He’s the hound that launched a thousand impersonations, scoffed squillions of Scooby Snacks and kick-started a seemingly never-ending TV franchise. Yes, Scooby-Doo is back on our screens, albeit smaller ones, but this isn’t the first movie to carry his name. 2002’s live action version had a CGI Scooby but received a resounding thumbs down. For 2020, however, it’s all about animation.
The first Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? was launched on TV back in 1969, when origins stories were far away in the future. Scoob! sets out to put that right, showing the cowardly canine (then a puppy) meeting the young Shaggy and the two becoming the best of friends. But it only occupies the first 12 minutes of the film at most, leaving director Tony Cervone with over an hour to fill. What he comes up with is a present day reboot, with the Mystery Incorporated gang – Velma, Fred and Daphne, plus Shaggy and Scooby, of course – trying to solve an extraordinary mystery, involving a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus on the world. A dogopolypse, if you like, and one that involves Scooby himself and the very familiar mastermind behind it. One Dick Dastardly.
Hang on! Dastardly was in Wacky Races, right? Indeed he was, but let’s not split hairs over what is the film’s biggest redeeming feature by a mile. For fans of the TV series, it all starts with a large helping of nostalgia, a sequence that reproduces almost move for move the original’s opening credits. It follows up with some of its other favourite tropes, a villain’s resentful reference to “those meddling kids” (he never gets to finish it off, but we know what he means), Scooby’s reflex jump into Shaggy’s arms whenever faced with anything scary, his pronunciation of Shaggy’s name ….. you get the picture. But that’s as far as it goes and there are changes that the older members of the audience will find simply baffling. Like the fact that Scooby actually talks. In his former incarnation, his garbled lines were part of his appeal and sentences never came into it.
The setting doesn’t help either. The Blue Falcon (voiced by Mark Wahlberg) superhero storyline, with all its gadgetry and out of this world space ship, might appeal visually to youngsters – they’re clearly who the makers had in mind – but it sorely lacks the charm of the 60s animation. That was down to the decidedly low-tech – often no-tech – nature of the way the gang went about solving mysteries and nabbing villains. It’s all been wiped away in favour of something utterly soulless and with little in the way of humour. Except for Dastardly. True, he’s presented in a similar mould and has lost his aviator’s cap and goggles, but as voiced by the velvet tones of Jason Isaacs, he’s the film’s supervillain and superstar, lifting it to another level every time he appears on screen. Trouble is, it’s not often enough.
Scoob! is a textbook instance of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It’s lost the humour, the endearing silliness and the heart of the original and there’s precious little left. After this second attempt to launch him in the movies, perhaps it’s time film makers left him to his Scooby snacks.
Comedy, Animation, Family | Cert: tbc | Warner Brothers | Video on demand, 10 July 2020 | Dir. Tony Cervone | The voices of Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan.