One of the best things about massive pop culture franchises is the opportunity to share something you loved when you were growing up with a new generation, something that maybe even your parents loved when they were growing up. Since 1969 and over a number of television series and films, Scooby-Doo has become one of the most recognisable Great Danes in pop culture. 'Scoob!', the new computer-animated instalment in this franchise, however, is a desperate attempt for Warner Bros. to hold onto their rights for the character, a studio-driven tarnishing of one of their most successful brands with unexciting animation, paper-thin humour and overly ambitious world-building.
A star-studded cast brings the Mystery Gang to life in 'Scoob!'; Fred (Zac Efron, 'The Beach Bum'), Daphne (Amana Seyfried, 'Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again'), Velma (Gina Rodriguez, 'Someone Great') and Shaggy (Will Forte, 'The Laundromat') are all back. In a bizarre act of art imitating life, Fred, Daphne and Velma essentially sell out, accepting an investment from Simon Cowell of all people (his cameo is miraculously brief) to help fund their mystery-busting. Unwilling to extend his business to the childish Shaggy and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker, 'Transformers: The Last Knight'), Shaggy and Scooby-Doo later find themselves in cahoots with other Hanna-Barbera properties such as Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg, 'Spenser Confidential') and Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons, 'Dope'). Honestly, following the plot beyond this becomes something of an exercise in futility by the half-hour mark; it's nonsensical and fast-paced storytelling for kids of the most hyper variety.
SWITCH: 'SCOOB!' TRAILER 2
'Scoob!' is a case of yet another classic franchise getting pumped through the modern machine, a bland and unremarkable caricature of what was once a fun and quirky story of five ragtag, mystery-solving teens and their dog. Call it a reservation rooted in my own childhood nostalgia but replacing the iconic Matthew Lillard as Shaggy feels criminal. If anything, the move from live-action to animated form eradicates the issue of Lillard's age, lending simply his voice instead of needing a younger actor. It's baffling, especially when Forte's performance is so unremarkable that my mind was automatically translating his lines into Lillard's voice in my head. Every single plot beat, every single casting choice, feels driven by studio executives and not creative vision or innovation. 'Scoob!' is less of a film and more of a flex by Warner Bros. to namedrop and show off how many properties they own, such as 'Harry Potter' and 'Wonder Woman'. One could be forgiven for thinking the moment Shaggy and Scooby-Doo break into an off-tune rendition of Lady Gaga's hit 'Shallow' from 2018's 'A Star Is Born' is a genuine piss-take. Yes, that does actually happen.
A consistent pet peeve of mine is name-checking pop culture items such as hot-right-now apps that instantly date the film they're mentioned in, but for some reason 'Scoob!'s attempts at these feel outdated by a number of years. It's as if the film wrapped production in 2015 (which is being generous), went through a time warp and then got released in 2020 instead (a quick fact check confirms production began in 2014, but the casting and animation were not completed until 2019). In a misguided attempt to appeal to older audiences, a few of these jokes are geared for more mature tastes such as a Tinder reference, which admittedly does elicit a laugh, even if it's just a small guffaw that the joke even made the final cut. Overstuffing kids films with pop culture references is such a lazy but well-worn reflex to filmmaking that even if it is expected at this point, it doesn't diminish the sting, especially when used in a reboot of a pre-existing property.
'Scoob!' is a case of yet another classic franchise getting pumped through the modern machine, a bland and unremarkable caricature of what was once a fun and quirky story.
As much as I would love to ignore the similarities one could draw between 'Scoob!' and films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to deny these is to ignore one of the film's most fundamental issues. For better or worse, the MCU has restructured the mainstream film landscape, setting the precedent for how to build a franchise that builds a fervent, loyal fanbase. Through the inclusion of other Hanna-Barbera characters, it's obvious that 'Scoob!' has similar ambitions for sequels and spin-offs alike, complete with an origin-story prologue that adds nothing except a few extra minutes of pointless screen time to pad this nightmare to feature-length. The key difference between the MCU and 'Scoob!', however, is that at least most Marvel origin films try to be interesting; instead, 'Scoob!' just assumes audiences will care because they have for years prior.
The saving grace of this film is sadly fleeting and also shows up way too early; a new rendition of the opening titles for the 60s television series, 'Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!', which is virtually identical to the original. It's a great way to spark nostalgia in older audiences and pay respects to past Scooby iterations, but one great moment does not a great film make. In fact, the manner in which 'Scoob!' ruins the character's legacy in other ways makes the addition of this scene that much more insulting.
I guess I can commend Warner Bros. for attempting to revitalise their Scooby-Doo brand and give parents something to show their kids while they've been stuck at home, but when there's a plethora of new and old (much, much better) kid's films, the best thing would be to Scooby-Dooby-do your kids a favour and skip this one.