Amanda Seyfried, Will Forte, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron & Frank Welker
Scoob! begins with a crime. But not one being investigated; one being perpetrated by our protagonist. That’s right, Scooby Doo (at this point not named) is engaging in some Aladdin/Oliver Twist type criminal tomfoolery. Specifically, he’s taken a roll of processed meat and is fleeing from the authorities. You’d think they’d have better things to take care of, but this is the Scooby Doo universe. Scooby, voiced by longtime Scooby Doo actor, Frank Welker, runs into Shaggy Rogers (whose real name is actually Norville–yikes), played by Will Forte, and the young kid gives the dog an alibi. It’s a close shave for our canine friend of potentially being sent to the pound.
The rest of the film’s setup is quite efficient; the dog and boy become best friends (Shaggy doesn’t really have any others), and they run into three other kids while trick or treating. Any idea who those might be? Well they are Fred, Velma, and Daphne (played by Zac Efron, Gina Rodriguez, and Amanda Seyfried, respectively). The quintet get along swimmingly and inevitably find themselves investigating a haunted house–in classic Scooby Doo fashion. After solving this mini case, Fred decides “Hey, we’re pretty good at this thing, we should keep doing it.” And with montage whiplash, they have grown up and he’s the proud owner of “The Mystery Machine”.
This quick opening segment is considerably different from the rest of the film. While this part makes up for perhaps a third of the film’s run time and is classic Scooby Doo fodder, the majority of of it is spent on a plot (that I won’t spoil) that largely involves outer space and considerably more science fiction elements than I expected–a big contrast with the practical explanations and unmaskings of the original series–though I will say, there still is an unmasking part. It’s an interesting direction to take the franchise and the latest offering of this type of reimagining animated characters this past year (e.g. Detective Pikachu and Sonic). It also unnecessarily incorporates other characters from the “Hanna-Barbera Universe” that don’t quite make sense. We’ve got a good gang already, in my opinion.
However, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the plethora of pop culture references it employed–that includes a rendition of “Shallow” from A Star Is Born, the mistaking of Tinder as an app for ordering firewood, referring to most members of The Supreme Court as Slytherins, debating on the Hemsworths, or bringing up the issue of toxic masculinity. Those were fun, and while spread out, will probably yield a chuckle from the parents that most likely are watching with their kids. The animation is also spectacular, and has a subtle difference from most animated films. It’s possible it has a higher frame rate. I’ll have to look that up.
Is this the Scooby Doo I know? Not really. I miss the creepier horror component and the formulaic nature the episodes had. Perhaps it’s just nostalgia. That being said, the difficulty this film had was straddling the roots of the characters and the original show, which probably would now come across as cheesy to a much savvier child audience, while incorporating more modern elements, popular songs (I wonder how much money they had to shell out for the licensing of all of them), and self-referential humor. It is adorable, though. I stand by that assertion, and that it was a good decision for Warner Brothers to release it digitally. Parents can plop their kids down to watch it and be assured they’ll have 90 minutes to get whatever they need to get done, done. Or maybe just take a bubble bath.