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  Scoob! CG makeover for Hanna-Barbera's mystery mutt
Year: 2020
Director: Tony Cervone
Stars: Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, Frank Welker, Iain Armitage, McKenna Grace, Pierce Gagnon, Ariana Greenblatt, Christina Hendricks, Henry Winkler
Genre: Comedy, Animated, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Best friends since childhood Scooby-Doo (voiced by Frank Welker) and Shaggy (Will Forte) are happy playing monster-bait and solving mysteries as part of Mystery Inc. alongside Fred (Zac Efron), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and Velma (Gina Rodriguez). That is until Simon Cowell (?!) of all people cites their 'childish antics' as damaging the gang's brand. While sulking at a bowling alley the dejected duo are rescued from a sudden robot attack by their favourite superhero: the Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), or more accurately the somewhat insecure son of the famed crime-fighter of the same name. Aided by his bionic canine companion Dyno-Mutt (Ken Jeong) and smarter sidekick Dee Dee (Kiersey Clemons), Blue Falcon reveals Scooby himself holds the key to undoing the would-be world-conquering scheme of none other than infamous Hanna-Barbera cartoon villain Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs). Yet this revelation of Scooby's special secret leaves Shaggy uncharacteristically butt-hurt.

Warner Animation's attempt to launch a Hanna-Barbera interconnected universe with Scoob! met with surprisingly intense hostility. Partly because, for obvious reasons, people had too much time on their hands in 2020. But also due to casting changes and some questionable creative choices that alienated the Scooby fan-base. Indeed those sequences that play best in the film explicitly reference and update classic Scooby motifs. A charming childhood flashback depicts Scooby and Shaggy's first encounter then meeting the rest of the Scooby Gang; including Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021) star McKenna Grace as the voice of Daphne. This segues into a fun montage that brilliantly recreates the original into to Scooby-Doo: Where Are You?

While technically not Scooby's first computer animated outing, if one counts the live-action and Lego animated films, the digitally updated characters have a pleasingly tactile quality; springy, squishy and wholly lovable. Especially their child incarnations. Despite all the barbs the internet slung their way the new celebrity voice cast are fine for this incarnation of the long-running franchise. Fans may lament the replacement of series stalwarts like Grey Griffin and Matthew Lillard though it is worth noting it took a while for them to embrace Lillard too. Sensibly the filmmakers retained the peerless services of Frank Welker while the film features a nice nod to original Scooby voice actor Don Messick.

Amidst some striking visuals the script puts forth some good ideas and charming albeit throwaway moments, particularly in the third act that proves unusually superior to the build-up. However unlike the best Scooby-Doo media the story amounts to very little and its attempts at pathos are undone by insincerity. The script is an all too familiar mix of snark and sentimentality. Laden with cringe-worthy social media references it makes the mistake of poking fun at its own mythos and cynically shoehorns references to other Warner Brothers’ properties (Wonder Woman, Harry Potter) for that all important brand synergy. The gags are way more groan worthy than those featured in the regular animated series. Yet while a brief quip about "toxic masculinity" falls flat the attempt at inclusivity (with Velma now Latina and Dee Dee a smart and capable African-American heroine) are welcome. Seasoned Hanna-Barbera fans will likely cherish the cameos but if you want a better example of Scooby doing the whole superhero thing check out Scooby-Doo & Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2018) instead.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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