Zoinks! Something is very wrong with this big-screen reboot of the Scooby-Doo animated series. Unlike the first two live-action features seen in 2002’s Scooby-Doo and 2004’s Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Warner Bros. chose to revitalise Scoob! with an animation makeover. Not the traditional 2D hand-drawn version we used to watch during the series’ heydays. But the kind of shiny CG animation that has become a norm these days.
Before I get to the wrong part, here’s what Scoob! is all about: Scooby (voiced by Frank Welker) and his best friend Shaggy (Will Forte) find themselves beamed up into a mysterious spaceship after a near-death experience from a robot attack. That spaceship in question happens to belong to Shaggy’s childhood superhero, Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg). Together with his mechanical dog sidekick Dynomutt the Dog Wonder (Ken Jeong) and assistant/pilot Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons), they soon embark on a mission to save the world against the evil Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs).
The story, which took four screenwriters to write a 90+ minutes’ worth of an animated feature is a classic case of too many cooks in the kitchen syndrome. That aforementioned synopsis is just a part of it, with Scoob! desperately wanted to do more by turning it into an interconnected storyline populated by — what else — Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As a result, what we have here is an overstuffed plot crammed with Easter eggs and other Hanna-Barbera characters ranging from Blue Falcon to Dick Dastardly, Captain Caveman (Tracy Morgan) and Muttley (Billy West). Warner Bros. should have known this better, particularly after how they tried and failed to play catch-up with Marvel by rushing their own DC’s shared universe in the much-maligned Justice League (2017). It’s just sad to see them repeating the same huge mistake again, where they should have approached Scoob! as a standalone entry before expanding it to a bigger, shared universe.
Tony Cervone, who is no stranger to directing several Warner Bros. Animation series and films from Scooby-Doo to Tom and Jerry, keeps things busy with lots of colourful visuals, wacky hijinks and action sequences. The pace is zippy too. And yet, the movie feels shockingly empty and soulless. Not even the recurring theme of friendship between Scooby and Shaggy can do much to save this either.
Another big problem is the way Cervone and his team of screenwriters attempt to make Scoob! both hip and culturally relevant while retaining some of the old-school charms of the animated series. For the former, they emphasised heavily on the current superhero craze — a result that made Scoob! more like a lazy excuse to cashing in the trend. Why not just stick to the good old mystery like they used to be? Is that too much to ask? Besides, it doesn’t help either when the superhero element itself has become way oversaturated.
Make no mistake, the familiar “mask reveal” mystery angle where Scooby and his gang unmasked the real culprit is still featured in Scoob! The only big difference is how diluted and unfocused the aforementioned angle this time around. It’s like as if Cervone only added it for the sake of nostalgia factor just to please both die-hard fans and older audiences.
And speaking of the gang, Scoob! largely sidelined Fred (Zac Efron), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and Velma (Gina Rodriguez). You hardly see them with Scooby and Shaggy as a team solving the mystery together — one of the must-have elements that defined the Scooby-Doo franchise in the first place. The result made these Mystery Inc. gang more like an afterthought and if that’s not enough, none of the voice cast who play the respective roles leaves much of a lasting impression.
While the movie made the right choice retaining Frank Welker as the voice of Scooby, Will Forte does an okay job as Shaggy but he’s still no match for the late Casey Kasem and even Matthew Lillard. The latter, of course, popularly voiced the character in the first two live-action movies as well as Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated series.
If there’s anything else positive to say about Scoob!, the movie does get off to a promising start with an extending prologue from how Scooby and Shaggy met each other to the gang’s first get-together in solving a mystery.
Originally scheduled for a worldwide cinema release on May 2020, the studio forced to premiere their animated feature on PVOD due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Fortunately, international audiences still get to watch Scoob! in select cinemas overseas, with Malaysia being one of the countries beginning August 6.