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Will Forte voices Shaggy in Scoob!

Warner Bros.

  • Scoob!
  • Directed by Tony Cervone
  • Written by Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson and Derek Elliott
  • Featuring the voices of Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg and Frank Welker
  • Classification PG; 90 minutes

rating

2 out of 4 stars

Although it arrives with its very own exclamation point to presumably denote inherent excitement, the history of Scoob! is far more fun to write about than Scoob! itself.

In development for the past six years, the kiddie movie was produced by studio Warner Bros. to launch its animation division into the booming cinematic-universe business. That is: Scoob! would not only remind today’s audiences of everyone’s favourite group of teenage ghost hunters, but also tie in such forgotten Hanna-Barbera intellectual property as the Blue Falcon (?), Dynomutt (??) and Captain Caveman (???). It was all going to be a very big deal, which is why it necessitated a title change (bye-bye, S.C.O.O.B.), several creative-team switch-ups and at least one major theatrical-release shift, moving from September, 2018, to May, 2020.

The film brings forgotten Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters such as the Blue Falcon into the Scooby-Doo universe.

Warner Bros.

And then COVID-19 hit. Which is why Scoob!’s half-decade of intensely scrutinized development will have to live without the splashy theatrical experience and settle for the sizzle-free video-on-demand market. Will trapped-at-home parents bite in the same way they did with Universal’s similar VOD experiment Trolls World Tour? In its decision to bypass theatres, will Scoob! further drive tensions between studios and exhibitors? Will we we all be wearing official SDCU (that’d be Scooby-Doo Cinematic Universe) merchandise come this time next year? To borrow the film title’s punctuation … maybe! But for now, we can just talk about the movie itself. Which will take, and deserves, about 30 seconds of your time.

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The animation here is nifty enough, with director Tony Cervone importing the bright flower-power colour palette of the original cartoon. The voice acting is smooth, with current animation champ Will Forte (The Willoughbys) giving Shaggy a calm air of slacker inquisitiveness, and Frank Welker offering as lovable a Scooby as he has these past however many decades. And the attempt at shoehorning in Hanna-Barbera castoffs isn’t nearly as sloppily obvious as it could have been.

Scoob! was developed to launch the Warner Bros. animation division into the booming cinematic-universe business.

Warner Bros.

But the plot – crafted by no fewer than six credited screenwriters – also slips into blockbuster-style emptiness, with Shaggy and the Mystery Inc. gang trading their usual ground-level adventures for a world-saving battle that blandly echoes any number of Marvel movies. The result is something too confusing and scary for young viewers, and too familiar and repetitive for older kids.

I wish Warner Bros. all the best in creating a beloved new franchise, and it’s always fun to watch a company try to break the theatrical model that Hollywood is built upon. But despite its half-decade worth of aspirations to be something, Scoob! is a middle-ground of nothingness. Toss it a bone, if you wish – just know that your stay-at-home kids will be fighting over other, more interesting scraps soon enough.

Scoob! is available digitally on-demand starting May 15

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