If it wasn’t clear by the additions of The Blue Falcon, Dynomutt, Dick Dastardly, and Captain Caveman to the mix, Scoob is not just a tribute to the cowardly canine and the Mystery Inc. gang, but an actual celebration of the fun-tastic world of Hanna-Barbera! If you were a child who grew up watching, not only Scooby Doo, Where Are You?, but also Wacky Races or even any Hanna-Barbera cartoon, you’ll definitely appreciate the movie. Cute, funny, and heartfelt, Scoob will make you yearn for the days where you could plop yourself in front of the TV on a Saturday morning with a sugary bowl of cereal, and sing along to the theme songs from your favorite toons. Because at it’s core, that’s what this movie is — a delightful, colorful, clever bowl of sugary goodness.
It’s a shame that the quarantine is preventing the film from being shown in theaters, because, had it premiered on the big screen, I would have gleefully praised it as the best big-screen version of the character we’ve seen yet. Don’t get me wrong, I actually was always a fan of the 2002 and 2004 films that were penned by James Gunn. But in some ways I felt they parodied the source material about as much as they celebrated it, whereas Scoob is all celebration.
The movie starts out with the introduction to how Shaggy (Will Forte, taking over for Matthew Lillard) and Scooby (the legendary Frank Welker) first met, and how, on the fly, Scooby gets his name. From there, we see how they meet the rest of the Mystery Inc. team, with the tween introductions of Velma (Gina Rodriguez), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), and Fred (Zac Efron), as the movie faithfully and lovingly recreates the introduction to the original Scooby Doo, Where Are You? in CGI, before jetting us into the main plot. The villainous Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) of Wacky Races fame, and his crew of very adorable baby bots are somehow trying to kidnap Scooby to open the gates of the Underworld. Thankfully Scooby and Shaggy get help when The Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), Dynomutt (Ken Jeong), and Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons), of Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels fame, come to the rescue. From there, the Falcon crew and Mystery Inc. must team up to stop Dastardly from succeeding in unleashing havoc on the world.
Now if you know your Hanna-Barbera toons, you’ll know I just name dropped a bunch of deep cuts in that synopsis above. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg with this movie. This is the type of film where even the most throwaway minuscule details, such as a random character face on an arcade cabinet, showcase the filmmakers’ pure-hearted love for the Hanna-Barbara universe and the deepest cuts within it. Fun easter eggs pop up everywhere alluding to the likes of The Flintstones and Hong Kong Phooey. Not to mention the amazingly cool end credits that feature nods to Johnny Quest and obscure shows like Jabberjaw or Grape Ape. And that firmly puts a huge plus in the movie’s favor for me, because it shows just how enamored the writers and directors were with the source material beyond just Scooby Doo. It not only enhances the movie, but proves that they’re the right people to do justice to it. Hence why I refer to the film as a pure celebration of the world of Hanna-Barbera.
And I have a sneaking suspicion that this is just the start of a potential shared universe of Hanna-Barbera characters. While that may have many of you groaning, it’s got me all sorts of excited! I grew up loving these cartoons, and watching crossovers like the Scooby/Dynomutt Power Hour or even Jetsons Meet The Flintstones. I miss rides like The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera from Universal Orlando. In fact, the very existence and nature of the success of these cartoons started with Huckleberry Hound, and from there Yogi Bear spun off. And the fact that Scoob manages to revive these characters and ideas in a new, fresh way, that doesn’t stray far from the core of what made these cartoons timeless is nothing short of amazing.
In addition to just the easter eggs, the movie is bright and colorful. The animation, while not the strongest in any CG movie, is still fun. It is supposed to look like an updated form of the original cartoons after all, and it succeeds quite well with dynamic characters, colorful backgrounds, and fun little designs. I’m serious, this movie made me want to own a mini-baby robot with a dustbuster for a head. (Trust me. When you see it, you’ll know).
The movie is also pretty funny at times, with Wahlberg’s Blue Falcon (aka “Brian”) completely stealing the show! His vocal performance of a vapid idiot man-child trying to prove himself a real superhero is just laugh out loud funny at times, because Wahlberg knows how to play the muscle-headed moron so well (we’ve obviously seen this in The Other Guys, Ted, and Daddy’s Home). But it bounces off so well with Clemmons and Jeong’s straight characters who have to put up with his stupidest statements. Efron’s Fred also gets some pretty hilarious lines, courtesy of his great comedic timing and a clever script that actually feels quite timely.
And finally, one of the movie’s biggest strengths is its surprising heart. Without spoiling anything, secret revelations about Dick Dastardly’s character and motivations are oddly sweet, as are the moments of tenderness between Scooby and Shaggy. Naturally, this is Scooby-Doo so don’t expect anything on par with a Pixar-weep-fest. But honestly, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt pretty touched by one of the final scenes in the movie, which is surprising given that this could have been a cop out franchise film, coasting off the popularity of the brand.
The movie is not without its flaws, of course. The biggest one being that, at times, the main characters tend to get overshadowed by the non-Scooby-Doo related characters. We, of course, will always love Scooby and Shaggy and the gang. But I truly do think I should walk away from a Scoob movie thinking they were the highlights, rather than praising The Blue Falcon of all characters. This was true of the 2002 and 2004 live-action films where Matthew Lillard and the CG Scooby were brilliant. But it’s less successful for Scoob unfortunately, because there’s so many other Hanna-Barbara things going on (one of the bigger drawbacks to world/franchise-building I suppose). I felt we also needed more from Daphne and Velma, who are great in the movie. In fact all characters have moments to shine here and there. But it just never felt like a Mystery Inc. movie.
The other thing that I couldn’t get past is that, while admirable, Forte’s efforts as Shaggy are a bit more inferior to Lillard. Why they couldn’t have just re-hired Lillard, who has been the voice of Shaggy since Casey Kasem retired in 2009, is beyond me. Forte makes a very valiant effort, but at the end of the day, he sounded a bit too much like Will Forte than Shaggy Rogers. A small quibble maybe, but significant for a Scooby-Doo fan like myself.
And finally, another quibble, but the movie has a tendency to try too hard to contemporize things, sometimes without actually contemporizing them — a very common trap for non-Pixar animated movies to fall into. While the movie doesn’t often feel dated, the addition of, for example, Simon Cowell, as a character, feels like something that should have been done in the early 00’s when American Idol was actually still a thing. They also add DJ EDM and dabbing gags too. In fact the “non-horror, more superhero” direction the movie takes sometimes feels a bit pandering to today’s MCU-loving culture. Scooby-Doo cartoons were always more about monsters and ghosts than they were futuristic superheros and space ships, and that worked. Hopefully, if they make a second film, it’ll steer back towards a more horror-tinged direction.
All that said, those are nitpicks. After wading past a few anachronistic dud jokes here and there, I found myself ultimately charmed by this little movie because it wears its colorful Hanna-Barbera-loving heart on its sleeves unapologetically. If you like the worlds that William Hanna and Joe Barbara built, and want to see a movie that honors that heritage in a funny, colorful, and at times, touching ways, I encourage you to find Scooby-Dooby-Doo.
Overall Score: B+
Scoob is available to own May 15