Director: Tony Cervone | Screenwriter: Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson, Derek Elliott, Matt Lieberman | Cast: Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, Frank Welker | Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures | Running Time: 94 min. | MPAA Rating: PG
Scooby-Doo has remained a constant icon of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon stock for so long one often wonders how it continues to linger. Born from the groovy 1960s setting and still holding its dated decor, the gang of the Mystery Machine has been solving mysteries in many forms for many years. Perhaps there’s a certain timeless quality to its silly slapstick and intrigue for a mystery that has continued to make the talking dog and his quirky human friends so relevant. Scoob, however, is a CGI film that argues perhaps that the only way Scooby can be so relevant is if he changes his ways to find a different coat of cartoon craziness.
Let me make it clear that I am not dogging on Scoob being divergent as somehow being “not my Scooby” because it doesn’t respect nostalgia or canon or whatever buzzword fans love to retreat to for easy negative criticism. In truth, the many restructuring choices of the film are quite interesting. Though the origins of Scooby-Doo from his puppy days are underwhelming, considering the lukewarm results of the younger iteration A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, I dug where the film was headed with the crew. The gang composed of Shaggy, Scooby, Fred, Daphne, and Velma call into question where they want to take their mystery-solving business. They want to make it more lucrative and doing so apparently means the weaker aspects must be shed. Namely, the antics of Shaggy and Scooby.
Thus, the film stumbles along in the monotonous mania of modern-day theatrical animation trying to find relevancy for Scooby. The usual malarky comes about. Scooby and Shaggy start to drift apart, questioning their long-standing friendship. The stakes of the mystery have been raised where the gang is no longer solving mysteriously frightening beings but posed in a treasure hunt with a “the monsters are real” climax. The villain of Dick Dastardly signals a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe but is mostly used as your typical greedy antagonist pathos for good measure. Then there’s the superhero of Blue Falcon and the second generation taking on the mantle as a hotshot clashing with the unamused Dynomutt. Then there’s Fred’s love of his Mystery Machine van. Then there’s Captain Caveman. Then there’s a Teen Angel.
If all of this sounds overwhelming, it’s because it is. There’s so much rushing through this adventure that there’s hardly a moment appreciate either the comradery of the gang or the intrigue of the mystery. This swirling of CGI craziness ultimately makes Scooby-Doo a more timid property to prop up for Warner Bros to rally for the young and old. The young will most likely love the silly slapstick and fast-paced freneticism. Adults, I assume, are meant to dig on the numerous reference, including a scene in an arcade with cabinets donning familiar shows. Perhaps a few witty references may induce smiles, the way Scooby believes Blue Falcon’s ship is IKEA or the villain declaring Fred a poor man’s Hemsworth (“Wait, Chris or Liam?”)
While the Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe has potential, it’s off to a very stumbling start with the studio’s star attraction getting the lukewarm modern makeover. If the mystery-solving antics of Scooby-Doo are reduced to such platitudes, the mind boggles at routine and rambling the likes of The Flintstones or The Herculoids would turn out in a theatrical film. Would they shorten their titles as well to The Flints or The Hercs? If such cartoons must change their ways so fully, perhaps they haven’t stood the test of time, at least by Warner Bros’ current standards for theatrical animation.