So, let’s just get this out of the way: I’m old enough that my Scooby-Doo is the one from the ABC years. I do claim the original CBS years, too, I just had to catch those as reruns. Actually, I claim the entire Hanna-Barbera canon as mine. These cartoons were my childhood. The thought that Scoob!, the first feature-length animated Scooby-Doo film, was going to introduce us to a whole new Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe was exciting to me. You know, assuming they could get this right.
Scoob! starts with the origin story of Mystery Inc. We get young Shaggy (Will Forte/Iain Armitage) and Scooby’s (Frank Welkers) meet-cute, followed by a haunted house encounter with Fred (Zac Efron), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), and Daphne (Amanda Seyfried). We then fast forward, while the classic Scooby-Doo theme song plays, to the gang as teenagers. They’re ready to take their mystery-solving to the next level, but an encounter with Simon Cowell fractures the friendship. Shaggy and Scooby set out on their own, just as the biggest mystery they’ve ever faced finds them.
Scoob! has a lot of things going for it. They successfully upgraded the animation to modern standards while maintaining the classic appearance of the characters. They captured an A-list group of actors to provide the voices in the film. There’s also a whole cavalcade of characters from Hanna-Barbera sharing the screen, tugging on those heartstrings longing for nostalgia. It is, at its heart, a fun film. But fun for kids. I think adults are going to be pretty divided.
I expect some quibbles from fans of the classic Scooby-Doo cartoons on the voices being “not quite right”. Hey, I get it, but I’m giving that a pass. What I can’t get past is Scooby-Doo talking in relatively articulate full sentences. Nope. I am not there for it. This actually threw me down a YouTube rabbit hole of classic cartoons where I was trying to see if Scooby talked more than I remembered. Nope. Classic Scooby-Doo never spoke more than two words at a time. Maybe he suddenly got chatty during the Cartoon Network years? I can’t say since I never watched. All I know is that this Scooby-Doo is not my Scooby-Doo.
The film struggles to find its footing when it came to just how much adult content it wants to contain. It throws in jokes about Scooby being unable to say Dick Dastardly’s (Jason Isaacs) first name and f-bombs, but it whitewashes the reason Shaggy always had the munchies. Yo! Pick a lane. Are you pushing the envelope or not?
Scoob! has some good moments, and really shines when it leans into the classic source material. The meta-references to the old cartoons were fun, although occasionally over the top. Yes to all of the ghosts and glowing skulls, no to the description of Shaggy as a “middle-aged man’s idea of how a teenage hippie talks”.
I also feel the need to give voice to my excess annoyance at Simon Cowell’s appearance in Scoob! Beyond him serving no actual purpose to appear as himself, it looked as if he was animated by a completely different team hell-bent on entering the uncanny valley. The fact that they felt the need to reference him more than once in the movie? I just don’t get it.
Scoob! is far from perfect, but it’s got enough fun and nostalgic charm to overcome some of its problems. If you can forgive the horrible rendering of Simon Cowell and more than a few less than clever jokes, Scoob! is a good choice for your next family movie night. The kids will probably love it. And you will probably find it at least tolerable.
Scoob! is available for digital rental and purchase now.
“SCOOB!” reveals how lifelong friends Scooby and Shaggy first met and how they joined with young detectives Fred, Velma and Daphne to form the famous Mystery Inc. Now, with hundreds of cases solved and adventures shared, Scooby and the gang face their biggest, most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. As they race to stop this global “dogpocalypse,” the gang discovers that Scooby has a secret legacy and an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined.