Scooby Dooby Doo, where are you?
Answer: At home with the rest of us.
The Warner Bros. Pictures computer-animated feature-length film based on the quartet of crime-solving teenagers known as Mystery Inc. and that goofy, lovable anthropomorphic Great Dane was scheduled for a May 15 theatrical release, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s available for a 48-hour rental for $19.99, or digital ownership for $24.99. (You might experience a little sticker shock at that price, but if a family of four attended a theatrical showing, it certainly would cost more than that.)
Warner Bros. presents a film directed by Tony Cervone and written by Adam Sztykiel, Jack C. Donaldson, Derek Elliott and Matt Lieberman. Rated PG (for some action, language and rude/suggestive humor). Running time: 94 minutes. Now available on demand.
Kudos to the marketing and PR folks for creating ancillary events to keep homebound families entertained, including a Twitter premiere event on Friday night featuring voice stars from the movie such as Mark Wahlberg and Gina Rodriguez; and a website featuring all sorts of games and puzzles and recipes and mazes. The only problem is, the movie as a movie ain’t much of a movie. It’s a breezy but noisy and uninvolving sci-fi comedy romp, filled with ho-hum action sequences.
“Scoob!” stars with an origins story prologue, in which we learn how a lonely boy named Shaggy Rogers came to be best friends with a lost Great Dane pup Shaggy christens Scooby-Doo. Cut to about a decade later, with the teenager Shaggy (Will Forte) hanging out with his crime-fighting friends: Velma (Gina Rodriguez); Fred (Zac Efron); Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and of course Scooby (the venerable Frank Welker, who voiced Fred in the original “Scooby” cartoon and has been Scooby in a number of projects since the early 2000s.) One day the gang receives a visit from one Simon Cowell. That’s right: We get an animated version of Simon Cowell in this movie, complete with the snarky voice and the open shirt and even cartoon chest hair, eeeeesh.
Shaggy and Scooby try to impress Simon by dueting on “Shallow,” but Simon isn’t looking for the next American Idol, he’s considering investing in the gang’s Mystery Inc., but he’s passing because Shaggy and Scooby are too unreliable. Wait, what?
The main adventure, such as it is, involves the veteran Hanna-Barbera villain Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) who will stop at nothing to obtain the Precious, I mean the Infinity Stones, I mean the Maltese Falcon, I mean three skulls, which will unlock the door to a legendary treasure. Dastardly’s dastardly mission puts the gang in peril, even as they team up with the fledgling and rather dim superhero Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), who has inherited his father’s mantle but little of his bravery.
“Scoob!” is filled with pop culture references aimed for the parents, from Blue Falcon using the same entrance music as the Michael Jordan Bulls to Velma noting Dastardly is such a bad guy, “he’s been stealing from his mother’s Netflix account” to someone mentioning Middle-Earth and another character cautioning about “copyright infringement,” to the following line, and I’m not kidding: “Brian, last time you listened to someone on the Internet, you thought Tinder was an app that delivered firewood!”
The occasionally clever dialogue and the peppy voice performances are the best things about “Scoob!,” but not nearly enough to overcome the loud and convoluted overall tone. My favorite line is when an apathetic clerk at a bowling alley is asked to describe Shaggy and says the kid sounded “almost as though he was some middle-aged man’s idea of how a teenager talks.” Exactly.