“Scooby-Dooby-Doo, where are you?” It’s not only the refrain from the classic cartoon theme song of what is arguably Hanna-Barbera’s crown jewel, but it’s also a question many movie fans have been asking for years. Though the franchise has had plenty of hilarious and inventive modern reinterpretations along with loads of home video movie releases, it has been 16 years since the dog detective headlined a big budget Hollywood movie. So that’s why the announcement of a new animated feature, Scoob!, was so exciting. Like pretty much every movie this year, the COVID-19 crisis derailed this film’s hopes for a theatrical release, but Scoob! is still headed to our small screens and it’s a goofy and gorgeous good time.
It’s best to go into Scoob! with your expectations in the right place. This is a Scooby-Doo movie. As in, it’s a movie about Scooby-Doo. It’s not a Mystery Inc. movie, although it does establish a wonderful world for the team to work in. There aren’t many of the team’s traditionally spooky mysteries to solve but there is a high stakes, potentially world-ending catastrophe to be stopped. So if you go in expecting beautiful and, frankly, stunning animation, a cute animated dog, and a story about friendship saving the world, then you’ll likely have an enjoyable time at the “movies.”
Director Tony Cervone brings his humor and love of Scooby-Doo over from the fan favorite 2010 animated series, Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated. Here though, we get a look at the origin of Scooby and Shaggy, their burgeoning friendship, and how they meet the rest of their crew. However, the creative team doesn’t get too bogged down in sentimentality as after solving just one apparently haunted house mystery, the team is all grown up. This early segment about the young heroes and their penchant for uncovering strange goings on is easily one of the most charming bits of the movie, and while I understand why the more action-packed superhero style narrative was appealing, this reviewer could have watched a whole feature about the kids cracking criminal skulls while catching greedy scammers.
Alas, that isn’t the movie we got, but Scoob! certainly has a charm all its own. Cervone and animation coordinator Bill Heller have crafted an immersive and engaging visual world you’ll want to revisit and live in. The nuances of the animation are impressive with detailed lighting and depth that give Scoob! a warmth that many modern animated films lack. Whether we’re chilling on Venice Beach or exploring the depths of space, the film looks amazing, which will allow you to ignore the moments where the script doesn’t quite live up to the visuals. Still, with the exception of an out of place celebrity cameo that instantly dates the movie and a Hemsworth joke, Scoob! is pleasantly light on random pop culture references.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of good Easter eggs awaiting fans who scour the movie. There are a whole bunch of lovely nods to some Hanna-Barbera greats including the original voice of Scooby-Doo, Don Messick, and legendary Scooby character designer, Iwao Takamoto. The dedication to remembering those who came before are signs of just how much those who made this movie love the lore and history of Hanna-Barbera. There’s a chance that could work against them, as the film chooses to center on lesser-known characters like the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt rather than Mystery Inc., but the designs are so good and the voice cast so talented that maybe this will spark a whole new generation of Hanna-Barbera fans.
With the exception of Scooby himself, Warner Bros. went for big names rather than well known voice actors and for the most part it works. The only Scooby stalwart here is Frank Welker, who voices Scooby in a controversially easy to understand performance. He’s splendid as always. Will Forte plays against him well as Shaggy, though it’s pretty hard to beat the iconic performances by Casey Kasem and Matthew Lillard. Gina Rodriguez showcases the skills that she gained from Carmen Sandiego as a wonderfully smart but underused Velma. Amanda Seyfried does a brilliant job showcasing the kindness and humor that has long defined Daphne. And Zac Efron was apparently made to play Fred, even though he doesn’t take a central role his vocal performance offers up some of the film’s funniest moments. It’s hard to discuss without spoiling some of the film’s best secrets but Jason Isaacs does a stellar job as Dick Dastardly, who brings an unexpected motivation.
The first two acts of Scoob! have some pacing issues, but the final segment of the film ups the supernatural ante and this is where the animators get to show off even more of their skills. Kids stuck at home during quarantine–and animation fans of all ages–will adore the brightly colored escapism on display. Parents might not be as engaged with the story as younger viewers, but there are plenty of silly, raunchy jokes and classic character appearances to keep adults entertained. Scoob! also leaves the door open for more Hanna-Barbera animated movies, so bring on more of the young Mystery team or a Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons) solo movie!
Scoob! is now available to rent on VOD platforms.