Scoob! (2020)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/3/22
Cast: Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Frank Welker, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, Simon Cowell

Effectively another reboot for Mystery Inc. as well as the Hanna-Barbera universe in general. After a minor falling out with the rest of the gang, Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) are kidnapped by Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg). Sort of. It turns out that Scooby is the key to unlocking an ancient treasure that the nefarious Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) is desperately trying to find. Unfortunately, both Blue Falcon and the remaining members of Mystery Inc. are outpaced and outsmarted by Dastardly, who manages to open a portal to The Underworld and literally unleashes Hell on Earth. Can a boy and his dog save the world from the apocalypse?

Overall, it's a great-looking and entertaining film, but it's a mixed bag and not everything sticks. It hits the nostalgia button HARD, and the in-jokes, visual gags, and recreations of classic scenes are wonderful. Having Dick Dastardly as the villain is a stroke of genius, while an endearing Dyno-Mutt (Ken Jeong) ends up stealing the show. In an odd role-reversal, in this universe Dyno-Mutt is the serious one, while Blue Falcon is the incompetent buffoon. Even though Mark Wahlberg delivers an excellent performance as Blue Falcon, the entire character is played for laughs and his story arc is tedious and tiresome.

While the actors who play Shaggy, Fred (Zac Efron), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), and Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) do a fine job, their performances are noticeably off from what we're used to hearing. Will Forte in particular can be hard to get used to and his Shaggy often comes across as grating. Continuing with the trend from the last 30 years, Velma is the star, while Fred counters her with comedy relief and Daphne gets stuck with whatever situational content is left over. In this treatment, Daphne is "the empath" and "the people person" of the group. And since we're on the topic of Daphne (who is my favorite character), she once again suffers from a sub-par character model. The rest of the gang looks great and Velma gets a surprisingly sexy makeover, but Daphne's mystique continues to elude modern animators, and her eyes and mouth are a constant annoyance. It's like they're afraid to make her "the pretty one" for fear of typecasting, but they have no problems with sexing up Velma. All of the characters' designs look more juvenile than in previous iterations, which presents a bit of a disconnect because they act and speak like adults, but they look like young teenagers.

The writing is uneven and the attempts at contemporary humor tend to fall flat. But who knows? Maybe young people actually find this funny. The inclusion of Captain Caveman (Tracy Morgan) was a welcome surprise as well as a bitter disappointment due to Morgan's portrayal of the character. On the other hand, one of Cavey's Teen Angels, Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons), is reimagined as Blue Falcon's pilot, which works out wonderfully (especially since BF is such a dolt). The final act goes completely off the rails with its supernatural excess and overwrought sentimentality, but I liked how the extended Hanna-Barbera family was woven into the mix, and hopefully this will open up opportunities for other characters and cross-overs to happen. On that note, the closing credits are extremely cool, and I was tickled by all of the characters that were on display. The Scooby Gang can even be seen talking to Dr. Benton Quest, which got me very excited about future possibilities. And whatever happened to the live action "Jonny Quest" film that was supposed to star Dwayne Johnson? Anyway, as long as you can emotionally disconnect yourself from your childhood memories and attachments to the past, and accept the film on its own modern terms, "Scoob!" can be a fun ride and a healthy serving of comfort food.