The Other Side of Animation 186: SCOOB! Review

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As a franchise, Scooby-Doo has been able to stand the test of time and still be a relevant part of pop culture. Out of all of the Hanna-Barbera properties to still be around, it’s not all that surprising that it’s this one. And yes, technically, I know Joe Ruby and Ken Spears created the property, but it’s owned by Hanna-Barbera, so let’s not get into specifics about it. Anyway, the formula and premise easily translate itself to being able to transcend time and the ever-growing world of animation. Sadly, at times, at least, more recently, it has started to show its wear and tear, as I don’t think the creators know where to take the characters. A lot of their more recent films have been mediocre at best and insulting to previous films at worst. It’s a shame, because I do like a few of the direct-to-video films, and the voice cast for the gang has always been stellar. So, how does Scooby-Doo handle himself with his first major “theatrical” animated feature, SCOOB!

Directed by Tony Cervone, SCOOB! has had a fairly long production cycle, as it started in 2014 with Dax Shepard writing and co-directing the film. In 2018, Dax Shepard was kicked off the project, and Cervone took full directing responsibility with Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson, and Derek Elliot taking over writing duties. The film is also noteworthy for it being the first major animated film to skip out on theaters entirely due to the current viral situation and go straight-to-video. Trolls: World Tour doesn’t count since it was released in both theaters and on-demand the same day. So far, it has gotten a mixed reception, and where do I stand with this film? Well, you should grab your favorite flavor of Scooby Snacks and read the review. 

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The story revolves around the organization called Mystery Inc, a group of young adults that solve mysteries and crimes that are perpetrated by supposed ghoulish monsters. The gang includes Fred, voiced by Zac Efron, Daphne, voiced by Amanda Seyfried, Velma, voiced by Gina Rodriguez, Shaggy, voiced by Will Forte, and his talking dog Scooby-Doo, voiced by Frank Welker. After a business investment falls through the cracks, the gang separates, and what results are Scooby and Shaggy getting targeted by an evil villain known as Dick Dastardly, voiced by Jason Isaacs. Luckily, the two are saved by their favorite superhero Blue Falcon, or, at the very least, his son Brian, the new Blue Falcon, voiced by Mark Walhberg. The story then turns into a pseudo mystery about why Dick Dastardly is targeting Scooby and Shaggy, and what his ultimate plan is. Can the gang solve this mystery and save the world? 

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This movie is frustrating to review. Not because it’s the worst thing ever, or that I’m trying not to step on the toes of obviously hard-working animators and writers. However, it’s because the execution of everything is what I’m struggling with. On one hand, there is so much passion put into this project. You can tell the team behind it loved Scooby-Doo to the point of even almost 100% recreating the opening of the original Scooby-Doo! Where Are You? opening. There are references to other Hanna-Barbera properties all over the movie, and especially in the main part of the credits. There are small character quirks that show off that the people making the film understand Scooby-Doo as a franchise. Heck, they even made a dessert they had from one episode that made me chuckle. Even the other Hanna-Barbera properties mix well into the world of Scooby-Doo. The problem isn’t that they don’t mix. Scooby-Doo and Hanna-Barbera properties have always crossed over with one another. This isn’t even the first time the Mystery Inc has crossed over with Blue Falcon. Another high point in the film is the opening where we have Shaggy and Scooby-Doo meet for the first time. It’s probably the best part of the film, and is the emotional lynchpin holding the film together. There is a lot to like in this film, from the animation to the jokes that they slide into the dialogue. 

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On the other hand, there is a real good reason why this film is getting mixed reviews, and it once again comes down to how everything was executed. First off, the dialogue is clunky and awkward. When the film was at its best, it was with the characters talking like how they would from the show and previous animated features. There are a lot of pop culture references and shout-outs in this film, and they are so forced into the script. They don’t flow or come naturally to any of the scenes where they show up. It feels like this film got studio-noted in the same way Chicken Little did. It’s not like you can’t make pop culture references, because you can, but you have to be so careful with how they are implemented. The film isn’t going to age badly because it has Simon Cowell or a joke about Netflix. It’s going to age badly because of how awkwardly shoe-horned they are into the story. Only a few of the pop culture references work, and the only references that do work are the ones to the Scooby-Doo! IP or the greater Hanna-Barbera universe. At least with Ralph Breaks the Internet, the pop culture stuff felt a bit more fluid and natural. 

