SCOOB! Review

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Scooby-Doo and Mystery Inc. have appeared in an incredible amount of TV series, movies, comic books, and even video games. Each version has elements that make it distinct from the others while remaining in the spirit of Scooby-Doo. The most recent big-screen adaptation of Scooby-Doo, a 3-D animated film simply titled SCOOB! released earlier this year and had the largest obstacle to overcome while still feeling like a Scooby-Doo movie: SCOOB! also serves as the start of a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe. Does it still feel like a proper Scooby-Doo story, or does it take on too much? Let’s look at the clues to find out.

The Good

SCOOB! offers a lot of heart and emotional moments for the viewer. Even during the earliest scenes of the film, like when Shaggy is feeling down about being alone and makes a promise with Scooby to be best friends forever, it’s difficult not to empathize with the characters and even tear up. The movie quickly establishes an emotional connection with its audience that it holds for its full runtime.

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This film is shockingly hilarious. Most movies have a few memorable one-liners, but SCOOB! offers quite a lot of witty jokes that will have the audiences laughing hysterically and quoting lines afterward. Not since Mean Girls has a movie contained such uproariously funny and memorable one-liners. The overall dialogue is extremely witty and better written than a lot of other modern animated movies. SCOOB! also provides fantastic humor with its banter between characters, unexpected occurrences like Blue Falcon being a better DJ or social media influencer than superhero, and classic Scooby-Doo slapstick.

The action and suspense are done so well that it’s easy to forget you’re watching an animated movie at times. It feels just as large-scale and well-choreographed as a modern superhero blockbuster. Even the classic Scooby-Doo chase scenes show off the great directing and fun suspense seen throughout the rest of the film. For a Scooby-Doo film where we already know who the villain is, there is still a good amount of suspense with figuring out what his plan is and how the heroes will get out of certain sticky situations.

SCOOB! also offers an incredible origin story to Scooby, Shaggy, and the rest of the Mystery Inc. We’ve already seen origin stories for this group several times before, like with A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, but this is another fun one to see. As said earlier, it helps start the movie off with heartfelt emotion, but it also allows for an introduction to the whole “Mystery Inc. villain-catching process” that we are all familiar with.

The animation style in SCOOB! uses a colorful and eye-catching aesthetic that is unique enough to stand out from Pixar and other animated movies. It’s gorgeous and can easily keep one’s attention. It creates a fun tone for the entirety of the film and allows for a lot of attention to minute details when focusing on clues to investigate or background references.

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Most of the voice cast does an exceptional job. Actors such as Zac Effron, Gina Rodriguez, Amanda Seyfried, and Mark Wahlberg add so much emotion and uniqueness to their characters that they truly bring them to life. Heck, I could even picture them playing these characters in live-action.

Throughout the film, there are enough classic Scooby-Doo themes and references to keep it feeling like a Scooby-Doo movie. The gang collects clues to figure out Dick Dastardly’s sinister plot, get chased by villains, trick those villains with cheesy disguises, and even use iconic cartoon sound effects from the old cartoons. We may already know who the villain is, but there still feels like there is a mystery afoot. We even see a mystery-solving montage in the form of the intro from the original animated series!

There are more than enough characters and background references to classic Hana-Barbera cartoons to set up the potential cinematic universe Warner Bros. is intending on creating. Seeing Captain Caveman and Blue Falcon adds a lot of fun for the older members of the film’s audience. It proves that SCOOB! is truly an exciting experience for all ages and successfully sets up and gains interest for a brand new cinematic universe.

The Bad

The movie does mostly do enough to keep the classic Scooby-Doo vibes, but it does at times forget that this should first and foremost be a Scooby-Doo story. It has a Scooby-Doo story there, and each member of Mystery Inc. feels in-character the whole time, but the film gets distracted by trying to compete with current-day superhero blockbusters and setting up a cinematic universe for characters a younger audience probably has never heard of. The focus tends to stray too far from what it should be on.

Will Forte is a phenomenal actor and comedian, and proves he can do a fantastic job with voice acting in this film. However, he portrays Shaggy, who he sounds so unlike that it’s distracting. It’s not to say that only previous actors of Shaggy can play him, but Will Forte may not have been the right fit. His portrayal acts like Shaggy, but doesn’t sound like him enough to keep the audience’s immersion. Perhaps things would have been improved if Forte had been signed on to play a different character, either original to this movie or a different Hanna-Barbera character.

We see Scooby and Shaggy meet the rest of Mystery Inc. early on, but they are quick to split up for the majority of the movie. It works well enough for this particular story, but it is a bit odd since they are supposed to be a team. Sure, Shaggy and Scooby often split up from the rest of the group when searching for clues, but that’s only for a short scene. Here, it’s for about half the movie or longer, spreading the characters out maybe a little too much. It contradicts the friends group they establish early on.

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Something that the filmmakers behind every big screen adaptation of Scooby-Doo don’t seem to realize is that Scooby-Doo doesn’t need to have magic or the paranormal in it. In most classic versions of Scooby-Doo, including the original, Mystery Inc. has dealt with criminals faking the paranormal aspect of their crimes. Somewhere down the line, that detail seems to have been lost on modern writers. It’s not a huge problem for the movie, but filmmakers need to realize that it’s also okay for Scooby-Doo and his friends to be in a grounded mystery story where they catch a man in a mask.

Much of the film assumes that the audience is already familiar with Scooby-Doo or even some of the other Hanna-Barbera characters who are present. It’s safe to assume that most people are familiar with Scooby-Doo, but it does harm the movie in regards to it being a good stand-alone story. Most elements are introduced or explained in the movie, so kids shouldn’t be too confused by any of it, but there are a few things the filmmakers expect you to know about, like Scooby Snacks. The expectation that today’s youth know anything about Captain Caveman is a bit strange, however. While some older audiences may be excited to see him, younger viewers may not understand why Mystery Inc. is suddenly with a hair-covered caveman. Again, it’s mostly explained, but enough to make some feel left out.

Like just about every version of Scooby-Doo, there is a mystery afoot. However, unlike most mysteries, we know who the culprit is from the get-go. The gang needs to figure out why Dick Dastardly is collecting Cerberus skulls, but the fun of trying to figure out who is guilty is lost.

In the Know

As previously stated, SCOOB! is intended to set up a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe. Because of this, there are plenty of references to other Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Blue Falcon, Dynomutt, and Captain Caveman all have major speaking roles, plus there are tons of background references, like the pet shop from Magilla Gorilla, a Hex Girls poster, and a Hong Kong Phooey arcade game. There are a lot of little nods here and there to classic cartoons that are hard to miss. It’ll take at least a few viewings to catch each one.

There is no post credits scene in SCOOB!, but there is a sequence of fun images showing what adventures are next for our characters. We see Dick Dastardly being broken out of jail by Muttley, Mystery Inc. delivering Dastardly’s old robots to Quest Labs from Johnny Quest, an Avengers style team up with JabberJaw, Atom Ant, Captain Caveman, and Grape Ape, and much more. It’s definitely enough to get excited to see what movies will be added to the lineup of this universe if Warner Bros. decides to stay with the idea.

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There are also several references to classic Scooby-Doo, like the house Mystery Inc. trick-or-treated at resembling the haunted house from the original opening, the iconic theme song and intro being recreated in this new animation style, and the old-school cartoony sound effects being used when the characters run or perform other actions. It helps add to what classic Scooby-Doo vibes are present in the film.

Conclusion

SCOOB! is a fun and heartfelt take on Scooby-Doo that features beautiful 3-D animation, great humor, exciting action, and a fantastic story about friendship with both Mystery Inc. and Dick Dastardly and Muttley. It also sets up an animated Hanna-Barbera universe pretty nicely with references that would make any older fan happy.

However, it could have been approached very differently regarding beginning a new shared movie universe. It could have easily been a grounded solo Scooby-Doo movie about solving a mystery and stopping a masked criminal that occasionally makes slight references to other Hanna-Barbera properties, like Scooby and Shaggy idolizing Blue Falcon. However, they shoehorned in too many non-Scooby-Doo elements in this Scooby-Doo movie, causing it to feel unfocused at times or at least less like the mystery-solving story that we would expect or want from the franchise. Mystery Inc. is split up for too much of the plot, there’s barely a mystery needing to be solved, and the focus is too heavy on non-Scooby-Doo characters. It’s overall an enjoyable experience, but noticeably held back from what it could have been.

Rating: 7.5 / 10

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