- action/animated hybrid with Hanna-Barbera’s Tom & Jerry this December) deliver visuals that are of an undeniably superior quality. If you get nothing else from the film, you can easily lose yourself in the vibrant aesthetic spectacle, featuring detailed environments that are a joy to look at. Likewise, the character designs are phenomenal, bringing a fresh modern style to the gang, without sacrificing their iconic costumes or hairstyles. Action sequences play out with fantastic energy and a tangible kineticism that brings heaps of fun.
There’s no question that SCOOB! is a product of the year 2020, and unashamedly assimilates itself into the generation of selfies, hashtags and twerking. Social media slang, references to the likes of Netflix, Tinder and The X- Factor, and pop-culture parodies (ranging from The Wizard of Oz and Cinderella , to Gladiator and The Avengers ) are in abundance here, but mockingly enough that these lend themselves more to laughs than they are cringeworthy. However, that is not to say that the film doesn’t also give us plentiful nods to the original series – whether it’s cartoonish cross-directional chase sequences, Shaggy and Scooby whipping-up a quick concession-stand disguise to distract the baddies, or the fully remastered opening sequence to ‘Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!’, which first premiered in 1969.
SCOOB! works well as a fun family film, appealing to viewers who are both brand-new and familiar with the source material, plus it is visually jaw-dropping! That being said, though, the film does unfortunately fall short in the story department, with more than its fair share of questionable moments (prepare yourselves for a bizarre appearance by Simon Cowell) and perhaps takes a few too many liberties with the tried-and-tested mystery-solving formula. But these are just about forgivable thanks to the film’s exciting look and engaging tone.
So what’s next for Scooby-Doo? With so many cameos from characters previously unseen on the big screen (Captain Caveman included!) and the suggestion of an upcoming Hanna-Barbera ‘cinematic universe’, it’s hard not be intrigued to see what directions this could take in the future, providing deviations can be kept to a minimum!
See all photos >>
A self-confessed cinephile; hopelessly devoted to film! My areas of expertise include film theory and analysis, twenty-first century ‘modern classics’ and Oscar winners post-1970. And who doesn’t love a good quiz? Proud holder of an MA in Film Studies and lifelong advocate of cinema etiquette.