It’s Halloween month! A time to celebrate all things spooky, frightening, and ghastly. I thought a nice, fitting way to ease into the haunting mood this year would be with a healthy dose of America’s favorite talking dog and meddling kids. In Octoberweens past, I’ve delved deep into what I (perhaps overconfidently) called a “Comprehensive History of Scooby-Doo”. I briefly considered writing another installment of this series, but since last year’s nothing at all has happened with this character. Nothing.
I learned that the hard way after watching 2020’s Scoob!, which was marketed as a Scooby-Doo movie for some reason. I wanted to kick off Octoberween with Scooby-Doo. Instead, I wasted more of my life.
The Plot: After having some minor disagreements about whether or not they’re any help at all, Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) decide to part ways with their friends Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), Fred (Zac Efron), and Velma (Gina Rodriguez). A few minutes into their existential crisis, Shaggy and Scooby are abducted by superhero Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), who needs their assistance in foiling the villainous Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs). The cast expands to include Ken Jeong as Dynomutt, Tracy Morgan as Captain Caveman, Kiersey Clemons as Dee Dee Sykes, and, for some reason, Simon Cowell as himself.
I guess Warner Bros. spent the movie’s entire budget on that star-studded cast, because they clearly didn’t put anything towards the script (and not enough towards the animation, either). I can forgive muddled animation a little—I could be wrong, but I think their post-production period got interrupted by circumstances. That couldn’t have impacted the awful screenplay, though.
Actually, that’s not entirely fair. I would say probably about four or five jokes stuck the landing and got a chuckle out of me, so it’s not a complete failure. It’s not terrible from start to finish, either, it’s just not good at all. I could imagine being entertained by it as, say, a six-year-old, but beyond that the movie essentially boils down to a waste of time. That’s even if you’re an adult man who’s watched almost all of Scooby-Doo purely for the sake of a movie review blog’s monthlong Halloween celebrations. It’s a waste of time even for me, and I sat through Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island and all the Scrappy-Doo years.
How is it a waste of time even for me? As I said before, it’s not really a Scooby-Doo movie. In his 51 years, Scooby has undergone many changes. I don’t mind some character innovation. I’m not even really complaining about the departure from the whole “monster is a realtor in a mask” trope. That’s fine. I’m not opposed to crossovers with other Hanna-Barbera characters, either.
No, the big problem with Scoob! is simply that none of the characters matter. You could make the exact same movie trading out the characters for Smurfs or Minions or Power Rangers or the Justice League or contestants from The Great British Baking Show, and it would have no impact at all on the plot. There are no characters on screen for the entire 93-minute runtime, just computer-generated cartoon mascots. That’s not a Scooby-Doo-specific problem. That’s just bad writing.
Call me crazy, but even in a children’s animated romp, Screenwriting Rule Number One remains that your characters should matter at least a little bit. The plot here and all of the conflicts and action set pieces are so lazily cookie-cutter, you’d think it were a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
What really baffles me here—and I’m painfully aware that I’m confessing to being baffled by a Scooby-Doo movie—is that they were planning to release this movie in theaters before you-know-what happened. If that had occurred, it would have been only the third theatrically released Scooby-Doo movie and the first fully animated one. They were planning to kick off—I kid you not—a Hanna-Barbera Cinematic Universe. For the love of Vincent Van Ghoul, why? Why would we need that? Not to get into it too much, but even if you were committed to that plan, shouldn’t you start your universe with, say, some actual characters? Just a thought.
I’ll say that most of the voice acting works fine. Ken Jeong had a great time as Dynomutt and Jason Isaacs’ Dick Dastardly is truly inspired. As much as I enjoy Will Forte in nearly everything, though, his Shaggy voice is unfortunate. It sounds like the kind of Shaggy voice that someone who thinks he does a good impression of Gollum or Heath Ledger’s Joker might try out. You know the kind of guy I’m talking about. Will Forte can and should be better than that guy.
So, in conclusion: kick off Octoberween right this year with anything other than Scoob!. Watch some original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? or some Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated. Check out the original Zombie Island (a classic example of the Dog vs. Zombie story type) or watch Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost. Ghoul School, even. Just…just not this.