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‘Scoob!’ a doggone good time

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Full disclosure: it is difficult for me to be objective with regards to Scooby Doo. I have had a deep-seated love for all things Hanna-Barbera since I was a kid; those characters are all beloved parts of my childhood pop culture consumption.

That being said, I was unsure how to feel about “Scoob!” The latest attempt to bring the character to the big screen – now available for rent or purchase via VOD – was an unabashed update, an origin story that I wasn’t at all sure that I needed or wanted. Of course, no IP is safe in the current cinematic landscape, so an update/reboot was all but assured.

Surprisingly, “Scoob!” is … not that bad. It’s an engaging enough take on the source material, making an effort to stay true to the spirit of the original. There’s a whiff of the formulaic here, but everything is executed with good faith effort. It’s certainly not going to alienate nostalgic fans, while also having a shot and bringing new ones into the fold.

We start on Venice Beach with a young stray pup liberating a large hunk of meat from a gyro place. The authorities get involved – as they do – leading to a slapstick chase (the first of many, as you’ve doubtless guessed). Said pup’s path crosses with a youngster named Norbert, a lonely young man looking for a friend. A bond is formed, with Norbert revealing his nickname – Shaggy – and the stray pup finding a home and a name: Scooby Doo.

That Halloween, young Shaggy and Scooby wind up inadvertently making friends with an unlikely trio – Fred, Daphne and Velma. The group accidentally breaks up a burglary ring, and thus, Mystery Inc. is born. We transition from childhood to young adulthood via a frankly ingenious repurposing and recreation of the iconic opening credits of the beloved cartoon.

The crew has grown up – well, ish. Shaggy (Will Forte, “The Willoughbys”) and Scooby (voice acting legend Frank Welker) are still doing what they do, hanging out and eating comically oversized sandwiches. Fred (Zac Efron, “The Beach Bum”), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried, “The Art of Racing in the Rain”) and Velma (Gina Rodriguez, “Miss Bala”) are looking to expand their business; they even have an investor – Simon Cowell (as himself).

But when Shaggy and Scooby get wrapped up in the huge criminal scheme of Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs, “Skyfire”), they wind up in the company of legendary hero Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg, “Spenser Confidential”), his sidekick Dynomutt (Ken Jeong, “Elsewhere”) and his pilot Dee Dee (Kiersey Clemons, “Lady and the Tramp”). While the rest of the gang tries to catch up, Scooby and Shaggy find that this crisis is testing their friendship like never before – and that Scooby has a destiny far more powerful than any of them could ever have known.

So will the Scooby Gang save the day? You can probably guess the answer.

I’ll be honest – I enjoyed myself quite a bit with “Scoob!” For kid-oriented fare, you could do a lot worse. There’s plenty for the little ones to enjoy, along with a few winks and nods for the old-timers out there watching with their children and/or seeking a nostalgia fix. There are some solid jokes and a couple of surprisingly well-executed set pieces. There are some laughs and a few tugs on the old heartstrings and even a bit of a message – all in all, just what you want from a movie like this.

(Note: the movie stands alone despite a clear intention of creating a Hanna-Barbera Cinematic Universe. Not only do we get long looks at familiar characters like Blue Falcon, Dynomutt and Dick Dastardly, we also get an appearance from Captain Caveman (voiced by Tracy Morgan) and an end credits sequence that offers up a handful of other HB icons. There’s potential there – we’ll see how Warner Brothers handles it.)

This is a movie about friendship, about what it means to make those connections and how important it is to maintain them. It’s a film about the adventures we can have with those closest to us and how much joy we can derive from one another. It’s a story of a boy and his dog. It’s not the most sophisticated movie, but it is sweet and goofy and just plain fun – qualities that we could use a lot more of these days.

The voice cast is stacked. Forte is a wonderful Shaggy, capturing the character’s weirdo energy without trying to do a Casey Kasem impression. Welker is an icon in the voice acting world; he’s been Scooby Doo for many years and keeps up the good work here. Efron, Seyfried and Rodriguez all do good work in vocalizing the essence of their characters – no easy feat considering how beloved those characters are. Isaacs is clearly having a ball as Dick Dastardly; the dude knows how to play a villain and does so here with real scenery-chewing gusto. And Wahlberg is an unexpected delight as the Blue Falcon, an erstwhile hero struggling with the pressures of assuming the mantle of his famous father.

Now, “Scoob!” isn’t going to blow you away. It isn’t going to join the pantheon of great animated fare. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of your attention. It is relatively simple and perfectly silly, a true representation of the spirit of the source material with an engaging visual style and some fun vocal performances. If you’re someone with fond memories of Scooby and the gang, you’re almost certainly going to have a good time.

And remember, Scoob - as long as you’re ready and you’re willin’, I know we’ll catch that villain.

[3.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 18 May 2020 10:27

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