It’s taken 51 years, but someone has finally done in “Scooby-Doo.”
Oh, don’t worry, the talking pup’s not dead, but his newest movie, called “Scoob!,” is totally lifeless.
I thought the 2002 Freddie Prinze Jr. live-action film would never be topped in its badness, however that one at least understood the classic “Doo” formula: Mystery Inc. arrives at haunted locale, the gang humorously investigates, the ghost is revealed to be an area creep, “And I would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!” Simple. Perfect.
“Scoob!,” the CGI reboot, doesn’t offer much in the way of ghosts, werewolves, vampires, swamp creatures or other monsters. Or mysteries even. It’s a subpar adventure flick in which a bad guy tries to take over the world, with a sprinkle of supernatural.
There are exactly two specters here. One we meet during a twee prologue, in which Shaggy, Scooby, Fred, Daphne and Velma first meet as kids on Halloween night. That Little Velma’s costume is Ruth Bader Ginsburg sets the self-aware tone of the rest. After the group thwarts a ghoul in a haunted house, we leap to the present day.
Grown-up Mystery Inc. is enlisted by fellow Hanna-Barberian Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) to help stop Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs) from unleashing Hades’ dog Cerberus on the world.
The adult versions of the core gang are voiced, quite indifferently, by Zac Efron (Fred), Gina Rodriguez (Velma), Amanda Seyfried (Daphne), Will Forte (Shaggy) and Frank Welker (the original Fred, now Scooby). You miss the overblown energy of the 2D version’s actors.
I especially longed for the old cartoon’s bone-dry sense of humor. Remember the curiously timed fog? Or when comedian Jonathan Winter flipped a coin to decide who goes into the haunted house first, only to realize that it was Canadian currency and didn’t count? For as kid-aimed as this debacle is, some of the jokes are pretty lowbrow.
When Dastardly meets Scooby, this exchange occurs: “My friends call me Dick,” he says. “Rick?,” asks Scooby. “I’m a Dick! Dick, Dick, Dick!” Nothing lodges a word in an impressionable young mind like repeating it five times.
The CGI, by the way, looks awfully cheap in a market that includes boundary breakers such as Pixar and DreamWorks. Hanna-Barbera was never the animation powerhouse that Disney and Warner Bros. were back in the day, but it overcompensated with personality. Warner Animation Group’s “Scoob!” has got none of that.