REVIEW: Ruh Roh! ‘Scoob!’ (2020) is a Confusing Vehicle for a Hanna-Barbera Shared Universe

Rating: 1.5 out of 2.

“‘Scoob!’ gets bogged down by the uncanny horror of mixing 50-year-old easter eggs with already outdated modern pop-culture references.

From the initial trailers, I was skeptical of what Tony Cervone’s Scoob! was selling. Promising an epic new spin on the long-running story, the 2020 reboot boasts a star-studded cast—Zac Efron (Fred), Amanda Seyfried (Daphne), Gina Rodriguez (Velma), Will Forte (Shaggy)—and a beginning to an imagined cinematic universe for classic Hanna-Barbera characters. Though promising to be different from the Scooby-Doo that I love, this franchise has proven its longevity is in its malleability. The opportunity to see my beloved Scooby-Doo characters on the big screen for the first time in 15 years was enough of a draw – my ticket was bought. And then civilization as we know it began to collapse and Warner Bros. pushed Scoob!’s release to video-on-demand. As “normal” faded further and further in the rearview, I needed something to distract me—like a wholesome and dependable story where the mystery is solvable, and the monsters are bad guys in masks. If there was anyone who wanted to like this movie, it was me. 

Forgoing the beautiful simplicity of ghosts, ghouls, and a mystery to solve, Scoob! delivers an Avengers-style crossover where Scooby—voiced by legendary Scooby-Doo voice actor, Frank Welker—and the gang team up with Hanna-Barbera contemporaries, Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and Dynomutt (Ken Jeong). Scoob! feels instantly dated, fumbling to catch the end of the cinematic universe wave whose successes have been almost exclusively limited to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Giving Scooby-Doo the superhero blockbuster treatment feels especially misguided, given that even the ubiquity of Marvel seems to be, at the very least, on pause post-Endgame. Gone is the magic of the original series, Scoob! gets bogged down by the uncanny horror of mixing 50-year-old easter eggs with already outdated modern pop-culture references. This makes for a confusing watch for young and old fans alike. Even the computer-animation is lifeless and static, which is made disturbingly apparent when the film does a recreation of the classic Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? opening theme. It does not bode well when the cheap animation of 1969 is more lively than a film made in 2020. 

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Scoob! starts deceptively optimistic as we witness the birth of TV’s greatest friendship. A lonely, young Shaggy meets the talking pup who shares his love for bizarre food combinations. Their connection is instant. They meet Fred, Daphne, and Velma, and solve their first mystery together. This endearing setup gets derailed by a truly perplexing Simon Cowell cameo appearance. The plot only becomes increasingly more complicated with robots, an ancient prophecy, a prehistoric island of cavemen, and a plot to unleash the mythical beast Cerberus. 

It is inevitable while watching any Scooby-Doo media that there will be a point where Fred says: “let’s split up,” and the gang will part ways, falling into separate cartoon hijinks. This usually doesn’t last for the entire runtime, though. Scoob! makes the baffling decision to split up the gang in the first 15 minutes. Shaggy and Scooby are recruited by Blue Falcon to stop the villainous Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) from using Scooby to open a gateway to the underworld. Velma, Daphne, and Fred are left behind to follow their trail. Despite what the title may imply, Scoob! is not about teen detectives solving mysteries with their talking dog. Nor is it an origin story for Mystery Inc. It’s hard to tell what Scoob! is about because it quickly devolves into meaningless plot contrivances that struggle to hold attention beyond the occasional: “Oh, I guess this is happening now.” Even the baseline thread of friendship doesn’t make sense when our protagonists don’t get to spend any time together. 

Scoob! should have been a fun comfort during stressful times. However, beyond a few funny gags and a promising start, Scoob! is nothing more than an incoherent attempt to launch a shared universe out of a nostalgic property. Despite my nostalgia, Scoob! left me bewildered by its manic plot and scatterbrained references. At least there is no shortage of other Scooby-Doo media to enjoy in a crisis. 

Director: Tony Cervone

Producers: Allison Abbate, Pam Coats

Cast: Zac Efron, Will Forte, Gina Rodriguez, Amanda Seyfried, Mark Wahlberg, Frank Welker, Jason Isaacs, Ken Jeong

Release Date: May 15 2020

Available on VOD from Warner Bros.

Header image courtesy of Warner Bros