Director: Tony Cervone
Screenwriters: Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson, Derek Elliott, Eyal Podell, Jonathon E Stewart
Starring: Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, Frank Welker
Scoob! gained attention in 2020 for reasons far from what the suits at Warner Bros Animation might have expected. Rather than “They’re rebooting that again?” we got “They want me to pay how much to watch this at home?”. The USA got to see it first back in May, now the UK, much of Europe and elsewhere can sit down with the kids for the latest take on the adventures of the Scooby Gang. But is it worth your time and money?
Ten years after their first meeting, Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby’s (Frank Welker) seemingly unbreakable friendship is tested when Scooby is recruited to a superhero team to fight the devious Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs). Meanwhile, the rest of Mystery Inc have to figure out what Dastardly’s evil endgame is and stop him.
Things start really well, with an adorable meet-cute between childhood Scooby and Shaggy, a chance halloween meeting between them and the rest of the soon-to-be-Mystery Inc, and a grin-inducing recreation of the title montage from the late 60s animated series ‘Scooby Doo, Where Are You!’.
Unfortunately the next scene has the most dated cameo and unfunny skit in living memory. No point beating about the bush really, as it was in the marketing – it’s Simon Cowell. What the zoinks is he doing in a movie released in 2020? More to the point, why would he want to get involved with branding the Scooby Gang?
Much like the James Gunn-written films of the early 2000s, for some unfathomable reason the filmmakers feel the need to go big. The various iterations of the TV show were always neat and self-contained, with a set-piece, a few running gags and a lot of silliness to add colour and fun. Why does Hollywood keep adding world-ending stakes to Scooby Doo? A battle between superheroes and villains, a portal to hell and a divine lineage for Scooby to descend from is just too much plot. Just give the Scooby Gang a more elaborate and challenging mystery to solve, throw in a couple of twists and red herrings and you’re golden. Why not go the whole hog and remake Knives Out with Scooby as Benoit Blanc? (“I r’uspect r’oul r’ay!”). I’m also only half-joking.
The world-ending stakes and globe-hopping antics admittedly provide plenty of excuses for animated spectacle and there’s plenty of zippy action, the final “boss fight” in particular standing out in its attempts to keep the youngest audience members glued to the screen, but it just doesn’t feel particularly faithful to what ‘Scooby Doo’ is.
Director Tony Cervone knows his stuff; he’s a veteran from working on Warner Bros projects including Space Jam. The animation is clean and expressive, and the world is packed with Hanna-Barbera in-jokes for the fans (eg. Dick Dastardly’s spaceship looks just like his “Wacky Races” Mean Machine on steroids).
Will Forte, Frank Welker and Jason Isaacs, plus Tracy Morgan in an extended and entertaining cameo as another beloved Hanna-Barbera character, all have enough chemistry and charisma to make you hope for further installments in this animated universe. Jason Isaacs in particular was born to play Dastardly and could probably reprise the role in live-action too.
They get the loving relationship between Scooby and Shaggy right, and even bring a poignancy to a late reunion between Dastardly and Muttly. The rest of the supporting characters are merely along for the ride however, and it’s easy to lose interest when the story diverges from the friendship at the core of this story.
Scoob! is far from a disaster but is unlikely to linger in the memories of much of its audience. When all the adults who are obliged to watch this with their kids have to look forward to are Netflix jokes and Dick Dastardly screaming “Dick!” at Scooby Doo, they will be clamouring for the schools to reopen.