Combustible Celluloid
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With: Frank Welker, Will Forte, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, Simon Cowell, Christina Hendricks, Henry Winkler (voices)
Written by: Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson, Derek Elliott, based on a story by Matt Lieberman, Eyal Podell, Jonathon E. Stewart
Directed by: Tony Cervone
MPAA Rating: PG for some action, language and rude/suggestive humor
Running Time: 94
Date: 05/15/2020

Scoob! (2020)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Jinkies Promise

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Originally scheduled to be released on May 15 in theaters, Scoob! is now available to view at home, for either a $19.99 rental, or a $24.99 purchase.

The last big-screen Scooby-Doo movie was released in 2004, though countless direct-to-video movies and many TV series have been created since the doggie's debut in 1969.

The ridiculous idea of four teens — who have almost nothing in common with one another — and a dog solving mysteries somehow clicked, and these mismatched misfits have become generational favorites.

So it's dismaying that, after an origin story showing the fivesome's first mystery, Scoob! separates the team for almost the entire story.

The reason? Simon Cowell tells them to. It's apparently some kind of re-branding (which is, arguably, not needed).

It feels cynical, and the chemistry is just somehow missing, compounded by the fact that, for some reason, the familiar voice cast has been replaced.

Only the legendary Frank Welker remains; he has been performing Fred since 1969, but also took over as the voice of Scooby in 2002. Here he's Scooby once again, but Fred is now voiced by Zac Efron.

Additionally, Amanda Seyfried takes over as Daphne, Gina Rodriguez is now Velma, and Will Forte is Shaggy.

The story involves villain Dick Dastardly (voiced by Jason Isaacs), who wishes to open the gates of hell by collecting the three skulls of Cerberus. Sadly, Dastardly's hilarious, mumbling, guffawing dog Muttley is only seen briefly.

Shaggy and Scooby are attacked by a squadron of noisy, shape-shifting little robots (think Minions, but not as funny), and they wind up rescued by Dynomutt (voiced by Ken Jeong) and the Blue Falcon. Unfortunately, he's actually the original Blue Falcon's lazy, egotistical son, Brian (voiced by Mark Wahlberg).

The guilt-ridden Fred, Daphne, and Velma must then try to locate their friends. Without Shaggy and Scooby, these three aren't very interesting. Conversely, Shaggy paired with the obnoxious Brian also isn't very much fun.

Then, Scoob! goes one further by driving a wedge of jealousy between Shaggy and Scooby, causing Shaggy to mope around for awhile.

An unsettling number of jokes are either pop culture references or awkward attempts to feel ultra-modern ("let's bounce!"). Can there be a rule from now on that no one is allowed to use Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On" whenever a character spots a pretty girl?

These elements only make the movie feel more calculated and self-aware (Fred ties on his ascot before he charges into battle, etc.). It apparently is yet another attempt to launch a "cinematic universe," this time with Hanna-Barbera characters.

Part of the appeal of the Scooby-Doo franchise is its laid-back ridiculousness. Things don't make sense, but we're invited to just roll with it. Scoob! tries too hard, and goes too big, with noisy, show-offy showdowns, fight scenes, and cluttered chases.

Then, when it tries to shoehorn in its message about the power of friendship, it rings false.

Scoob! gets points for its smooth animation, for effectively adapting the characters' iconic look to a new format, and for giving Welker a few real moments to shine as a performer (one moment is a genuine tear-jerker).

It's hard to be too upset at these old familiar friends, and when they're together, the movie offers a few happy little tingles. Scoob! may be a fine diversion during these uncertain times, but it could have used a little more "Zoinks!"

See also: Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, The New Scooby-Doo Movies, Scooby-Doo! and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery, and Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery.

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