Since 1969, “Scooby-Doo” has captured generations with Saturday morning cartoons as part of the Hanna-Barbera lineup of “Yogi Bear,” “The Flintstones” and “The Jetsons.”
Now, the mystery gang gets an origin story in “Scoob,” which Warner Animation Group decided to release straight to Video on Demand during these special quarantine times.
Unlike “Trolls World Tour,” “Scoob” is rather immature and random, the type of kids movie that parents can turn on and leave the room rather than watch along like Pixar’s “Onward.”
The only bones thrown to parents are occasional callbacks to franchise staples with the Mystery Machine van, character outfits, “zoinks” and “ruh roh” dialogue, and unmasked villains quipping, “I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”
Will Forte replaces Casey Kasem as high-strung Shaggy, Gina Rodriguez replaces Nicole Jaffe as brainiac Velma, Amanda Seyfried replaces Indira Stefanianna as fashionista Daphne and Zac Efron replaces Frank Welker as leader Fred, though Welker does return in a different role as Scooby, doing his best impression of former co-star Don Messick.
New additions include Mark Wahlberg as superhero Blue Falcon and Jason Isaacs as the supervillain Dick Dastardly, recalling “Despicable Me” with miniature robots instead of Minions. Other celebrity cameos include Ken Jeong as Dynomutt, Tracy Morgan as Captain Caveman, Henry Winkler as Keith and Simon Cowell as himself in a running gag.
Director Tony Cervone makes his feature film debut after rising the animated ranks on “Space Jam” (1996) and “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009). He does his best to try to make the material feel fresh, replacing hand-drawn animation with computer graphics and updating the soundtrack to include Dr. Dre & 2Pac’s “California Love” and OutKast’s “B.O.B.”
Writers Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson and Derek Elliott also try to stay hip with post-modern jokes as Velma sighs, “Toxic masculinity,” Blue Falcon mutters, “Copyright infringement” and Scaggy asks, “Where’d that anachronistic van come from?”
While the jokes are current, the plot is pure chaos. It starts off strong on Venice Beach with a friendless young Shaggy listening to lonely songs on his iPhone before befriending Scooby on the beach. We see origin story moments like Shaggy naming the Great Dane and meeting the rest of the gang as Halloween trick-or-treaters exploring a haunted house.
However, the script goes off the rails in a bowling alley scene where bowling pins transform into robots that beam them up to the aircraft of Blue Falcon. Why on Earth did they turn Scooby into a superhero movie? Better yet, why does everything have to be superheroes these days? Release the Snyder cut if you must, but put a muzzle on this.
As the story progresses, it all just gets more and more crowded. Turns out the gang must prevent the supervillain Dick Dastardly from opening a secret portal to the Underworld and unleashing the mythical three-headed dog Cerberus. At one point, Shaggy said, “What is going on here?” At another point, Velma said, “This makes no sense.” We agree, kids.
The reason for the confusion is because the script tries to cram in way too many elements from other worlds, from Marvel to “Stargate” to Greek mythology. It feels like studio execs giving the writers too many notes about what’s supposedly trendy in pop culture rather than focusing on the mystery genre that made Scooby famous in the first place.
By the time the old “Scooby Dooby Doo” theme song hits, it just feels out of place amid the newfound clutter. Warner Animation just attempted to pull off a reboot of a beloved franchise — and they would have gotten away with it, too, if not for that meddling script.