Somewhere in my parent’s home is a 4-disc DVD set, scratched and worn out, of the original seasons of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! I watched it so often that to this day, I could name all 25 of the original ghosts and monsters from the series. I owned every Scooby-Doo movie up until 2005, and realistically those tapes were the only thing that ever saw the inside of the VHS player my grandparents had. I wanted to be Velma so badly as a kid. One of my tattoos actually represents Scooby-Doo, and I have another one planned. All this to say, I’m one of the foremost Scooby-Doo enthusiasts of our generation.
So when I heard we were getting a new theatrical-release Scooby movie, I was beyond thrilled. I even mentioned it on the TNS podcast at the beginning of the year. Of course I was wary about the new voice cast for the gang, but the trailers looked solid, and ultimately I go into every new Scooby iteration with an open mind.
With movie theaters being nonexistent right now, I watched Scoob! on my couch with a bottle of wine, and from the start I was hooked. The first ten minutes of this movie are sheer perfection. Right away, Scoob! lays out how the whole gang meets and starts solving mysteries, and it dips into a gleeful amount of nostalgia. It even nails little details, like Shaggy scrolling through music from every decade of previous Scooby-Doo shows. There’s also a frame-by-frame recreation of the original title sequence from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! that had me audibly squealing with delight.
And then Simon Cowell showed up. And the whole movie started careening downhill at an absurd rate.
Now listen, maybe I’m just too much of a traditionalist. I hold the old stuff in such high esteem that maybe I’m inherently against change — except my favorite iteration of Scooby-Doo is actually one of the newer ones. I’ve watched this franchise adapt and grow, and I know when decisions land and when they don’t. Bringing on a mostly new voice cast was a mistake. I’m sure casting big names like Zac Efron and Amanda Seyfriend was meant to draw crowds for the theatrical release that, because of the pandemic, didn’t end up happening, and if it was a total reset that might have worked out ok. The problem for me was Scooby-Doo. Frank Welker reprises his role as Scooby in Scoob! But with a whole new voice cast except for Welker, the movie has an uncanny valley vibe. The juxtaposition of classic and redux feels indescribably off.
The characters in the movie also feel like a failure. Ignoring the fact that Simon Cowell hasn’t been relevant since he formed One Direction, the rest of the supporting cast is lackluster. Our heroes team up with Blue Falcon, Dynomutt and Dee Dee Skyes to defeat Dick Dastardly and his sidekick Muttley, with some hijinks from Captain Caveman along the way. If these names don’t sound familiar to you, first of all I assume you were born post-Y2K, but secondly that’s because they haven’t been well-known characters since Scooby-Doo’s inception. This movie is like the Avengers of the Hanna-Barbera universe, only without any of the modern name recognition. The script leans heavily on the idea that its audience already knows the players, and relies on that for much of its humor. When you go in without that background info it’s like watching an inside joke that you weren’t privy to.
Part of the allure of Scooby-Doo for me was the idea that the bad guys were always just normal people. In fact, my least favorite Scooby-Doo movies — Witch’s Curse and Zombie Island — are my least favorite because the monsters are real. Young Jazz was way more comfortable with the idea that people are monsters than the idea that monsters are real. Talk about social commentary. And while the villain in this story is a person, not an actual ghost (sort of) he is a mythic figure. Clearly built up to be a famous character, Dastardly is less corrupt land developer and more actual super-villain.
Which does track, because this is a superhero story. There’s hardly a mystery to solve. After being attacked by robots, Scooby and Shaggy are kidnapped by a superhero who immediately explains who the bad guy is, what his evil plot is, and how to stop him. Mystery solved, now save the world. It never felt like watching the gang put the clues together to see who’s under the mask.
Speaking of the gang, they’re separated for three quarters of the film. And I understood that was the point, Shaggy and Scooby proving their worth in the gang. But I don’t think anyone has ever really had reason to question their worth. Those two are the original stars of the show, and it becomes painfully clear when they’re separated for a long period of time just how little weight the rest of the gang carries. As a unit they work together perfectly, but apart it just isn’t as captivating.
I could fill a book with complaints about this film, but one final one for you is that the ending blows. There’s a moment right at the end where something gut-wrenching happens. If, like me, you’ve been invested in these characters for 20+ years, you may even cry. And not 30 seconds later they walk it back, completely invalidating all the stakes they set and cheapening the emotion of it all. I wasted real tears on this, only for the movie to effectively yell “sike!” and take it to a dance party to close it out. I felt cheated out of something deeper.
Ultimately, Scoob! was a huge disappointment. The first ten minutes were such solid gold, and I was so excited to see the gang take on some new monster, but that all got ripped away. It seems like the studio was so enamored with the current trends of heroes and villains and saving the world that they forgot about what made Scooby-Doo popular for 50 years. They were never meant to be heroes, they were just meddling kids.