Scoob! (2020)

I’d be lying if I said that I’m the biggest Scooby Doo fan around. Hell, I’m still stunned that Hanna Barbera has placed so much stock in the franchise for so many decades, but I digress. I had high hopes going in to “Scoob!” as every generation is introduced to Scooby Doo once again in some new form, and “Scoob!” seemed like the right avenue. Not only does it give us a new vision of Scooby Doo, but it makes tweaks to the mythos that I liked, while also establishing a shared Hanna Barbera universe. And yet, at the end of it all, I’d still rather have seen “Scooby Doo on Zombie Island” or “Scooby Doo and the Witch’s Ghost,” again.

Meeting on Venice Beach when they were young, lonely Shaggy (Will Forte) and pup Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) become inseparable, sharing a love of madcap antics and food. After an incident on Halloween, the pair befriends the trio of Fred (Zac Efron), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), and Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), and a trek in to a haunted house sparks their love for solving mysteries. With high aspirations for Mysteries Inc. the group is targeted by the evil Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs). While evading his horde of intelligent robots, and minions, the group garners the help of the heroic trio of Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), Dynomutt (Ken Jeong), and Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons).

“Scooby Doo” has always thrived on simplicity and the very easy goals of foiling ghosts and beating the bad guys, so it’s disappointing to go in to “Scoob!” with such an unnecessarily convoluted storyline. There’s stuff about canine skulls, and robots, and a special portal only Scooby can open, and ancient gold, and Blue Falcon trying to recruit Scooby to his team, et al. It’s shockingly hard to follow for a premise that’s always been mainly about teens foiling land barons and smugglers. There’s even a cameo from Simon Cowell that doesn’t amount to much at the end of the day. That said, “Scoob!” is at least going for a new direction and tweaking what doesn’t work, while improving what does (Velma is not Latinx? Love it!).

The improvements on the characters of Freddy, Daphne, and Velma make them less disposable side-characters while the screenwriters offer up a ton of nods to Hanna Barbera properties. There are nods to “A Pup Named Scooby Doo,” Blue Falcon and Dyno Mutt are pretty much in the entire film, there’s a cameo from Captain Caveman, and the goal seems to basically be laying the groundwork for a shared cinematic universe. I’m not against a Hanna Barbera shared universe if done well (feature length “Frankenstein Jr.” reboot, please!), but I wish “Scoob!” had much more focus on the characters and mystery solving and less on the fan service.

The movie is incredibly unfocused, often feeling messy and disjointed. The time jumps, blaring soundtrack and lack of a more menacing foe only subtracts from the film’s inherent quality. By the time the film reaches the home stretch, it pretty much switches to auto drive with a loud, forgettable resolution, with subtle promises of more antics in Hanna Barbera Land. With great animation, a stellar voice cast, and sharp humor, “Scoob!” is an okay diversion, even if the meddling teens have been in better films.

Now Available for Rent or Purchase on a variety of Digital formats, and Video on Demand.