Director – Tony Cervone – 2020 – US – Cert. PG – 93m
Available on VoD from Friday, July 10th and BD/DVD Monday, September 28th
I grew up watching Hanna-Barbera cartoons which would play in, if I recall, the 5.20 slot on the BBC. Some were better than others. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969-70) was one of the better ones. It had five memorable characters who each week would investigate some mystery suggesting monsters or the paranormal for which there would always turn out to be a rational explanation as the perpetrator was unmasked at the end, usually with the words “and I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t have been for you kids.”
The original cartoon TV series (1969-70) has spawned numerous spin-offs over the years including a so-so live action / special effects theatrical feature Scooby-Doo (2002) and a sequel. Which brings us to SCOOB!, an animated theatrical movie once again bringing the franchise to the big screen.
It starts off with a couple of tried and tested big screen adaptation tropes. One, taking one of the characters and having them somehow meet up with the others for their first adventure. Two, an origin story. Set in California’s Venice Beach, the latter concerns the beginnings of the friendship between lonely, pre-teen boy Shaggy (voice: Iain Armitage, later, as teen: Will Forte) and an unnamed stray puppy (voice: Frank Welker, the voice of Fred in all small screen animated Scooby-Doo cartoons but one, and the actor who took over Scooby-Doo from Don Messick after the latter’s death in 1997).
Shaggy’s determination to finally make some new friends collides with the dog’s flight from a dogcatcher following his theft of a tube of compressed meat from a kebab shop. Shaggy has a sandwich without meat, the dog supplies him with meat and they bond. Confronted by the dogcatcher, Shaggy claims ownership and invents the name Scooby-Dooby-Doo reading from a packet of Scooby Snacks on the ground.
Shortly after, while Trick Or Treating at Halloween, the pair have a bag of candies stolen and thrown into a haunted house by bullies on bikes only to be rescued by the other three characters the clean cut, athletic Fred (voice: Pierce Gagnon, later, as teen: Zak Efron), the outgoing, personable Daphne (voice: Mckenna Grace, later, as teen: Amanda Seyfried) and the nerdy, tech-savvy Velma (voice: Arianna Greenblatt, later, as teen: Gina Rodruigez) who explore the house together and expose the man in ghost disguise as a thief with a house full of stolen goods. “And I would have gotten away with it too if it hadn’t have been for you meddling” (police car door slam sound effect).
Having perfectly set up the characters the film then equally satisfyingly recreates the TV Series title sequence complete with theme song.
The feature length plot which follows involves Scooby’s ancestry and three mysterious skulls which open a portal to release three headed dog Cerberus from the Underworld. A funding offer from Simon Cowell (voice: himself) leads to Shaggy and Scooby quitting the five’s company Mystery Inc. They go ten pin bowling only to be attacked by an army of scorpion-resembling robots then abducted by the Blue Falcon (voice: Mark Wahlberg) in his ship the Falcon Fury with robotic dog sidekick Dynomutt (voice: Ken Jeong) and pilot Dee Dee Sykes (voice: Kiersey Clemons).
All these characters aside from TV personality Cowell are characters from Hanna-Barbera cartoons, denoting yet another Hollywood Studio attempt to build another cinematic universe around a set of branded characters are Disney have done so successfully with Marvel. The film also features Dick Dastardly (voice: Jason Isaacs) from Wacky Races as its major villain with brief appearances from Muttley (voice: Billy West, augmented with recordings of the character’s original voice artist, the late Don Messick who voiced Scooby-Doo on the original cartoon series), Dastardly’s sniggering dog sidekick also from Wacky Races, and Captain Caveman (voice: Tracy Morgan).
This could easily have been no more than a cynical attempt to reap huge box office returns from classic cartoon characters, however the gifted animation team under drawn animation veteran Tony Cervone clearly know both and love the original Scooby-Doo series and the other selected Hanna-Barbera characters involved. While the film has all the potentially formulaic hallmarks of adapting an animated TV series for a feature, it actually does an impressive job of making a one off feature film from a classic cartoon serial. The inclusion of secondary Hanna-Barbera characters may well mean a slew of further Hanna-Barbera animated features if this one is the success it deserves to be.
To give an idea of just how much fun this movie is, look no further than the shot of Shaggy and Scooby fleeing the giant Cerberus by one running from one side of the screen to the other while the other goes in the opposite directions – a great visual gag completely in keeping with the original TV cartoon. Or other such moments as Mystery Inc members undertaking a conversation in the dark where you seen nothing but their eyes in the blackness. Or the wit of the script in, for example, having Velma dress up in a Halloween costume representing US Supreme Court lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
SCOOB! does everything one would hope it would. There’s nothing here unsuitable for children while at the same time there’s enough subtle visual wit, nods to the original and satisfying use of the animation medium to ensure that parents – or indeed adults seeing the film alone – won’t ever be bored. Really good fun, especially if you’re already familiar with the original series.
SCOOB! is out on VoD in the UK on Friday, July 10th and BD/DVD Monday, September 28th.