Man, this one hurts. In terms of disappointment, this is almost as bad as Frozen II. I was super excited for Scoob! when it was first announced, seemingly offering to delve into the origins of Scooby-Doo with a light0hearted tone and animation to match. I just wish that idea was reflected in the movie itself.
Right off the bat, Scoob!’s biggest issue is that Shaggy and Scooby are too inconsistent from their decades-long animated TV counterparts. All they do throughout the movie is argue and fight for no good reason, turning these cartoon icons into one note characters with nothing better to do but be kidnapped, despite receiving the most screen time. Will Forte is horrendous as Shaggy, which feels bewildering as he’s usually exceptional in everything, even bad movies like That’s My Boy. But here, his voice is not convincing whatsoever and it feels like nails on a chalkboard. You just never get used to. They should’ve brought back Matthew Lillard, as he would’ve done a much better job with the role.
Then there’s the film’s Scooby problem. Out of the entire main cast, Scooby has the most lines and screen time. You think that wouldn’t be the issue what with him being the main character, but this decision goes against the entire point of Scooby-Doo as a franchise. Even with Frank Welker returning to voice Scooby- the only time you’ll be thinking “Hell yeah, that’s my Scooby-Doo,”- at some point you wish he’d just shut up and let somebody else talk. It’s always been about the gang and never just one person. That’s why the solo Shaggy and Scooby series in the 80s never worked. You need everyone to make the franchise work.
By contrast, Fred, Daphne, and Velma are given nothing to do here. Every time the movie cuts back to them you’re like, “Oh right, they’re in this movie too. Neat.” It’s borderline insulting; they deserved better than this. And even the other side characters feel like they deserve their own movies, rather than be cramped into a Scooby-Doo movie, at least not to this capacity.
This brings us to the story of Scoob!, which makes no sense. We start off with the origins of Scooby-Doo, which is done pretty well and heartfelt. We see the gang as kids and it’s adorable to see them working together for the first time. It’s all very reminiscent of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, and would’ve made for an excellent starting point for a new franchise…except the sequence lasts about five minutes before we immediately get sucked into a plot about dark magic, super heroes, ancient rituals, an island underneath the Earth filled with cavemen, and hellscape monsters in Greece. Because yeah, as weird as Scooby-Doo plots get, this feels like too much. Scoob! bounces around too much and never focuses up for more than a couple minutes.
Part of the reason for this is because Scoob! isn’t just a Scooby-Doo movie. It’s the start to the Hanna-Barbara Animated universe, which sees the reintroduction of classic characters like Blue Falcon and Dick Dastardly, both of which originated in the 60s. If you didn’t grow up watching these cartoons or Boomerang (because that was the only channel your grandparents had), then none of you will get why their inclusion is such a huge deal. This works to the film’s detriment, as so much time and energy is focused on the classic Hanna-Barbera characters that its main ones are often sidelined.
That being said, there are things this movie does right. Animation-wise, Scoob! flows really well and can be really beautiful at times. The guys at Warner Animation Group should be given credit for their work because I found myself muttering “Damn, that’s some nice animation” at multiple points throughout the film. There’s also a lot of easter eggs and subtle humor that adults and longtime fans will be ecstatic about. At one point, Captain Caveman shows up and he’s voiced by Tracy Morgan, which was downright awesome. What I’m getting at is that there was actual effort put into this film; I just wish that effort was put into a better story.
And despite what I said about Shaggy and Scooby, everyone else does a great job voicing their respective roles. Zac Efron was a very funny Fred, Amanda Seyfried played a more capable Daphne, And Gina Rodriguez…well, if you spent time on the internet you know how we all feel about Velma. But oddly enough Mark Wahlberg as Blue Falcon is hilarious. He plays the son of the original Blue Falcon so he’s not really that good at his job, but still tries his best and that really shows in Wahlberg’s performance. Jason Issacs as Dick Dastardly was pretty solid too, delivering some great comedic timing and some of the best jokes. Ironically, with the exception of the primary Scooby-Doo characters, there wasn’t a bad performance to be seen or heard.
That, in my opinion, is Scoob!’s most disappointing sin: it’s not terrible. In terms of quality, the movie is better than its live action counterparts. It’s an odd thing to say, but it’s true, as the writing, pacing and presentation all feel stronger than the live-action James Gunn Scooby-Doo films. Yet those films still took risks, dumb risks, but risks nonetheless. Not to mention that they chose to focus on every member of the Mystery Inc gang rather than a specific few. Overall, I think this movie won’t age as well as the other ones. Because while the live action films are pretty bad, they’re at least memorable.
Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars
There’s a lot that Scoob! does right. A Hannah-Barbara animated universe is unique and interesting in premise, a bold way to add cartoon characters that haven’t seen the light of day in eons. The jokes (at least a good chunk of them) are also pretty funny, and almost everyone bring their B+ game and do a pretty good job. The movie also goes by very quickly as I rarely found myself being bored. All that being said, there’s not a lot of redeeming qualities. Fred, Daphne, and Velma are put to the side as if they didn’t matter, more development was put on the unnecessary side characters that didn’t belong here, the plot is pure insanity, and Shaggy and Scooby are just uncharacteristically bad.
For those of you who may want a better Scooby-Doo to watch, I recommend Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated. It’s filled with mystery, intrigue, complex characters, a dark setting, an even darker story, funny humor, and best of all, it’s for everyone.