Of the main Mystery Inc. quintet, Fred — ably voiced by Zac Efron — is the character who has been tweaked the most. He has a bit more personality and is less wooden than some past incarnations, his ascot is gone, and while he still does all the driving, Fred’s not exactly the team’s de facto leader here as each member gets their moment to take charge or make an important decision. That said, this movie is decidedly a Shaggy and Scooby story through and through. An extended pre-credits prologue reveals not only how young Shaggy met little Scoob but also how the Mystery Inc. gang came to be and their first ghostbusting mission as kids. Shaggy and Scooby’s meet-cute is as adorkable as you’d hope, with each character filling a void in the other’s life. The movie has a lot of heart and keeps the thematic emphasis throughout on friendship — not just between humans but also between people and their pets.The film’s exploration of the human-canine bond goes beyond just Shaggy and Scoob to Blue Falcon and Dynomutt and even to villain Dick Dastardly, who fans will recall had his own four-legged sidekick named Muttley in the old cartoons. Dogs, in this story, are there to help transform the characters of their owners. Best friends have their ups and downs even if one is a cowardly teen and the other a talking dog. The movie’s messaging isn’t terribly novel or deep as it is aimed squarely at children and dog lovers so anything beyond the simplistic would arguably belong in a different sort of movie altogether.
Scoob! is also a save-the-world adventure film, complete with superhero allies and a big bad with a robot army. The action is plentiful, with lots of sci-fi gadgetry and vehicular set-pieces thanks to Blue Falcon and Dick Dastardly. The film’s CG animation retains the recognizable traits of the iconic Scooby-Doo characters without making them look like yet another riff on Pixar and DreamWorks’ styles, but 2015’s The Peanuts Movie remains the most faithful adaptation yet of an original 2D cartoon to CG feature animation.
The earnest and entertaining Scoob! is a perfectly fine distraction for kids and parents stuck at home, with enough cute and amusing elements throughout to keep viewers engaged. The movie gets a lot of heartfelt mileage out of its exploration of the relationship between man and his four-legged best friend, even if its messaging is simplistic and superficial. Scoob! also serves as a springboard for a possible Hanna-Barbera shared movie universe with its inclusion of a number of iconic characters and elements from the famed animation company’s classic cartoons.
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