Film Review: Scoob! (2020)

Film Review: Scoob! (2020)Title: Scoob!
Released: May 15, 2020
Genres: Adventure, Animation, Comedy
Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Links: IMDB | Wikipedia
My Rating: two-stars

Scooby and the gang face their most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. As they race to stop this dogpocalypse, the gang discovers that Scooby has an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined.

I have no shame in admitting it: I’m a fan of Scooby-Doo. While I don’t watch everything Scooby, the cartoon-character is something I’ll check in on from time to see what new movies or TV series the beloved mystery-solving dog is involved in. I have fond memories of watching some of the series such as the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You and The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, not to mention some of the direct to home video movies such as Alien Invaders, Zombie Island, or Witch’s Ghost. Sure, some of that may be nostalgia, but I’ve also seen a good chunk of newer tv series such as Mystery Incorporated and Be Cool, Scooby-Doo.

With that off my chest, I’d be lying if I said I never checked up on the development of Scoob. First announced in 2014, a few times a year I’d look up its Wikipedia to the status of the film as it was in development. Since it was pushed back from its originally scheduled release date of September 2018, over the years I wondered if it was even going to see the light of day. After some delays, then opting for a streaming-only release due to COVID-19, Scoob has finally seen the light of day.

Serving as the first installment of the Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe, this is the first theatrically released Scooby-Doo film since 2004’s Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. Unlike Scooby-Doo 2 (and 1), however, this one’s all CGI, whereas the others were live-action. While there’s nothing wrong with CGI, what bothers me most is that the voice actors, most notably Matthew Lillard as Shaggy, did not return for this film. Shaggy’s voice in Scooby feels extremely off and distracting and not fitting for the character at all. It’s not even close to the voice of Shaggy that millions are used to, which is disappointing. Newcomers will be none the wiser, but for those who have been conditioned with a Shaggy-esque voice for the past twenty-five plus years like me, the departure from the usual Shaggy tone is jarring. Other characters, not so much, but still a disappointment. I don’t know the reasons behind this. Was it to book larger names so-as to hook a wider audience? But being a film aimed at kids, are children even going to care that it was Will Forte as Shaggy’s voice actor or Zac Efron as Fred? At least director Tony Cervone has experience with many other classic Warner Brothers animation properties such as Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes.

Voice acting gripes aside, the film Scoob does invoke other characters from the WB universe, a first. Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races is the main villain and Dynomutt is, of course, from Dynomutt Dog Wonder, acting as one of the superheroes alongside Scooby. Other characters such as Dee Dee Skyes also appear. While the inclusion of other WB characters doesn’t feel too out of place, at the same time it is an eye-opener since it’s not something that’s been previously constructed into Scooby-Doo films — at least to the best of my knowledge.

Plot-wise, the film tells the story of how Shaggy and Scooby came to be when they were younger, only to fast-forward to the whole gang being all grown up and wanting to do some business with Simon Cowell, an investor. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at this. What does a mystery-solving gang need besides gas money? And of all people, why on earth is Simon Cowell the investor they deal? At the bare minimum, someone from Shark Tank would make far more sense. Nonetheless, Cowell does want to do business with Mystery Inc — so long as Shaggy and Scooby are excluded. In a depressive episode as a result of Cowell’s words to the duo more or less saying he doesn’t want them involved with Mystery Inc anymore, the two spend the evening at a bowling alley, where they’re attacked by robots. On the run from these creatures, they encounter Dynomutt, Blue Falcon, and Dee Dee Skyes. It’s then made apparent that the robots, called Rottens, belong to Dick Dastardly, who wants to capture Scooby as part of a plan involving the three skulls of Cerberus. While the gang is a bit split up due to the circumstances of Shaggy and Scooby venturing out on their own, they all have the same goal in mind as the film progresses: to stop Dick Dastardly from collecting the skulls of Cerberus.

While Scooby-Doo has seen some works involving the character aimed at an older audience such as the Scooby Apocalypse comic series, at the end of the day Scoob is geared towards children just like almost most animated films are. While that’s no problem and completely understandable, Scoob has several grievances outside of having different voice actors.

Being 25, I’m not in the film’s intended demographic. Scooby-Doo is going to forever be a character for children’s entertainment, and the film of Scoob obviously caters to such an audience. While it may invoke pop culture jokes many would get such as “You thought Tinder was an app that delivers firewood” it also includes jokes that are more-so specifically aimed at adults, such as Shaggy exclaiming “Drop some F bombs”, only for Blue Falcon to reply “Let’s keep it PG” — Shaggy, of course, referring to Falcon bombs. There is also a scene where Dynomutt is being hacked and exclaims “Stay out of my search history!”. While corny and easy jabs, they are jokes that will go over the average child viewer’s head and are appreciated by an adult audience such as myself.

In the end, however, the film feels a little too “out there”, partially influenced by its lack of usual voice actors. While the origin story of Shaggy and Scooby feels perfectly fine in nature, its overall arc in storytelling deters too much from the formula of its original: a monster terrorizes, is unmasked, and the gang moves on to its next mystery. While never a dull moment, Scoob tries to pack in a lot of information into its just over ninety timeslot, an area where other WB characters have never really been introduced. Nonetheless, if WB decides to pursue this Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe idea, I look forward to seeing how it’s built up.

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