First, a confession: There are those of us who have never really been fans of Scooby-Doo, or for that matter, those meddling kids. Still, the animated dog and his crime-solving crew have been around for 50 years, which explains why there’s a movie called “Scoob!,” one so inconsequential and flat it doesn’t lose much by premiering on a TV screen.
“Scoob!” had been destined for theaters before coronavirus intervened. As studios try to make the best of a bad situation and feed the appetite for new content, it follows “Trolls World Tour” — which found a receptive audience — in the category of family fare streaming into homes, offering a diversion for parents seeking to distract kids for 90-ish minutes, especially if they can excuse themselves and go watch something else.
Nostalgia aside, the biggest challenge for this animated movie — lacking the novelty of the live-action versions produced in the early part of this century — is layering a feature-length plot over the bones of a formulaic Saturday-morning cartoon.
The film at least mostly meets the challenge on that level, casting Shaggy (voiced by Will Forte) and Scooby (Frank Welker) at the center of a threat to the entire world, as they’re whisked off by a superhero known as the Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) on a big, messy adventure. There’s also a telegraphed message about the importance of friendship, testing the seemingly unshakeable bond between the central duo.
Directed by Tony Cervone, “Scoob!” tries to adopt a contemporary feel, with a cameo by Simon Cowell and references to such things as Netflix and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — the latter chosen by the Scooby gang’s Velma (Gina Rodriguez) as her Halloween costume.
In terms of voices, Zac Efron and Amanda Seyfried round out the group as Fred and Daphne, respectively, while Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) sounds rather uncannily like he’s channeling Hans Conried (the voice of Captain Hook) as the villainous Dick Dastardly, a sneering bad guy from the Hanna-Barbera stable, now with an army of robotic (lower-case) minions.
Other than an introductory sequence that depicts how the key characters met, there’s not much new to flavor the action. Scooby does speak a bit more clearly than usual — which is kind of creepy — and there are clever moments, such as a fleeting game of Whac-a-Mole, as well as winking reference to the Hanna-Barbera franchise’s long history, including a venue named after original Scooby voice whiz Don Messick.
That’s about as inventive as things get, and beyond the improved computer animation compared to the hand-drawn origins, sequences worthy of attention are too few and very far between.
Granted, “Scoob!” appears more into recycling than reinvention — it’s more a snack than a meal — but it does endeavor to make an old concept fresh and cool again in children’s eyes. That might answer the question why the movie exists, but based on the results, nothing here merits an exclamation point.
“Scoob!” is available for on-demand rental and purchase on May 15. It’s produced and released by Warner Bros., like CNN, a unit of WarnerMedia.