I liked the Scooby-Doo cartoon that was on when I was a little kid old enough not to get creeped out at the monstrous faces. I mean, monster costumes. That was the What’s-New version. Looking back the actual mysteries of who-dun-it were fairly easy, but I guess I often enjoyed guessing correctly. Not only that, some of the reasons why and how the meddling kids figure out their path to the culprit were intriguing, exciting, and even sometimes funny. But I do admit I grew out of the show eventually, I think because I realized the repetition and expectation of the show wasn’t going to end. And, well, I saw this movie back when it was released and cost 25 bucks, and I wasn’t even enthusiastic enough to write a review to talk about why I was so disappointed.
The gang is the same, except with different actors and it basically retcons the Mystery Inc history that doesn’t hold up to what’s alive and trending today. The big point of the story is the friendship between Norville Shaggy Rogers (voiced by Will Forte instead of Matthew Lillard for some reason) and Scooby Dooby Doo (voiced by Frank Welker, reprising a role he’s had a long time). There’s this villain named Dick Dastardly who’s threatening to open a portal to a lost treasure, but the catch that makes this villainous is all the feral creatures he’d let roam free in our world to do so. Normally Mystery Inc would be investigating this together, with Shaggy, Scooby, Velma, (Gina Rodriguez) Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and Fred (Zac Efron, not Frank Welker as well this time). But not only does a disfavourable opinion on a potential Mystery Inc business client make the rejectees take a walk of shame, they are abducted by…one of their favourite childhood superheroes. Thus, everything’s in place for a 90-minute Scooby-Doo (ish) feature.
There are several ways to make a movie, and there are even more ways to breathe life into the movie by being edgy or committed. Pop culture references are often seen as easy laughs for me, but they can nonetheless be actual laughs. And I do have to admit; talking about what’s new and fresh gives some kids a sense of relatibility. The problem for me is there are so many references to modern consumerism, you’d think this movie was entirely funded by corporate sponsors. Ikea, Harry Potter, Netflix, The X Factor, you name it. Remind you of another recent particular animated film? The plot is also so routine it just becomes boring, in spite of all the things it’s trying to do to keep us hyped in its eye candy.
I prefer Raja Gosnell’s live-action takes for quite a few reasons. Neither one was perfect; the first one definitely doesn’t hold up on repeated viewings thanks to its abundance of flatch jokes. But they both had clever mysteries and dared to go outside the checklist for children’s entertainment, with spirited Scooby-Doo esque settings and actors really in the spirit of the material. The second movie, Monsters Unleashed, was especially loads of fun. But this 3D animated chapter completely abandons the mystery aspect, and that was what put it to checkmate for me (the first live-action movie is a C and the second is a B+ for me in case you were wondering.)
The film has no mystery whatsoever. Scooby talks way too much. The subplot of Blue Falcon, Dee Dee and Dynomutt feels like it was included simply to take us in a broadened landscape and set up new characters without making us feel like the filmmakers are fully on board or in love with them. Or they were hoping to set up a cinematic universe but cared more about that than the actual movie they were making. Not only that, so much is telegraphed; the importance of Scoob’s original leash, Blue Falcon’s arrogance, the shallow Whoa-baby slow-mo sequence of a cute girl, and no one does anything edgy. The mythology surrounding Alexander the Great and his dog Peritas is fascinating and may inspire some kids to pay a little more attention in history class. And I liked Velma’s crack at how many stray hairs the average human eats every day without knowing it. But the rest of this film is so tedious, predictable and inapposite in its references that its messages about toxic masculinity and standing up to expectations and a beloved character now being Latina barely register. And what’s worse, some of the material here might be too scary for viewers young enough to not feel this material is dated. It’s not even so-bad-it’s-good interesting. I hated it.
If you like this, I’d try the SpongeBob movies (minus Sponge out of Water), whatever Scooby-Doo show is being produced right now, the theatrically released live-action movies, and The Lego Movie