Scooby-Doo has been a fixture of pop culture ever since he and the rest of Mystery, Inc. made their first small screen appearances in 1969. In the 2000s the mystery-solving pup and his friends made their big-screen debut in a pair of live-action films written by then-relatively-unknown James Gunn. In 2013 Warner Bros. began development of a new Scooby-Doo movie, this time an animated feature that would be the first in a series of films based on the characters of Hannah Barbara. Simply called “Scoob!”, the film’s theatrical release was moved to on-demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic as was the case with Universal and DreamWorks’ “Trolls World Tour”. Following Scooby and the gang as they team up with a superhero to foil the plans of a “dastardly” villain, “Scoob!” possesses a lot of charm and proves to be a fun and colorful experience, but it also forsakes the spirit of what Scooby-Doo’s adventures are all about.
“Scoob!” starts off as an introduction to Mystery, Inc. and how the four members and their canine companion came to know each other as children. Years later we see Scooby (Frank Welker) and Shaggy (Will Forte) isolate themselves from the rest of Mystery, Inc. after Simon Cowell (playing himself) offers to invest in making the group an official company but can’t figure out where the two best friends fit in with the team. Scooby and Shaggy find themselves the target of the evil Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) who seeks out Scooby for a special ritual. The two are rescued by the Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) and join the heroes to try and save the world while Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), Velma (Gina Rodriguez) and Fred (Zac Efron) attempt to reunite with and rescue their friends but unknowingly become pawns in Dastardly’s evil plan.
Right away the movie’s main flaw is definitely it’s inability to capture the essence of Scooby-Doo to the fullest. While the live-action movies had their problems, both embraces the basic idea of the “Scooby-Doo” franchise with a fun mystery being at the core of the action. This movie doesn’t really have a mystery other than what Dastardly’s endgame is which is more of a superhero villain plot and not the kind of mystery the Scooby gang is supposed to solve. “Scoob!” falls into the same rut that too many films seem to settle for these days acting as a springboard for franchising instead of being its own movie. While it’s not as annoying as past films like “The Mummy” or “The Amazing Spiderman 2”, “Scoob!” still feels much more interested in establishing the Hanna Barbara universe rather than giving us a true “Scooby-Doo” experience. Other Hannah Barbara staples like The Blue Falcon, Dynomutt, Dick Dastardly and others all fight for attention in a movie that’s supposed to be about Mystery, Inc. and while it’s not uncommon to see Hannah Barbara’s properties all share screen time, here it feels more like a theme park attraction trying to stuff in as many references as possible without actually exploring what makes any of these characters special on their own.
The film starts off on the right foot though, giving us an adorable origin story for Scooby and the gang and even recreating the original opening credits from the show in CGI, but after the first 20 minutes or so we stop watching a “Scooby-Doo” movie and start watching a Hannah Barbara movie that stars Scooby-Doo and that’s not what we should have settled for. I personally wanted to see Scooby and the gang solve a cool mystery, put the pieces together and unmask the villain but all we get are passing references to the traditional Scooby formula to remind us that Scooby is the central character of this specific adventure. The movie was clearly designed to cash in on one of Hannah Barbara’s most popular IPs to give the rest of the pending cinematic universe a leg to stand on. Then you take into account the overwhelming amount of both kid and adult-friendly cultural references that will be dated in five years and things like the Simon Cowell cameo and a millennial joke that already feel dated and “Scoob!” feels less like a “Scooby-Doo” adventure and more like an attempt to entertain the lowest common denominator with cliches and a few fun character cameos to help bolster some yet-to-be-announced films.
All that considered, taking “Scoob!” at face value I did have fun watching it. It’s colorful, the animation is smooth and detailed, and the voice work is amusing with an infectious sense of positivity. Also while this isn’t really a “Scooby-Doo” movie I did crack a huge smile seeing all of these characters from Hannah Barbara’s lineup together on screen. It did give me a great sense of nostalgia for when I watched these characters on Boomerang as a kid and this might be the most epic crossover in the company’s history since “The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones”. If a Hannah Barbara universe hype film was the goal, and it certainly seems so, “Scoob!” does the trick. It offers more than enough to satisfy fans of Hannah Barbara in general and excite them for what’s to come while the humor, energy and non-stop action do make for a fun hour-and-a-half for all ages even if it’s destined to be a dated product in a very short time. However, the Scooby-Doo franchise, for better or worse, has a formula that works and is essential to the charm of the property. Abandoning it for the sake of larger world building to benefit projects that aren’t even in the works yet feels like a wasted opportunity when what we should have gotten was a glorified “Scooby-Doo” episode that reminds us why we love these characters specifically.
“Scoob!” is a solid attempt at creating a platform for the Hanna Barbara properties to flourish in the future, but on its own it’s a letdown. This isn’t the teen detective story we’re all used to and anyone who wants a true “Scooby-Doo” experience should be disappointed with what they get here. The first segment of the movie exploring Mystery, Inc.’s origins is the only time we really get to experience the kind of fun we looked forward from in the “Scooby-Doo” TV show. After the initial unmasking it’s more of a springboard for the Hannah Barbara universe than it is a Mystery, Inc. adventure and even evolves into more of a superhero flick than an actual mystery film. It’s fun and energetic, but it has an identity crises that is all too apparent. It’s not what it should be by any means, but in the end it’s still an engaging animated adventure that serves as a decent waste of time. I just wish it was actually a “Scooby-Doo” movie and not just a movie that happens to star Scooby-Doo.