16 May 2020 00:40


George Jetson is not involved (yet), but Cerberus, of mythological fame, is — and he would have gotten away with guarding the underworld, too, if it weren't for these meddling kids. (Just kidding: No one tries to unmask a three-headed dog.) The overall vibe is scarily close to what happened when "The Itchy & Scratchy Show" on "The Simpsons" added Poochie, except this time the pandering is not a joke. Rated PG. Scooby steals gyro meat. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes.

Rent or buy on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes and other streaming platforms and pay-TV operators. Et tu, Scooby Doo? Just when I thought our beloved (or at least beliked) mystery-solving Great Dane (and his dorky human friends) had returned to unmask local crooks and hoaxsters once again—the simple, relatively analog thing he has been doing on and off for 50 years—Scooby had to go and bring superheroes into it. Meaning that the new animated film Scoob! (available for digital rental on May 15) is not a new iteration of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon format: it's an appropriation of it for other, more ambitious ends.

Warner Bros. hopes to use Scoob!, a weather balloon floated in viral times, to test the viability of a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe. With Scoob!, Warners has begun tethering together all those junky old mystery-caper cartoons—which enjoyed their heyday in the aesthetically ravaged 1970s—to create a new and formidable franchise, replete with mineable I.P. and appealing to. well, therein lies the problem. Where to Watch Scoob! The parents of today's kids, meaning people around my age or (gulp) a little younger, probably have some fond memories of Scooby Doo reruns. Maybe they even went to see one-time matinee idols Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar in the 2002 live-action film version. But what do their children know of Scoob and the gang? I'm sure some little ones are eager to see Scoob! because it's been successfully advertised to them. But for the many who are likely indifferent at best, Scoob! has come up with an inelegant enticement: this film is going to look and sound and move like nearly everything else that's big and loud these days. Which brings me back to the superheroes. There was once a Hanna-Barbera cartoon called Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, about a multi-use robotic dog (think the clumsy Swiss Army knife mechanics of Inspector Gadget but, well, a dog) who was the non-marital helpmeet of a caped crusader called Blue Falcon. Which is close enough to DC and Marvel's whole thing, with the bodysuits and the fighting and whatnot. So Falcon and Dynomutt have been dragged into the Scooby narrative for the first time since some decades-old crossover episodes, quickly whisking Scoob! off into a Incredibles/Despicable Me pastiche that has all the airiness of the Mystery Machine after a day-long stakeout. Scoob! places Scooby (Frank Welker), Shaggy (Will Forte), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), and Fred (Zac Efron, gamer than most) in someone else's movie, stripping its iconography for parts and trusting that some remnant whiff of nostalgic fondness for the old ways will keep audiences engaged in whatever this new thing is. It's entirely possible that young people with no particular allegiances to Scooby Doo will be just fine with Scoob!, with all its whizzing and clanging and big boss fights. But the movie is bad at the business of building a real legacy; it's a hasty, throwaway cartoons-assemble job reminiscent of Warners', well, throwaway superheroes-assemble disappointment, Justice League. It's not only Blue Falcon and poor Dynomutt doing the muddling. (They are voiced on autopilot, by the way, by Mark Wahlberg and Ken Jeong, respectively.) Dick Dastardly has also been dragooned to the cause, plucked from Wacky Races and other subsequent series. (Particularly, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines. What a time the late 1960s was!) Dastardly is voiced by Jason Isaacs doing his best Jeremy Irons as Scar, and he offers at least a bit of natural flair to offset the rest of the movie's strenuous approximation of wit and energy.