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SCOOB

When analyzing pop culture longevity, it’s pretty tough to argue with the enduring staying power of Scooby-Doo. The personable pooch and his meddling companions first graced the small screen in 1969, and have entertaining generations ever since. From spin-offs, to direct-to-home-video releases, to live action adaptations, the family friendly juggernaut has shown no sign of slowing for the past 50 years. The latest materialization comes in the form of SCOOB, an animated adventure that was supposed to open in theaters in May and was meant to launch a new Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe. Though it didn’t get the theatrical run that was originally intended, it has become an instant smash on video-on-demand platforms, where it has remained at the top of the charts since its release on May 15.

The animation may be a bit flashier, the references might be a tad more timely (Simon Cowell is an actual character) and the soundtrack (Outkast! 2pac ft. Dr Dre!) may be a bit more hip, but beyond that, the simplistic formula that has worked for the past five decades trudges on. Scary things are scary until they’re not, Shaggy and Scooby are certain to be simultaneously terrified and hungry, and there will be at least one sequence where characters defy physics to chase one another through a series of doorways.

Unlike most reboots, SCOOB give us an origin story in just about 10 minutes. After a brief introduction that shows of how lovable loaf Shaggy first met his beloved canine pal, we are then shown how the duo crossed paths with Fred, Velma, and Daphne and accidentally solved their first case. This is followed by a frame-by-frame recreation of the famous “Scooby-Doo, Where are You!” theme song, and then we get into the present story.

When the snarky Simon Cowell meets with the crew to give an assessment on their current standing in the grand scheme of marketability, he proclaims that Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby (Frank Welker) bring absolutely nothing to the table. Scooby, at the very least, is like a mascot, and all Shaggy does is eat an absurd amount of food. Feeling dejected, the duo heads to a local bowling alley. While there, the pins come alive and a cavalcade of shape-shifting shenanigans ensues. As they attempt to make their escape, Shaggy and Scooby are beamed aboard the ship of their favorite crime fighter The Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and his trusty sidekick Dynomutt (Ken Jeong.)

Believe it or not, there is actually a lot more of the plot to explain, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter, does it? The story within SCOOB was never going to be the make-or-break factor. The bottom line is, the gang starts searching for Scooby and Shaggy, and eventually, everyone finds themselves battling Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) who is attempting to unlock a gate to the Underworld so he can recover his missing best pal. For those who aren’t sure who that is, I’ll leave it to you to figure it out, but I’ll let you know that it just so happens to be another Hanna-Barbera icon.

Convoluted plotlines aside, SCOOB is plenty of fun. The cast list is rife with talent. Along with Forte, Wahlberg, and Isaacs, Zac Efron, Gina Rodriguez, Amanda Seyfried, and plenty more join in on the fun, providing clout without becoming distracting. While it may not deliver the same type of grand family entertainment as ONWARD or THE WILOUGHBYS, it is a nostalgia-based distraction that will engage youngsters, and provide their parents a chuckle or two. The SCOOBY-DOO franchise has always been gleefully self-aware, and that is certainly the case with this film. From a hilarious line addressing Shaggy’s use of the word “like,” to the plethora of Hanna-Barbera Easter eggs found throughout, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and never pretends to be anything that it’s not. I can imagine some parents getting upset over a couple of the jokes, and some of the sequences might be frightening for very young children, but hey, hasn’t that always been the forte of Scooby-Doo? Nightmare-inducing imagery with a logical explanation has worked for the last 50 years, so there’s no real reason to stop now.

SCOOB

RATED: PG

RUN TIME: 1h33min

GENRE: Animation, Adventure, Comedy

STARRING: Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs

DIRECTORS: Tony Cervone

WRITERS: Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel

GRADE: C-

(Available through multiple video-on-demand platforms.)

Jamie Wallace