Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Everyone loves a bit of nostalgia, but you've got to put your heart into it." | Photo: © 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved

A staple of British kids' afternoon TV throughout the Seventies and (at least) into the Eighties, Hanna-Barbera creation Scooby-Doo and his sidekicks Shaggy and the gang hold a nostalgia for those of us of a certain age - even if we are still trying to forget the abomination that was Scrappy-Doo. Part of the Warner Bros stable since 1996 - and the subject of the deeply average live-action Scooby-Doo 2002 film and its, even more lacklustre sequel - the fearful Great Dane with a heart of gold is back in animated for for this reboot, which is being released straight to streaming services.

For those young enough to not be in the know, which probably includes at least some of the target audience for this, Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scoob (Frank Welker) played out a mystery of the week with their pals, dependable Fred (Zac Efron), slightly dizzy Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and brainy Velma (Gina Rodriguez), unmasking evildoers who were posing as ghosts. Simple pleasures, however, are apparently not sufficient for the current generation - at least in the minds of the Olympic village of writers here (Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson, Derek Elliott, working on a story from Lieberman, Eyal Podell and Jonathon E Stewart - cynics might note despite this cast of thousands there's not a single woman in this list).

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So, presumably because of the fear of boredom - or perhaps just because they fancied it - the writers bolt additional characters from the Hanna-Barbera universe, enlisting Dick Dastardly (with a Muttley subplot) as the criminal mastermind and having the Mystery Inc gang hook up with Blue Falcon and Dynomutt (remember them? You might not). This does result in improved diversity and less stereotypical women - Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) has a human sidekick called Dee Dee (Kiersey Clemons), who is an ace pilot and techno whizz - but, beyond a wobble of Scooby and Shaggy's friendship, there is very little attempt to flesh out the characters. Humans and their four-legged best friends could have been a real theme here - with Shaggy, Blue Falcon and Dastardly all having in that in common - but the idea is barely explored.

The mystery on this occasion revolves around Dastardly's (Jason Isaacs) attempts to open the gates to hell using Scooby as the key. This leads everybody on a disjointed, if visually attractive, hunt for some skulls before we reach the showdown with hellhound Cereberus.

Everyone loves a bit of nostalgia, but you've got to put your heart into it. When Nick Park takes on classic ideas in his Wallace And Gromit films and elsewhere, you can feel his love for the original - from Ealing comedies to Miss Marple - glowing from every frame. Here, there's a sense of paying lip service to fondly remembered characters rather than getting under their skin. Although the story is aimed at the smallest members of the household, the humour is frequently being directed towards their parents and grandparents - and the specifically American ones at that. So, we get references to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Supreme Court, Gerard Depardieu (one for the arthouse crowd?), a whole load of bowling alley terminology and, in a particularly weird moment, a mention of dating app Tinder.

More appealing to the older generations who might stumble on this are the occasional enjoyable nods to the original series, including a fight at a fairground and a reimagining of the cartoon's opening credits, not to mention a sweet cameo from Captain Caveman (Tracy Morgan), even if it does feel jemmied in. The animation, too, picks up on the greens and purples that dominated the original series.

There's enough here to keep youngsters occupied - and Will Forte's impressive vocals as Shaggy are likely to just about to keep the parents onside - but this feels a lot like another missed opportunity to have a bit of faith with the original material instead of trying to attach far too many bells and whistles to it. Despite those meddlesome writers, they just about get away with it.

Reviewed on: 10 Jul 2020
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Scooby and the gang take on Dick Dastardly.
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Director: Tony Cervone

Writer: Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson, Derek Elliott, Eyal Podell, Jonathon E Stewart, based on characters created by William Hanna, Joseph Barbera

Starring: Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Jason Isaacs, Gina Rodriguez, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Kiersey Clemens, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, Frank Welker

Year: 2020

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US, Canada


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