"Scoob!" "Scoob!"

Scoob! comes out today, not quite as originally planned. Following the lead of Universal’s Trolls World Tour, Warner Bros. is releasing the all-barking, all-woofing reboot of the Scooby-Doo franchise on video-on-demand (VOD) platforms.

Like Trolls World Tour, the film is well suited to this distribution model: it’s a light-hearted family flick designed to provide much-needed escapism. Scoob! serves as an origin story for the pooch and his crime-solving Mystery Inc. gang. It’s the first feature in the franchise since 2004’s hybrid Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed — and the very first to be fully cg-animated. Watch the trailer and read the official synopsis below:

Scoob! reveals how lifelong friends Scooby and Shaggy first met and how they joined with young detectives Fred, Velma, and Daphne to form the famous Mystery Inc. Now, with hundreds of cases solved and adventures shared, Scooby and the gang face their biggest, most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. As they race to stop this global “dogpocalypse,” the gang discovers that Scooby has a secret legacy and an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined.

The film is available for a 48-hour rental for $19.99 or digital ownership for $24.99. Warner Bros. are actually going one further than Universal: they aren’t even releasing the feature simultaneously in those few drive-ins and indoor theaters that are open in North America.

Whereas Trolls World Tour had already received a full-blown theatrical marketing push when Universal decided to switch to VOD, Warner Bros. has had the time to plan a savvy online campaign, including a viral dance video on the Tiktok platform.

Theater owners were enraged by the VOD release of Trolls World Tour (and subsequent comments by NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell). Their response to Scoob! has been relatively muted. As the exhibition sector is now tentatively reopening in places, it is arguably more vulnerable than it was when Trolls World Tour came out a month ago, and theaters may not want to play a new day-and-date VOD release for fear of inadvertently proving that the model works. This Indiewire article probes the subject.

"Scoob!"

The film has received middling reviews so far with a weak 52% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of this moment. Critics have pointed out flaws in the script in particular. Here’s what they’re saying:

Kate Erbland awarded the film a B- grade in Indiewire, writing one of the film’s more positive appraisals:

Yes, it’s all a bit silly and oddly plot-heavy — including a very generous dose of classic mythology — but it feels like a classic Scooby-Doo mystery, and it’s clear that everyone involved with the project has nothing but love for the universe they’re trying to retrofit for the modern age … [The film features] welcome characters and amusing storylines, aligned with classic tales about doing good things and keeping close to the people who mean the most to you.

While praising the cartoonish visuals, the Los Angeles Times’s Justin Chang laments the wink-wink humor:

What undermines Scoob! is not the comfort of the old but the pressures of the new, the need to sound hip, self-referential, and up-to-the-minute at all times. To that end, the characters have been forced to crack wise and make antic comic references to Harry Potter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born,” Chris Hemsworth, Netflix, toxic masculinity, Judge Judy, and Simon Cowell.

Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, Justin Lowe expresses mixed feelings about the film’s design:

Cervone, building on two previous Scooby-Doo directing credits, has the action well in hand, evincing particular skill with several complex set pieces, most impressively while staging the climactic scene at Athens’ historic Acropolis. The filmmakers’ choice of computerized animation style, emphasizing bold colors and high contrast, looks great for props and backgrounds, but tends to leave character features lacking in detail.

Alison Willmore in Vulture hones in on the film’s labored dialogue which attempts to appeal to older audiences:

It’s an origin story that kicks off with the gang as kids, and includes the following exchange between a young Shaggy and a young Velma about the latter’s Halloween costume:

SHAGGY: Are you Harry Potter?
VELMA: I’m Ruth Bader Ginsburg, obviously.
SHAGGY: Which house is she in? Hufflepuff?
VELMA: She’s a Supreme Court justice.
SHAGGY: Oh, Slytherin.

Those lines resemble the dialogue of two young people far less than they do a collection of sentences scraped from Twitter by a bot. That capper is not quite a joke, but it’s an obvious-enough appeal to the adults in the room to get a maybe-chuckle of recognition anyway. Scoob! is the kind of kiddie movie that does that a lot, dropping in references with the expectation that any grown-ups watching alongside the intended audience are suffering and need to be thrown an occasional bone.

Benjamin Lee awards the film two stars in The Guardian, singling out the story for criticism:

Scoob! stumbles because so much of the plot plays off an assumed knowledge of the history of these characters and their dynamic, hoping that we fill in the many gaps it can’t fill itself … [The mess] of events continues to take us further away from the ingredients that made the original show and its many iterations so well-loved by so many, replacing a goofy small-town mystery with a blockbuster-level global quest.

Scoob! is directed by Tony Cervone, a Warner Animation veteran who’s been closely involved with the Scooby-Doo franchise over the years. Warner Animation Group produced the film, but Reel FX, which is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, handled the animation under Bill Haller’s supervision, with much of it being produced out of the company’s Montreal studio. The next episode of Cartoon Brew’s podcast will feature an in-depth conversation with Cervone and Haller.

The film is produced by Pam Coats and Allison Abbate. Serving as executive producers are Adam Sztykiel, Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Jesse Ehrman, Dan Povenmire, and Chris Columbus. The screenplay is by Adam Sztykiel, Jack C. Donaldson, Derek Elliott, and Matt Lieberman, from a story by Matt Lieberman, Eyal Podell, and Jonathon E. Stewart.

Frank Welker, who was the original voice of Fred Jones in the 1969 Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! tv series, voices Scooby-Doo, as he has done since 2002. Will Forte joins him as Shaggy. The cast also includes Zac Efron (Fred Jones), Gina Rodriguez (Velma Dinkley), and Amanda Seyfried (Daphne Blake), as well as Tracy Morgan, Ken Jeong, Kiersey Clemons, Mark Wahlberg, and Jason Isaacs.

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