Scooby-Doo! And The Curse Of The 13th Ghost (2019)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 11/11/20
Cast: Frank Welker, Grey Griffin, Matthew Lillard, Kate Micucci, Maurice LaMarche

When the Scooby Gang gets in trouble with the law for harassment and endangerment, they decide to retire and disband. They're also supposedly all 17 years old, which raises some interesting questions and creates some odd continuity issues. After selling the Mystery Machine at a garage sale, Daphne (Grey Griffin) receives a distress call from Vincent Van Ghoul (Maurice LaMarche) on a crystal ball, saying that he needs help capturing the 13th ghost that escaped from the Chest Of Demons. Fred (Frank Welker) and Velma (Kate Micucci) are completely baffled when Daphne recounts her past adventures with Vincent, Shaggy (Matthew Lillard), Scooby-Doo, and Scrappy in the short-lived "The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby-Doo" series. With the Mystery Machine gone and Fred having an existential crisis, Daphne assumes leadership of the team and heads out in her own strategic mobile command center (which replaced the Mystery Machine in the aforementioned series). The gang finally reunites with Vincent, Flim Flam (who is miraculously ten years older), and the Chest Of Demons in the Himalayas, and the race is on to capture the 13th and most powerful ghost.

"The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby-Doo" only ran for twelve episodes back in 1985 and had no closure, which gives this movie an excellent opportunity to revisit the past and tie up some loose ends. Sort of. By the end, it's just another confusing mess of contradictions and continuity problems that give rise to even more questions. However, it does a great job of poking fun at the original series and is full of clever in-jokes. Maurice LaMarche also does a superb job impersonating Vincent Price, who played the original Vincent Van Ghoul. First and foremost, it's delightful to see Danger Prone Daphne in charge and have an entire movie revolve around her. It makes perfect sense, as Fred and Velma were oddly absent from the original series, and the whole premise of the show was about Daphne, Shaggy, and Scooby going to Hawaii on vacation. No wonder the show only lasted for twelve episodes... The role reversal naturally turns Fred into a bumbling and useless comic relief character, while Daphne becomes a super smart and surprisingly athletic alpha adventurer, similar to Lara Croft. And she looks absolutely fantastic with a sporty new wardrobe and a sexy new hairdo.

Unfortunately, subtlety isn't the film's strong suit, and both Daphne's empowerment and Fred's emasculation are WAY too in-your-face to make an effective statement. It feels forced to the point of parody and slapstick, which is a disservice to both characters. And then there are all of the inconsistencies and continuity problems. First of all, they state up front at the beginning of the movie that the Scooby Gang are all 17 years old and that they immediately go into retirement. Presumably, Daphne's Himalayan adventure took place only the year before, and somehow Flim Flam is now all grown up, which they clumsily try to explain as a long overdue growth spurt. Also, in breaking with tradition, the ghosts and werewolves in "The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby-Doo" were REAL, which Velma firmly disbelieves (even though they've all encountered real spirits throughout the series). The implication is that the 13th ghost must also be real because the other twelve ghosts were, but the film ultimately throws that logic away in favor of a more traditional (and convoluted) ending. The paranormal can always be explained away with science, which leaves Velma even more snobby and skeptical than ever. And then there's Scrappy Doo, who was in the original series, but his existence is written off. Upon being reunited with the gang, Flim Flam says "Where's Scrappy?" as a dumbfounded Velma replies "What's a Scrappy?" While it's funny (and I loathe Scrappy), it also doesn't make any sense within the scope of the entire series. Admittedly, the film gets in a lot of clever jabs at its own expense, but much of the humor is the result of lazy writing. The pacing also suffers and some of the action scenes go on way too long. But overall, I found it to be an enjoyable slice of classic Scooby action accented with modern sensibilities. It even has a "Thriller" inspired musical chase number.

What's fascinating to me is how much hatred this film generated from Trump supporters. That alone was enough to make me want to check it out. I was originally just doing research because I saw a classic clip of Shaggy wearing a red shirt, which I had never seen before. As part of the complete redesign and new direction of "The 13 Ghosts Of Scooby-Doo," Shaggy's wardrobe changed to blue jeans and a red shirt, while Daphne wore a purple April O'Neil jumpsuit and a Linda Evans bob. This line of inquiry naturally led to the sequel, which I paid little attention to until I saw all of the Republican Proud Boy vitriol being thrown at it for "ruining the series." Several reviews even ended with "Donald Trump rules! MAGA!" which completely invalidated any point their tiny brains were trying to get across. And why are Trumpers so riled up about cartoons anyway? Honestly, I have no idea what upset them so much, and it was obvious that they had no clue it was a sequel to a series that had already established the entire premise of Daphne being the leader of the group. Whatever. There's no point arguing with stupid people. Especially over Saturday morning cartoons.