The initial theatrical trailers for the latest attempt to bring Scooby-Doo back to the big screen looked rather promising. Then the pandemic hit, and the film was one of the first shuffled off the theatrical schedule and released as a premium VOD rental. This was irritating for viewers like this writer who was keen to see the film would have happily seen it theatrically with his Cineworld card but the premium VOD price point is simply too much to justify from a single viewers perspective. The very mixed to negative reviews for the film did not help. Nevertheless, the premium VOD window expired, and the film reverted to regular price for a 4K HDR rental as bizarre at which point it was happily rented for the sake of this review. How is the film?
Scoob is very odd beast. For every idea that works effectively there is an odd choice or something that feels entirely forced in by the higher ups at Warner Brothers and Hanna Barbera. The film is envisioned as the launching pad for a proposed Hanna Barbera cinematic universe. Much as this does result in Mark Wahlberg and Jason Isaacs delivering incredibly memorable vocal performances as Blue Falcon and Dick Dastardly it also means the Mystery Inc gang feel like an afterthought in what is technically their own film. This is especially annoying given that the film contains a central sequence early on that very loving recreation of the original Scooby-Doo Where Are You title sequence in CG. The voice acting from the newest iteration of Mystery Inc is solid but those a distinct focus in the casting (as with many animated films in the kid orientated genre) on prioritising celebrity voices. This is especially noticeable with Zac Efron who is take on Fred is effective enough but is immediately recognizable as Zac Efron rather than the character he is playing.
Then that’s weird stuff. Simon Cowells extended cameo and the sequence where Scooby and Shaggy try to showcase their talents to him by doing karaoke to Shallow from A Star is Born 2018 has already got some press for how bizarre it is but in the context of the overall film it feels like an even stranger trip into the uncanny valley. Almost as strange is the choice to give Scooby full blown lines of dialogue in this iteration. There is nothing wrong with Fank Welkers voice work, but it will take some getting used to from viewers. This feels like it goes against one of the core appeals of this franchise. The attempt from the film makers to essentially turn this into the Hanna Barbera Avengers does result in a few fun moments but contemporary kids watching to see the latest Scooby-Doo adventure may find the side missions spotlighting lesser known Hanna Barbera characters distracting.
Scoob is a strange beast. Nowhere near as terrible as some will have potential viewers think. it has its fair share of decent ideas, strong voice acting and effective moments. For every moment that does work there is a bizarre choice or something that feels entirely manufactured by the corporate higher ups at Warner Brothers and Hanna Barbera. Whether or not the Hanna Barbera cinematic universe takes off is something that will only be seen in time, but this is a somewhat middling launchpad.