Scoob! (2020)

“The gang’s finally back together.”

Desperate to be current and hip whilst also honoring its old, animated inspiration, Scoob! lands with the kind of heavy thud felt after hearing a prepackaged, outdated Dad joke. It’s the kind of film that turns you off because it tries so hard so be something it’s not, attempting to be cool and modern at every wrong turn. Scoob! looks decent (despite the strangely lifeless character animation) and features a few solid callbacks to the classic cartoons, but it’s all in service of a driveling story that’s every bit as mysterious as an old and explained magic trick. The plot thickens to point of rendering the whole endeavor more or less inert.

Essentially starting out as an origin story between a boy, his newfound partner in crime, and the friends who came to form the iconic ragtag crew, Scoob! has enough charm to win over new viewers, even though it tends to lack much substance throughout. It works well enough, almost to the point that I wish this story had tackled more personal territory instead of digging up and dragging along the old cartoon’s corpse as the model it so badly aspires to be. My gut tells me that Scoob! could have reinvented itself by exploring these early glimpses, retrograding the matured characters and showing us a different, more elaborated and Rugrat phase of these characters as they search for tricks and treats. Unfortunately that’s not what we get.

The film eventually gets lost in it’s loose, happenstance plotting, introducing new characters who have little to no depth all while trying to honor the tone of the cartoon. Scoob! is somewhat successful on the latter front from time to time, issuing solid references to anyone familiar with the hand drawn animation. But Tony Cervone’s film, while unoffensive, tries to tackle more than necessary with flailing open arms, adding fruitless heroes – the lame Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and the resourceful Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons) – and an aimless villain named Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) into the foray instead of focusing on developing and reintroducing the essential characters. Scoob! doesn’t know its audience and the final product is a handsome illustration of just that.

It’s hard to make sense of why so many of the crucial characters are so thinly written. Fred (Zac Efron) loves his van and ego and little else outside his limited purview. Velma (Gina Rodriguez) is studious but humorless. The largely silent bombshell Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) shows empathy and episodic wits. That would be okay if Scoob! portrayed them as ancillary, secondary characters to the toe-headed tandem of Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker), but as is the case with most animated films, Scoob! accelerates and amplifies all of its sensory elements in order to appeal to the eager eyes of children, ultimately to the point where things happen but no longer really matter. It’s almost too easy of a mystery to solve how this one goes right, and how it just as easily goes so wrong.

“We’re not gonna make a habit out of this.”

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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