Originally scheduled for a May 15 theater release, the new computer-animated “Scoob!” is now available to rent ($19.99) or buy ($24.99) for home viewing. ‘
The last big-screen Scooby-Doo movie was released in 2004, though countless direct-to-video movies and many TV series have been created since the doggie’s debut in 1969.
The ridiculous idea of four teens — who have almost nothing in common — and a dog solving mysteries somehow clicked, and these mismatched misfits have become generational favorites.
So it’s dismaying that, after an origin story showing the quintet’s first mystery, “Scoob!” separates the team for almost the entire running time.
The reason? Simon Cowell tells them to, apparently as some kind of rebranding.
It feels cynical, and the chemistry is somehow missing, compounded by the fact that the familiar voice cast has been replaced.
Only the legendary Frank Welker remains. Performing Fred since 1969, he also took over as the voice of Scooby in 2002. Here he’s Scooby again. Fred is now voiced by Zac Efron.
Additionally, Amanda Seyfried takes over as Daphne, Gina Rodriguez is Velma and Will Forte is Shaggy.
The story involves villain Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), who wishes to open the gates of hell by collecting the three skulls of Cerberus. Sadly, Dastardly’s hilarious, mumbling, guffawing dog Muttley is only seen briefly.
Shaggy and Scooby are attacked by a squadron of noisy, shapeshifting little robots (think Minions, but not as funny) and they wind up rescued by Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) and the Blue Falcon. Unfortunately, he’s actually the original Blue Falcon’s lazy, egotistical son, Brian (Mark Wahlberg).
The guilt-ridden Fred, Daphne and Velma must then try to locate their friends. Without Shaggy and Scooby, these three aren’t very interesting. Conversely, Shaggy paired with the obnoxious Brian also isn’t very much fun.
Then, “Scoob!” goes one further by driving a wedge of jealousy between Shaggy and Scooby, causing Shaggy to mope around awhile.
An unsettling number of jokes are either pop culture references or awkward attempts to feel ultra-modern (lets bounce!). Can there be a rule from now on that noone is allowed to use Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” whenever a character spots a pretty girl?
These elements make the movie feel particularly calculated and self-aware (Fred ties on his ascot before he charges into battle, etc.) in apparently yet another attempt to launch a cinematic universe, this time with Hanna-Barbera characters.
Part of the appeal of the Scooby-Doo franchise is its laid-back ridiculousness. Things don’t make sense, but we’re invited to just roll with it. “Scoob!” tries too hard, and goes too big, with noisy, show-offy showdowns, fight scenes and cluttered chases.
Then, when it tries to shoehorn in its message about the power of friendship, it rings false.
“Scoob!” gets points for smooth animation, for effectively adapting the characters’ iconic look to a new format and for giving Welker a few real moments to shine as a performer. One moment is a genuine tearjerker.
It’s hard to be too upset at these old familiar friends, and when they’re together, the movie offers a few happy little tingles. “Scoob!” may be a fine diversion during these uncertain times, but it could have used a little more “Zoinks”!
Starring: Voices of Will Forte, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Gina Rodriguez, Frank Welker, Mark Walhberg
Written by: Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson, Derek Elliott
Directed by: Tony Cervone
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes