Yes, I know I have bigger fish to fry.
Wow, talk about a cashgrab. You know that feeling you get when you’re watching a movie, getting heavily engaged with the plot and loving the characters, when all of a sudden, you get this slight realization that you’re not watching someone’s passion project, but rather a product churned out by a studio after lots of interference simply to make a huge buck. A project that uses an existing property not to tell a reasonably good story, but rather to sell you toys or bank on the next overhyped trend that excites studio executives with its money-making potential and high return rates. Falling under this umbrella are films like Transformers, Power Rangers, and of course, the ever so notorious The Emoji Movie.
Well, I’m afraid to report that Scoob is yet another victim of corporate pandering.
Within the first ten minutes of the movie or so, the film does a good job at deceiving you into believing it would be a fresh, heartwarming take on the classic Scooby Doo formula by putting on display an origin story showing how Scooby, Shaggy and the rest of Mystery Inc. met before their adventures began. You’d immediately think to yourself that this isn’t like one of those direct-to-DVD sellouts you’ve been seeing get released on a yearly basis, almost to the point where the creators have run out of ideas and start sabotaging past Scooby Doo properties for the sake of making more and more money. But then it starts to dawn on you; the realization, the fear, the epiphany that this Scooby Doo film would actually be another cashgrab. And then halfway through, your fears are brought to fruition.
It was from the very moment a cameo appearance of Simon Cowell was put on screen and a duet between Scooby and Shaggy singing a cover of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallows” song from the hit film A Star is Born – another Warner Bros property by the way – suddenly comes out from left field that I soon knew instantly that this wasn’t the Scooby Doo movie I had signed up to watch. And it just got worse. It’s noticeably clear that this film’s sole purpose was to just set up the Hanna Barbara cinematic universe rather than tell a completely self-contained story featuring the Meddling Kids and their Mangy Dog. And with that poses the film’s major problem: it just wasn’t a Scooby Doo movie in the slightest.
What’s the most important ingredient for a Scooby Doo movie? A mystery. Well, guess what? There’s barely any mystery here. The main point of having a Scooby Doo movie is to set up a mystery, to keep audiences from knowing who the actual villain is until the very end. Even the laziest, most creatively bankrupt direct-to-DVD Scooby Doo film realizes this. In this film, we already know who the main antagonist is and the only mystery we get is why Dick wants Scooby so much, something which is resolved in the span of a minute. Instead, all mystery elements were completely stripped away in favor of setting up a superhero flick where Scooby and the gang team up with the Blue Falcon, or in this case, the Blue Falcon’s son. Why not keep Dick Dastardly in the dark and reveal him as the main villain at the very end when he’s unmasked? He could be terrorizing a town while disguised as a monster and at the very least, we’d have a mystery on our hands. It’d feel like a Scooby Doo film then, and the ending could be perfect for kickstarting the entire Hanna Barbara Cinematic Universe. The lack of a mystery in this case also forces characters like Velma, Daphne, and Fred to the sidelines, having barely any sort of impact on the plot at all and only being there to remind viewers that they’re watching something Scooby Doo related.
Already halfway through the movie and we’ve got characters like Captain Caveman, Blue Falcon, Dynomutt, and Dick Dastardly along for the ride. By the end, I still don’t know anything about these Hanna Barbara caricatures. This is not how you set up a cinematic universe and to contrast this, let’s compare this universe to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While I have my fair share of gripes with those films, by the time the first Avengers movie rolled out, we’ve had two Iron Man films (which also introduced Nick Fury and Black Widow), a Hulk movie, a Thor movie, and a Captain America movie; all of them serving as introductions to their characters in a way that would help us understand them and get to know them more as individuals. We know enough about those heroes to root for them in The Avengers. But, Scoob is the equivalent of dumping Thor and The Hulk all in the first Iron Man movie. It just doesn’t give us enough time to bond with these characters and thus they just end up feeling underdeveloped and forced in there for the sake of starting the universe as quickly as possible rather than using Marvel’s more gradual and more effective approach. It’s exactly one of the major issues I had with films like Batman v Superman and the 2017 remake of The Mummy. Oh, and by the way, it turns out that the Blue Falcon in this film isn’t actually The Blue Falcon, but rather his loser of a son, Brian. Way to crap on the hopes and dreams of Blue Falcon fans, Warner Bros.
The film also ruins the Scooby Doo lore by claiming that Scooby himself is actually a descendant from one of Alexander the Great’s own great Danes, and therefore the only one who could open a portal to the underworld. So, apparently, Scoob’s rendition of the Mangy Dog is that he’s a glorified hellhound and – I kid you not – THE CHOSEN ONE! It’s such a cliché trope and very unfitting for a character who merely exists to be terrified by corrupt businessmen wearing masks. It reminds me of The Emoji Movie where the main hero becomes the only emoji out there to be able to project all the emoji faces at the same time.
The show also goes for the most common theme almost every single kids’ movie ever wants to explore: the power of friendship. Not going to lie, the message of being loyal to your friends, and how important platonic companionship is for people ran so dry that I thought this was becoming My Little Pony or something. Think about Warner Bros’ other work, The Lego Movie, and notice how unique its message was. Very few kids’ movies out there explore the power of imagination and how important it is for a child to harness it to their own benefit. It was refreshing and lent itself well to the Lego license which was built around imagination. Meanwhile, Scoob just went for the bottom of the barrel and in the end, gave us something that had been given insight into many times before.
But, there’s more! Let’s discuss the voice cast. Sure, it’s full of talented people such as Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Bynes, etc. But Warner Bros made a really sleazy move in not notifying the current voice cast from the previous Scooby Doo movies about this and just recasted them without warning. Matthew Lillard wasn’t able to voice Shaggy even though he wanted to, Frank Welker wasn’t able to voice Fred since his role was given to Zac Efron, and so on. These alumni, despite being available and eagerly excited to do some voice acting for the movie, weren’t able to because Warner Bros just wanted to cast A-list actors for that sweet, sweet money.
I guess the animation’s nice to look at. However, this is kind of to be expected from Warner Bros Animation, as they along with the Pixar, Dreamworks, and Sony are quite adept at animating CGI models in a fluid and visually spectacular manner. As for the jokes, meh. Most of the time, the humor was melded into satirical criticism of millennial culture and a bucketload of references. The only times I laughed were when those wacky Hanna Barbara sounds effects were playing to emphasize characters falling over, crashing into objects, getting thrown out of closets, etc. There were a number of hilarious sound cues to be heard and they’re all used appropriately, bringing back an era where such noises were commonplace. But they forgot one thing: the bloody laugh tracks! You had one job to replicate the 60s Warner Bros, you had one freaking job!
So yeah, you can easily tell that I don’t recommend Scoob at all. It’s a soulless, money-grabbing scheme that exists merely to rush out a cinematic universe as quickly as possible while projecting random referential humor in a desperate attempt to get Hanna Barbara fans jumping on board. Unfortunately, this has just made me want to jump ship instead and hope that the Hanna Barbara Cinematic Universe becomes another failed attempt just like Universal’s Dark Universe ended up becoming. Make good, self-contained animated films guys, not films that only exist to set up other films.
Also, what kind of film tries to sneak in satirical and referential humor, yet doesn’t mention Shaggy’s power level? The guy’s more powerful than Superman, and you don’t even bother to make any mention of that? Waste of potential right there.
Personal score: 3/10