For fans who grew up watching Scooby-Doo, it’s a familiar scene: About two seconds into the new film Scoob! — the latest take on the lovable pup and his crimefighting friends — he’s already causing mass chaos in the name of food.
The then-unnamed dog is chased by a police officer for stealing a giant mound of Gyro meat and runs into a young, lonely Shaggy, who names him after Scooby Snacks and saves him from heading to the pound. Soon after, the two swear to be best friends forever. It’s an untold glimpse into how the duo formed and it doesn’t end there.
When they’re out trick-or-treating, some heath-conscience bullies throw their candy into a haunted house and who comes to the rescue other than Fred, Daphne, and Velma (who is dressed as Ruth Bader Ginsberg and I stan it). The kids save the candy and solve their first mystery. The rest is history — just not one we’ve been told before.
The story jumps forward to the modern-day (actual modern-day, there are iPhones and everything), where Mystery Inc. is in full swing and looking to expand. When Simon Cowell (yes, actually voiced by the judge himself) doesn’t want to invest in the company because Shaggy and Scooby aren’t serious enough about crime-solving, the pair runs away to eat and forget their sorrows at a bowling alley. It’s all fun and games until robots try to murder them.
This is where viewers get the first glimpse that this isn’t what you used to watch on Saturday mornings as a kid. The names — especially those of the Hanna-Barbara characters dispersed throughout (yes, even Captain Caveman) — are the same, but that’s pretty much it. There’s no spooky ghost you tell your older sibling you’re not afraid of.
Scooby-Doo and Shaggy are saved, not by the Mystery Inc, but by Blue Falcon (a superhero’s son who has some powerful shoes to fill, but honestly just wants to be an influencer) and his (way more helpful) sidekicks Dee Dee Sykes and Dynomutt. The best friends learn that the villain Dick Dastardly wants to kidnap Scooby by any means necessary. Meanwhile, the rest of Mystery Inc. is on the case to find their friends.
Dastardly wants to use Scooby to unleash a Docapolyspe upon the world and the gang needs to work together to stop him. It’s not the mystery of the week we’re used to — but it’s an inviting story with stupid, funny jokes along the way.
If you go into this film expecting the classic unmasking mysteries of the original series, you’re probably going to hate it, but keep an open mind and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Characters hint at the classic lines like “jinkies, “meddling kids,” and so on, but rarely actually use them — and Fred doesn’t break out his ascot until he truly needs it. This reminds us that it’s not the classic story. It doesn’t want to be — but it also doesn’t forget where it came from.
The film consistently makes jokes about itself — at one point a character says Shaggy talks how a middle-aged man might think a teenager would speak. I found myself laughing a whole lot for a “kids’” movie, and although it was easy to guess the destination, I genuinely enjoyed the journey. It’s the kind of humor that modern kids and adults love — although I did find myself wondering if kids would even know who Simon Cowell is. Interlaced underneath the banter and puns are overarching stories about self-growth and the power of friendship.
Voice actors Will Forte (Shaggy), Gina Rodriquez (Velma), Zac Efron (Fred), Amanda Seyfried (Daphne), and Frank Welker (Scooby) are not the voices we’re used to and that’s OK. The only scene I found odd was a particularly weird second where the writers seemingly strong-armed exactly one Spanish word into Velma’s dialogue — there’s nothing wrong with making the characters more reflective of society, but this single, random moment was not the way to do it.
Besides this, I wasn’t actually as mad about the new voices as I expected to be. Each of the voice actors delivered fun moments and memorable lines. We can’t expect the original actors to bring us mysteries forever so let’s just rejoice that the new ones don’t completely suck.
What really brings the film into the modern era is the animation. Gone are the days of flat cartoons — shiny, 3D characters take their place. It’s the constant reminder that this isn’t your grandmother’s Scooby-Doo, but it doesn’t need to be.
It seems like every generation has to make Mystery Inc. their own in some way. For mine, it was the live-action island fantasy monstrosity (that I loved so much). Reinventing the characters is not new, but the way this film does it is. Scoob! solved the mystery on how to reboot a movie in a fun, fresh way — and it couldn’t have gotten away with it wasn’t for those meddling kids.