Scoob! is a movie that’s shouldering a lot more weight than it might seem. It has to introduce the world of Scooby-Doo and its characters to a new audience, reinvent the property so that it doesn’t feel like a rehash of previous iterations, show reverence to its legacy in order to please older fans, be what might act as a foundation for a larger cinematic universe, and tell an effective story all at once. That’s a lot to accomplish for a film that’s likely to be viewed as simple kiddie fodder.
Fortunately, Scoob! manages to hit more than it misses. The movie works as a revitalized riff on the Scooby-Doo canon by understanding the core of its characters. Telling a “boy and his dog” story makes perfect sense for a Scooby-Doo feature. The emotional beats and arcs between Scooby and Shaggy might not be original but they are time-tested. And having a heartfelt sense of humor about these 40+-year-old characters does the movie a lot of favors.
What really clicks in Scoob! is when the film embraces its heritage. That doesn’t just mean loading the film with Easter eggs and winking nods, though there are plenty of those and they are more than welcome. It’s when Scoob! allows itself to be a particular kind of silly that it sings. Whether that’s in its attitude, animation style, or filmmaking, this is a movie that feels most alive when it’s being an outright cartoon. From physics gags to character movement, sound effects, and camera staging, the best laughs and smiles come out of these classic moments.
The weakest part of Scoob! has to do with its grander aspirations. By introducing the Mystery Inc. characters into a larger world, they end up getting swept into a generic superhero plot (which involves collecting three skulls… sounds familiar) that somewhat overshadows their uniqueness as a property. Admittedly, it’s delightful to see other Hanna-Barbera characters on the big screen and they are handled exceptionally well, but they also diminish some of what makes the Mystery Inc. gang so singular and fun.
What’s weird is that Scoob! acknowledges this in a scene where Scooby-Doo chooses to go on an adventure with the superhero team and leave Shaggy behind. If this was followed through thematically and the movie actually did a bit of self-critical commentary, this angle could have been a striking bit of self-awareness. But it doesn’t and the moment makes the move feel a tad tone-deaf.
Luckily, things move at a brisk but measured pace and the entire endeavor is light and amusing enough to keep you on the movie’s wavelength. There isn’t a lag in the momentum and the overall plotting allows everything to gel in a formulaic but satisfying manner.
The voice cast is all doing a good job and they infuse the characters with the right levels of energy. Mark Wahlberg as Blue Falcon is the only odd duck in the bunch and that has less to do with his actual performance and more to do with the fact it sounds like he’s trying to do his best Ryan Reynolds riff. It’s neither a plus or a minus. It’s just… huh.
As someone who does have an affinity for the Hanna-Barbera universe of characters, it’s hard not to smile when the Quest logo pops up on the back of a laptop or a Hong Kong Phooey arcade cabinet is used to block a door. It’s assuredly dorky and dumb to light up at the mere sight of a Hex Girls poster in the background, but that’s what I did and Scoob! knows it’s going for just that reaction. And seeing the iconic Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? opening sequence recreated is a total joy. Throwing some bones like that to die-hards is acceptable fan-service.
It’s trying to mesh the Scooby-Doo universe into something larger and multi-faceted that takes a big chunk out of Scoob!”s accomplishments. It’s true that you couldn’t just do another riff on the masked villain plot – the movie acknowledges this by doing just that as a quick origin story for the Mystery Inc. gang – but the overall story goes to a supernatural place anyways. Injecting superheroics and some other derivative elements – this movie wants to have its own Minions and they’re… okayish – feels like a larger mandate imposed on a Scooby-Doo movie.
Even so, Scoob! is good as a kids flick and not bad as a Scooby-Doo vehicle. There are legitimate laughs to be had, the clear admiration of old school animated gags and tropes is refreshing in today’s modern cartoon landscape, and the movie never overstays its welcome. If nothing else, the stage is set for what could be a more traditional sequel. It would be nice to see this version of the Mystery Inc. gang get to tackle a conflict that feels more in line with them as a property. That’s a compliment to how Scoob! did justice to the core ensemble. For a cast of characters that’s been around this long, it shows how there will always be plenty more adventures for Scooby and the gang to go on.