Viewing SCOOB! at home was very bittersweet as I pressed play to watch my $24.99 BOUGHT copy of the film and not the dumb $19.99 RENT option. This movie was supposed to arrive in theaters this weekend, before COVID-19 raped all of our lives, Shawshank style. This would’ve been a movie I’d have taken my young son to, as he had expressed interest in this new Mystery Machine gang outing, having seen some of the old cartoon and yelling “Scooby!” whenever the clever talking canine appeared on-screen, and also briefly seeing some of the marketing online, on television, and even the teaser trailer to the new film when we saw Spies In Disguise, his last movie in a theater. I have to say though, not having to buy the $10 each movie tickets for the three of us, and then eventually buy the movie anyway when it would’ve normally came out on digital three months later, and instead just paying one upfront price now & getting to watch it in the comfort of your own home was…kinda nice. No asshole teens on their phones, none of that crinkling of movie snacks, and no chatty Kathy’s (or is it Karen’s now?). So the bitter part was not being able to go to the theaters but the sweet part was watching it together as a family at home when it was supposed to come out anyway, right? Well…the latter part is true. I’m actually glad we didn’t spend tons of money at our local multiplex because the bitter part of all this is that SCOOB! really wasn’t that great.
Say what you want to about the two critically and audience panned live action theatrical Scooby-Doo movies that were written by none other than James Gunn (yes, you read that right), but at least they stuck to the core idea of the gang solving one central mystery. And even though it broke the old television series rules of that “anything supernatural ended up having a natural explanation” to it, narrative wise it kept it’s focus completely on Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, and Velma, and it never strayed. Plus, a screenplay that had the balls to make Scrappy-Doo the ultimate bad guy in the first film has to be given some kind of bold credit. The main problem with this new Scoob! movie is that it isn’t so much of a Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine gang solo adventure than it is a Hanna-Barbera Universe Avengers film. It’s like if the DCEU started off with Justice League and not Man of Steel or the MCU with Avengers and not Iron Man 1. It doesn’t work & feels bloated here. There are a shit ton of other Hanna-Barbera characters that make either quick cameos, or are wayyy too much in the story, taking the focus off our core gang. This whole thing…just too many characters. I have a feeling that in the coming weeks this film is going to be given alternate titles to make fun of it, but the first that comes to mind is either: Hanna-Barbera Civil War or Scooby-Doo: Hanna-Barbera War. With the DCEU almost stumbling over itself right out of the gate, and now this misfire (I’ll give it credit for being better than the live action films at least), there is now enough factual evidence to prove that Warner Bros. has no fucking clue what to do with its intellectual properties.
The synopsis of the films is as follows, taken from IMDB.com: “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.” And there in lies the problem. The movie tries to add some convoluted mythology to Scooby-Doo’s ancestral origins, and none of it coherently worked for me. The movie has no central mystery to it, the gang isn’t trying to uncover an answer to a problem, or a haunting, or a crime, etc.. If you start to watch this, and wonder within the first 20 minutes what the fuck I’m talking about, that it seems like the same Scooby-Doo you knew from your childhood, you are right. It is. The first 20 minutes of this film are absolutely fantastic. It completely goes off the rails right then afterwards when it turns into a superhero film with crazy superhero film like action and explosions and shit when Blue Falcon & Dynomutt show up and pits all of them against Dick Distardly. If those names sounds familiar, it is because they are Hanna-Barbera characters that had their own shows and who I think didn’t need to be in this film at all. I have mostly tried to stay away from the marketing as I didn’t want to be spoiled by anything. But the marketing at the beginning I did see, was a giant misdirection. The teaser trailer made it seem like it was going to be the younger adventures of the Mystery Machine gang, but then later marketing showed that the film does feature them as adults and features voice talents of famous adult actors and actresses. That’s when I thought the film would’ve been a half and half thing. The first half brings up a mystery they weren’t able to solve as kids but get to finish as adults (the route the film should’ve taken). And that is when the final theatrical poster was released (before COVID-19), with Blue Falcon and Dynomutt on it and that is when I thought, “ohhhh noooooooo, I really hope they aren’t going to do what I think they are going to do.” They did.
Here’s the thing, my kid, and your kids, are probably going to love it, so you in turn might love it as well. And that is exactly why I watched this first without Grayson by my side, so that my opinion wouldn’t be biased based on his joyous face throughout the 93 minute run time. To be fair, the film has a good message about togetherness and friendship, the animation is absolutely gorgeous, and even though I would’ve rather had voice actors that while not the original people, have been doing other things as the characters for years, Zac Efron, Will Forte, Amanda Seyfried, & Gina Rodriguez do an adequate job, and Mark Wahlberg even steals the show as Blue Falcon. But plot, narrative, adventure, story-wise, what have you, the film is severely lacking. Oh, and early 2000s called, they want their Simon Cowell/American Idol references back. The Scooby-Doo original cartoon series was a sort of grounded detective-mystery series first, a slapstick hijinks movie second and an adventure series a distant third. There is no mystery here, it isn’t grounded at all, the hijinks are set to overload and it’s all covered as an outlandish adventure I didn’t really care for. And that’s because there were too many characters. That made it too stuffed which in turn made it too convoluted. Keep it simple, stupid. It should’ve been a cool mystery solo adventure with tiny hints that other Hanna-Barbera characters could eventually join the party down the road and then some solo films of those characters before all of them team up in the ultimate universe movie. But no, it’s a Hanna-Barbera Universe movie just trying to trick you by wearing a Scooby-Doo movie skin. And they would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for the over ambitious, meddling script.