For generations, watching Saturday morning cartoons was an American rite of passage – one that has unfortunately been done in by the advent of streaming and on-demand viewing.
Warner Brothers’ “Scoob!” attempts to recreate some of that old Saturday morning cartoon magic by reintroducing some beloved characters of old. And, indeed, it did remind me a bit of watching Saturday cartoons as a kid – particularly how I felt after watching four hours of cartoons and eating six bowls of Lucky Charms. My brain was buzzing a bit, if I recall, and what I was watching on screen had long stopped making sense. But the colors were pretty!
To be clear, “Scoob!” is an overstuffed and near-incomprehensible mess of a film. It is certainly not without its own charms- gorgeous animation by Reel FX Studios, a game voice cast and Easter eggs animation lovers will love. But the charm of these characters is too often lost in the chaos on screen. It’s enough to make you yearn for the joyous simplicity of the Scooby gang’s rubber-masked-monster days.
“Scoob,” as you’ve likely figured out by now, is the latest film adventure for Scooby-Doo and friends, who are now rendered in beautiful and cuddly CG animation. What you may not have figured out is that it also serves as a vehicle for such forgotten Hanna-Barbera characters as Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and Captain Caveman (Tracy Morgan).
This is not a bad idea in theory – William Hanna and Joseph Barbera created quite a stable of characters in their day, and many of them have been lost in the sands of time. So using the Scooby gang as a vehicle to reintroduce some old favorites is an intriguing idea, but one that, unfortunately, just doesn’t work at all.
By combining such disparate worlds on screen, many of the properties’ original charms are lost in the name of world-building. Scooby and company, for example, don’t get to solve any mysteries (except in a brief opening act, which is easily the film’s high point.) Instead, they’re tossed into a superhero adventure with Blue Falcon that doesn’t necessarily serve them well. And then Blue Falcon and the rest are tossed into a prehistoric adventure with Captain Caveman that seems to come out of nowhere.
It’s a lot honestly, and I haven’t even gotten to the demon dog or the ridiculous extended cameo by a dead-eyed Simon Cowell. So much is piled on, and so little is given room to breathe, that “Scoob!” feels much longer than it is. At the 75-minute mark, I could have sworn I had been watching the film for at least two hours. By the end, I was just exhausted more than anything.
This may be a “too many cooks” situation, considering that there are no less than six(!) screenwriters on board. But, whatever the reason, “Scoob!” is more headache-inducing noise fest than fun family entertainment.
The film does work in fits and starts in spite of itself though. Frank Welker, who’s been a part of the “Scooby-Doo” franchise since its inception, is as great a Scooby as he ever was, and he’s well-matched in Will Forte, who nails that classic Casey Kasem/Shaggy Rogers cadence.
Other actors seem to be cast more for name recognition than for actual skill. But, at the very least, Isaacs makes for an amusingly moustache-twirling villain, and Wahlberg has his moments as the vain but insecure superhero.
The animation pops throughout, and “Scoob!” is, at least, interesting to look at. I also enjoyed the numerous hidden in-jokes – from an arcade filled with games inspired by “Hong Kong Phooey” and “Laff-a-Lympics” to a credits sequence featuring everybody from Atom Ant to Dr. Benton Quest. Naming a key location after veteran voice actor and original Scooby Don Messick is an especially nice touch.
All those grace notes don’t quite earn “Scoob!” (rated PG for some action, language and rude/suggestive humor) a wholehearted recommendation, but I imagine kids will like it, and families could do much worse.
But it’s also hard to shake the feeling that “Scoob!” could have been better, and Warner Brothers probably won’t be trying to revitalize Magilla Gorilla or anybody like that anytime soon.
That’s something of a shame because “Scoob!,” for all its faults, has no shortage of interesting ideas. And although it’s a strange trip of a movie, it’s also the only one you’ll see all year that features both Jabberjaw the shark and NPR personality Ira Glass. So there’s that.
About the author
Stephen Dow is an award-winning journalist with a passion for film – not just consuming it, but thoughtfully and actively engaging with it. He believes that these modern myths have a lot to tell us about our world and ourselves. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.