With an opening that feels like a separate, unrelated short rather than the beginning of a coherent story, not since Han solo’s ham-fisted nomenclature scene has the origin of a character’s name been no unnecessarily or stupidly brought to screen. Quite why Warners figured we needed ‘Scooby Begins’ is anyone guess but here we are. Before long, the rest of the gang are introduced too and there’s some Marketing Department mandated cross-brand synergy as Shaggy embarks on a sustained series of weak Harry Potter references. We then crash into an anaemic cover version of the classic “Scooby-Doo” theme before we flash forward to the present day.
Well, I say present day but it may well be ten years ago because believe it or not, the movie’s big celebrity cameo flourish is…wait for it…Simon Cowell. As pop culture artefacts go, I’m betting they had to blow the cobwebs off whatever contractual obligation led to him being featured in a 2020 movie for the under tens who likely have never heard of him.
While he’s undeniably successful in his chosen field of propping up ITV, one thing Cowell has never been able to do is convincingly deliver scripted dialogue, so naturally, as an animated character he’s exactly as lifeless as he would be in a flesh and blood cameo. In any event, he’s the inciting incident to break up Mystery Inc again because there’s no way audiences would turn up for a feature-length story of Scooby and the gang oh, I don’t know, doing the exact thing that made them famous, by solving a mystery is there? Imagine an animated Hanna-Barbera version of “Knives Out” with Mystery Inc in the Benoit Blanc role. How glorious would that be? At least the previous live-action outings for Hollywood’s most famous Great Dane embraced and celebrated the show’s format even as they subverted and updated it but this movie isn’t interested in celebrating anything about the “Scooby-Doo” tv shows. It’s barely interested in the characters at all.
No, instead it wants the audience to become familiar with some of Hanna Barbera’s lesser-known (these days) characters such as The Blue Falcon, Dynomutt and – all too briefly – Captain Caveman. It’s as if they haven’t learned from the failure of “Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice” at all because here they go again trying to build a shared universe by introducing too much too soon and doing justice to none of these properties. Typified by the introduction of a younger ‘son of’ the original Blue Falcon, the problem is: who cares? Whether it’s the original or his son trying to follow in his cowl-steps, we don’t really know who the character is and we certainly don’t understand why he’s suddenly pushing himself into the foreground of a movie that was meant to be about the character we paid to see. It also delivers the trademark tedious “CGI” big bad battle finale, which is so far outside the scope of “Scooby-Doo” it’s not even in the same dog park. Still better than Steppenwolf, though.
Disappointingly, none of the pitch-perfect live-action cast are invited to reprise their roles here as the producers assemble instead a host of star names (and Simon Cowell) to bring the polished but sterile CGI animation to life. It smacks of a marketing decision to push the film on the strength of its cast rather than its storytelling or characters and given the final film, you can’t really blame them.
Uneven in tone, scattergun in terms of humour and filled with creative decisions that look to the future instead of the storytelling now, “Scoob!” earns its exclamation mark, but only if you read it as an expletive.