The film’s pacing could easily be noted as one of its biggest downfalls due to how the stakes are revealed in a very uneven fashion. It doesn’t build up properly to the initial mystery, and then it turns into a road trip-style faux superhero flick. It’s frustrating because the mystery has to be the film’s strongest element, but it is not, and I should know since I binged through 26+ direct-to-video Scooby-Doo films and shows. Due to the clunky nature of the pacing of the story and how it escalates, emotional moments don’t land properly and you feel taken out of the film. At least, that is how I felt. I’m mad about this because the emotional core of the film is Shaggy and Scooby’s relationship, but due to the execution, the conflict parts are readily predictable. It’s another film that’s too busy to just be one film, but also be a universe starter. It’s a Hanna-Barbera film, but it’s not really a Scooby-Doo film. They could have made all of these characters like Blue Falcon and Captain Caveman fit perfectly, since, again, this isn’t the first time a Hanna-Barbera connected universe has been made, but it’s not handled well. 

So, what about the characters? Sadly, they are pretty inconsistent. I liked Shaggy and Scooby, as they are the best part of the film, Dick Dastardly is a fun villain and you can tell Jason Isaacs is having a lot of fun in the role. Zac Efron’s take on Fred has some of the best jokes in the film, and Blue Falcon and Dynomutt have a decent arc together. Again, and say it with me, it’s the execution that falls flat. Daphne once again does very little, and I know that’s kind of the joke of the series, but she doesn’t do much. Neither does Velma. Oh, and as for Kiersey Clemon’s DeeDee Sykes, way to relegate the one black character as simply the person who drives everyone else around. Seriously, I don’t think this was intentional, but she does nothing else than drive Blue Falcon’s jet. When I first heard that Tracey Morgan was going to voice Captain Caveman, I was excited since it’s ideal casting, but while he does a solid job, he doesn’t bring any of the Captain Caveman mannerisms outside of his battle cry. Otherwise, he’s just playing himself from 30 Rock. Dastardly seems like the most consistent character in the entire film, and he is probably the most fleshed-out. Due to how everything is paced, the conflict points are easy to spot and are not shocking when they happen. It’s a film that leaves these characters to be fairly forgettable.

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So, let’s talk about the animation, which is a big deal breaker to many. Not because it’s CGI, but due to how it was handled. Listen, I know many are going to label the film as cheap-looking, when most people don’t even know what cheap CGI can really look like. The studio that animated the film, REEL FX, is a super talented studio that has worked on films like The Book of Life and Rock Dog, but the problem is not them, but the overall design and animation process. The characters are too weighty and sluggish, some of the characters’ proportions look off, and it really seems like this film needed to dive more into the cartoonish direction with the designs and animation. This needed something like the team behind Hotel Transylvania or STORKS to be the head of the animation and design work. Everyone needs to be snappier and not so realistic and robotic in their movements. It’s especially distracting when you get Simon Cowell in the same scene as Scooby, and the art style doesn’t match or work. The voice work is also hit-and-miss. This might be the first time where celebrity stunt casting has actually bothered me. I know Will Forte is doing his best as Shaggy, but when Mathew Lillard has been doing an amazing job as Shaggy for 10+ years in both live-action and animation, it’s obvious that Will Forte is just doing a Shaggy impression. Efron probably does the best out of the main Mystery Gang, but I still think if you have Frank Welker as Scooby, then why not keep him as Fred? Gina Rodriguez brought nothing to Velma when Kate Micucci has been doing a solid job as Velma for five years now. Amanda Seyfried can be funny, but come on, Grey Griffin is right there! She’s been Daphne for 20 years now. What is wrong with not getting her back? It’s not like the celebrities add anything to the experience. I think the only ones I enjoyed were parts of Tracey Morgan’s Captain Caveman, Jason Isaac’s Dick Dastardly, Mark Wahlberg’s Blue Falcon, Keon Jong’s Dynomutt, and Frank Welker as Scooby-Doo. 

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As you can tell, I’m all over the place. I don’t think it’s a good Scooby-Doo movie, but it’s not a bad Hanna-Barbera film. It’s too busy to commit to either. It’s a shame because you can make the format work, but once again, WB wanted another universe starter and they started with too much in the first film. They could easily cut out a lot of the universe stuff and just make it a more straight forward Scooby-Doo film. I want to see more from this universe in sequels, and since it’s getting some high digital download and purchase numbers (as far as we know), maybe we will. Now then, next time, I’m going to take a look at the last 20th Century Fox film that I will probably tackle due to them being swallowed by Disney with Once Upon a Forest

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time! 

Rating: Rent it!

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