What’s your favorite part of Hanna-Barbera’s classic Scooby Doo? The repeated, stressed assertions that the gang is Californian? The nonstop, slightly-too-dated pop culture references? The endless parade of large-scale, high-stakes set pieces? How Scooby and Shaggy were obsessed with bowling? How Fred wanted to fuck the Mystery Machine? Or was it all the ancient magical prophecies that the gang were personally fated to be key players in?
Why choose when you can have it all in Scoob, the new film written by four guys who absolutely hate Scooby Doo.
The thing opens with a prologue that sees a tween Shaggy meeting Scooby, and soon after connecting with the rest of the gang. They investigate a haunted house and very, very quickly find that its “ghost” is actually a man who is using this elaborate haunted house to hide a single room of stolen electronics. By accident, this is the funniest part of Scoob. It is also the last time Scoob in any way resembles the original premise.
Jumping ahead a decade or so, the gang are amateur paranormal investigators and looking to expand their operation. Naturally, then, they bring in Simon Cowell as a potential investor. Scooby and his cronies have already met the likes of the Three Stooges, the Harlem Globetrotters, and Pamela Anderson, so the cameo isn’t completely without basis. But it is odd that Cowell—who looks straight out of a Wii American Idol game—is entirely responsible for the rest of the film’s structure.
Cowell ends up hard-lining these guys on his investment, saying he’s only in if they ditch the dead weight of Scooby (Frank Welker) and Shaggy (Will Forte). (Incidentally, how many Shark Tank goons turned this down before Cowell made the most sense as an alternative?) The dog and implicit stoner aren’t having it, so they go off to bowl, which is the leisure activity they are known for loving.
While hitting the lanes—and, of course, loving it—the two are ambushed by Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) and his team of little robots that Warner Bros. very clearly hopes will be the next minions. (They will not.) Thankfully, they’re saved by Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), Dynomutt (Ken Jeong), and Teen Angel Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons). Or rather, by the new Blue Falcon—his far less competent son, who is just Zapp Brannigan but poorly written. Meanwhile, Fred (Zac Efron), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), and Velma (Gina Rodriguez) pursue Dastardly on their own, in the van it’s implied Fred wants to fuck. At this point, just heading into act two, there have already been references to Ira Glass, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Harry Potter, Judge Judy, the Academy Award-winning song “Shallow”, Ikea, and, of course, the creator of The X Factor.
From here, things snowball in a really weird way. The structure almost feels like a “one crazy night” scenario, where it’s just a relentless string of events and you don’t know where it’s going next—but that may just be because its confounding plot is so goddamn convoluted.
Out of nowhere, the story involves Dastardly collecting the giant dog skulls of Cerberus so that he may open a portal to the Underworld, which is for some reason filled with gold. He needs Scooby for this, because Scooby is a scion of Alexander the Great’s dog, so he’s key to opening the Hell door that will also restore Greece’s ruins to the glory of ancient Greece except now lit like Batman Forever. When the familiar Scooby-Doo locale of a spooky, abandoned amusement park turns up, it’s just the backdrop to a giant battle where a spaceship fights laser-shooting drones. And the film closes on Blue Falcon in a floating DJ booth, playing this terrible new single from the film’s unbearable soundtrack. Did these guys capture the flavor of Scooby-Doo or what?
So yeah, it’s not much of a Scooby-Doo adaptation, but hey, what about when you get under that mask? You should’ve guessed: it was Old Man Steaming Pile of Dog Shit all along.
Director: Tony Cervone
Studio: Warner Bros.
Runtime: 94 minutes
Cast: Will Forte, Frank Welker, Jason Isaacs, Mark Wahlberg, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Gina Rodriguez, Ken Jeong, Kiersey Clemons