If you’ve been getting the munchies for a new Scooby-Doo caper — one that isn’t jacked up on adult weed references and such — — Warner Bros. is dishing out one tasty snack for your family.
Originally set for a May 15 theatrical release but now cast into the streaming ocean due to the coronavirus pandemic, “Scoob!” is a goofy and bright surprise — an imaginative reboot that respects its shaggy dog TV roots but is smart enough to add dashes, not shovelfuls, of wry pop-culture and movie references.
While DreamWorks Animation’s “Trolls: World Tour” generated the most advanced buzz — heralded as the first big-budget film to abandon its theatrical release and embrace the streaming route in the COVID-19 era — “Scoob!” is a better film, with its eye-candy animation, sly script and, best of all, a hilarious vocal performance from Lafayette native Will Forte as the boy-man Shaggy. Forte even rivals Matthew Lillard’s scene-stealing take of dog’s best friend in the 2002 live action “Scooby-Doo” dud. Forte perfects Shaggy’s crackly puberty voice.
“Scoob!” reunites us with the Mystery Machine crew, including the courageous but rather dim Fred (Zac Efron), the charming but not very street-smart Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and the brainy outsider Velma (Gina Rodriguez). Here, they part ways with Shaggy and Scooby (Frank Welker) due to a harsh business consultation with Simon Cowell. Yes, that Simon (voiced by the real Simon Cowell, no less); the coy animated team even give him an unbuttoned white shirt and chest hair.
Dejected, Shaggy and Scooby wind up at a bowling alley where they contend with evil minions of bowling balls (you have to see it to understand it) commanded under the mustachioed Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs, having a heyday). The McGuffin here is a collection of statues of the mythical three-headed dog Cerberus. Dastardly is out to gather those noggins for a no-good reason. Trying to muzzle those plans and help the Mystery Machine crew are the vain, Instagramming superhero Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), his robotic dog Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) and his brainy sidekick Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons).
OK, it sounds as if a doobie or six might have been shared while the four screenwriters — Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson and Derek Elliott — concocted this plot, but there are clever lines to spare and director Tony Cervone understands how to balance the irreverence and the reverence. That means he accommodates “Scooby-Doo” purists by delivering all the things they expect — including the surprise “bad guy” at the end — but with tongue firmly in cheek.
This knack for toying with Scooby-Doo fans while giving them exactly what they want, while staying affectionately true to the original characters, is what makes “Scoob!” a cut above the “Scooby!” movies that came before it. You could say it’s the pick of the litter.
Contact Randy Myers at email@example.com.
3 stars out of 4
Rating: PG (some action, language and rude/suggestive humor)
Voice cast: Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, Simon Cowell
Director: Tony Cervone
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Where: Available on Amazon Prime and Google Play
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Author: Randy Myers, Correspondent