The origins story for Scooby Doo, Shaggy and the rest of Mystery Inc, and a new adventure involving Dick Dastardly, Captain Caveman and superhero Blue Falcon.
SCOOB! (that punctuation is as irritating in a sentence as mother! was three years ago) is really a half-hour cartoon, stretched to 90 minutes.
And I’m being a little generous with three stars. It’s more of a 2.75, with an extra 0.5 for nostalgia, and then a further 0.25 removed because I’ve always been jealous of Daphne.
Still, while it isn’t an instant classic, it’s a perfectly enjoyable way to pass the time. It’s beautifully animated – richly colourful and clear – which is particularly welcome as the story is messy. It’s a shame it’s going straight to digital; SCOOB! might have a happier home on a big screen, where its teatime cartoon origins would be less obvious.
This looks like the beginnings of a Hanna-Barbera universe, and while it’s a little unwieldy I was delighted to see CAPTAIN CAVEMANNNN again (though I didn’t spot any Teen Angels). Maybe next time we’ll get Penelope Pitstop and the Hooded Claw?
Also appearing is Simon Cowell, voiced by Himself. They’ve got the square hair exactly right, thought I forgot to check how high his trousers went up. SCOOB-Cowell looks far younger than the real Cowell, though that could have been written into the contract (I originally wrote that as a joke then thought, actually he probably would).
SCOOB! is about friendship through good times and bad. Simon Cowell believes friends will let you down; Shaggy and Scooby understand friendship is all we really have in a crisis. By the end, their friendship has been tested but also saved the day (though if anything, man and mutt end up too brave. Part of Scooby Doo’s doggy charm is that he is so relatable to scaredy-cats like me).
The story races around the world. Moustache-twirling villain Dick Dastardly (a fabulous Jason Isaacs) already has form for identity theft and using his mum’s Netflix account; now he’s stealing the ancient skulls of Cerberus in order to open the gates of the Underworld, built by Alexander the Great. (One skull is hidden on Messick Mountain, presumably a nod to the late Don Messick who voiced Original Muttley.) Sadly for poor Scooby, as the last remaining descendent of Alexander’s pet dog, he is the missing bit of the key.
Dastardly isn’t just after the riches Alexander stored in the Underworld. He’s also after something else that’s in there, a revelation which nearly made me switch allegiance to him (an ambiguity I was not expecting in a Scooby Doo film though it did make me laugh wheezily).
SCOOB! is positioned as the Scooby Doo origins story, though the “before” all plays out before the opening credits. It’s rather lovely: the friendless tween Shaggy is befriended by a stray puppy on the beach. In a nod to lonely kids and their pets everywhere, the pair are instantly equals in their relationship.
Shaggy names him and takes him home; later their Halloween candy is snatched by some clean-eating skater kids, who throw the sweets through the window of the local haunted house. Young Fred, Daphne and Velma join them in retrieving their loot which pitches them into a brief adventure of the original Scooby kind, with a ne’er-do-well dressed up in a ghost outfit.
After that we fast forward a decade. Mystery Inc needs to expand; Cowell offers to invest, but only wants Velma (now voiced by Gina Rodriguez), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and Fred (a nicely up-himself turn from Zac Efron).
The cast-aside Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby (Frank Welker) head to a bowling alley, where they immediately find themselves tangled up with Dick Dastardly’s robotic minions, before being saved by Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons) and robodog Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) in their spaceship.
They are the brains behind the crime-fighting Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), a self-important superhero who deep down fears he can never live up to his father, the original Blue Falcon, now retired to Palm Springs.
The joke quality varies (some are teeth-grittingly unfunny) though there is an impressively laconic bowling alley assistant whose every utterance to Velma, Daphne and Fred successfully reinforces what bad friends they’ve been to Scooby and Shaggy. And Dee Dee gets to say she’s “reversing the polarity of the tractor beam” during a chase, which is never a bad thing.
Unsurprisingly the heroes are earnest while the villain is evilly witty, with Dastardly describing Fred as the “poor man’s Hemsworth” – yet more identity theft from Dick, and yes I hope Luke sues.
