Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 27, 2020)
After a successful life as an animated TV show, the Scooby-Doo series leapt to the big screen in 2002. That flick and its 2004 sequel offered live-action adaptations.
With 2020’s SCOOB!, the franchise returned to movie theaters as an animated affair – sort of. While intended to hit multiplexes in mid-May, the COVID-19 pandemic put the kibosh on those plans, so it went straight-to-video instead, with a small international theatrical release in July 2020.
A prologue reveals how lonely Norville “Shaggy” Rogers (voiced by Iain Armitage) meets and befriends a stray pooch named Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker). When they encounter fellow youngsters Fred Jones (Pierce Gagnon), Daphne Blake (Mckenna Grace), and Velma Dinkley (Ariana Greenblatt), they become pals and solve a strange seemingly supernatural dilemma together.
Years later, we find Scooby, Shaggy (Will Forte), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and Fred (Zac Efron) together as Mystery Inc. This acts as an organization that deals with perplexing crimes, ones that usually involve phony ghosts and the like.
They’ll need to muster all their skills when they find Dick Dastardly’s (Jason Isaacs) scheme to unleash the ghost canine Cerberus upon an unsuspecting world. The Mystery Inc. gang works overtime to stop a coming “dogpocalypse”.
As I noted when I reviewed the live-action flicks, I grew up with Scooby-Doo, but I never really loved the series. I think I enjoyed those adventures but I found a lot of other animated series I preferred.
Now far from my youth, I’ve liked some 21st century Scooby. The 2002 movie worked surprisingly well, and a few of the direct-to-video animated projects amused.
This left me with some thoughts that SCOOB! might offer fun. Toss in a good voice cast and I entered the film with moderate expectations – not high expectations, but decent hopes.
Alas, SCOOB! doesn’t ever become more than decent, at that. While not a bad movie – and better than the 2004 live-action flick – it lacks the real creativity and flair I thought it might present.
On the positive side, the flick really does come with a nice cast. In addition to the actors already noted, we find folks like Mark Wahlberg, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, and plenty of others.
None of them really add life to their characters, and as talented as he is, Forte doesn’t live up to Matthew Lillard’s dead-perfect live-action Shaggy. Still, the presence of so many notables brings a veneer of quality to the project.
In addition, SCOOB! occasionally manages some clever moments, mainly due to weird allusions and asides. A bowling scene offers a subtle nod toward The Big Lebowski, and we get a decent array of jokes that bring some panache to the proceedings.
While these contribute amusement, they can’t quite overcome the project’s basic lack of inspiration. The movie never boasts a particularly coherent narrative and the comedy beats don’t work well enough to cancel the randomness of the tale.
Honestly, the prologue with the young Mystery Inc. feels unnecessary and out of place. That segment takes up more time than expected, and it doesn’t connect to the rest of the film in a particularly meaningful manner, so it feels more like an excuse to fill time.
Granted, the flick does allow the prologue to tie in to the main story eventually. Nonetheless, this comes across as cheap melodrama fodder that the movie never needs.
SCOOB! needs that padding because its main plot fails to develop in a substantial way. As noted, the story lacks particular coherence and often feels like nothing more than an excuse to throw action and comedy at us.
Which doesn’t seem like a terrible goal, but I think SCOOB! could’ve given us laughs, thrills and a more concise narrative. Plenty of other movies manage to “have it all” – why not this one as well?
Ultimately, SCOOB! becomes neither a winning effort nor a clunker. Because it throws so much at the screen, some of it sticks, so even with a less than willing plot, it still brings passable entertainment.
However, don’t expect more than that. SCOOB! keeps the viewer mildly engaged for its 94 minutes and that’s about it.