Dastardly’s army of teeny AI helpers are very cute, a cross between baby Cybermen and robot Tellytubbies. Dastardly cares little for them though, hybridising one with a vacuum cleaner nozzle for a head, making him basically an evil dustbuster. (I’m going to spoiler this now and tell you that Vacuum Cleaner Villain has the biggest redemption arc of all, ending up a Hoover Hero.)
There’s a trip to a decrepit funfair (I loved the scene with Scooby and Dastardly in the hall of mirrors); and to Mystery Island, where dinosaurs stalk the land and Captain Caveman (Tracy Morgan) offers his prehistoric audience Gladiator-style entertainments.
By this point I was confused as to where they all were going and why. It all makes more sense when they end up in Athens – gorgeously lit in green and magenta – for the very big (and quite long) showdown at the gates of the Underworld, and a final test for Shaggy and Scooby.
The moral of SCOOB! is that friendship will save your life, and that if you treat your vacuum cleaner with love and respect it will repay you with years of great service.
SCOOB! is available to rent in the UK and US.
Watch the SCOOB! trailer (and scroll right down if you must know why I nearly swapped sides…):
Dynomutt (Ken Jeong)
Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs)
Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg)
Young Shaggy (Iain Armitage)
Fred (Zac Efron), Velma (Guina Rodriguez), Scooby-doo (Frank Welker), Shaggy (Will Forte) and Daphne (Amanda Seyfried)
Simon Cowell (Simon Cowell)
Young Velma (Ariana Greenblatt), young Fred (Pierce Gagnon), young Shaggy (Iain Armitage), young Daphne (McKenna Grace) and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker)
Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby-doo (Frank Welker)
Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons)
Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) and Scooby-doo (Frank Welker)
Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby-doo (Frank Kelker)
Velma (Gina Rodriguez)
Scooby-doo (Frank Welker), Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and Shaggy (Will Forte)
Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), Fred (Zac Efron) and Velma (Gina Rodriguez)
Young Shaggy (Iain Armitage) and young Scooby-doo (Frank Welker)
Shaggy (Will Forte) Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) , Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker)
Scooby-doooooo! (Frank Welker)
Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), Shaggy (Will Forte), Fred (Zac Efron) and Scooby-doo (Frank Welker)
Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons), Dynomutt (Ken Jeong), Shaggy (Will Forte), Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) and Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg)
Captain Cavemaannnnn! (Tracy Morgan)
Daphne (Amanda Seyfried)
SCOOB! voiceover actors
Tracy Morgan voices Captain Cavemannnnn!!!
Zac Efron voices Fred
Gina Rodriguez voices Velma
Will Forte voices Shaggy
Amanda Seyfried voices Daphne
Jason Isaacs voices DIck Dastardly
Kiersey Clemons voices Dee Dee Skyes
Ken Jeong voices Dynomutt
Simon Cowell voices... Simon Cowell
Okay why did I nearly swap sides? because Dastardly was desperate to find Muttley, who had travelled through a portal to the Underworld and got stuck. Who could fail to root for someone pining for their dog, even if they are a master criminal?
Opening the gates releases the giant three-headed Cerberus, who stomps around the Acropolis terrifying everyone.
The little robot tellytubbies start helping the Mystery Squad, because baby dust buster loves Daphne after she emptied its nose of fluff earlier.
However to seal the Underworld once more, Shaggy and Scooby have to close it, with one of them on the inside. Scooby is going to do it but Shaggy beats him to it, seals the Underworld from inside, and disappears. A statue of Alexander the Great appears with an inscription. It opens and inside is Shaggy, alive and well.
They unmask Dastardly to find… SIMON COWELL. Then they unmask Cowell, because the real Simon would be too busy to be a master criminal in his spare time. Underneath is DICK DASTARDLY.
Next we see a grand opening at Venice Beach for the Mystery Inc new offices, with Blue Falcon as DJ.
You know, the film is all over the place but I did enjoy it – and I hope they do make a sequel, preferably involving Daphne, Penelope Pitstop and the Teen Angels.