Needing to wash the taste of this year’s Scoob! out of my brain, a re-watch of a nostalgic, live-action classic was inevitable. My generation has an oddly detailed amount of discourse surrounding Scooby-Doo, a film penned by James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy fame and directed by Raja Gosnell of Show Dogs shame. Surely these two titans of their respective genres, superheroes and talking dogs, can come together to provide a live-action adaptation of Scooby-Doo, a series of shows I have genuine, touching nostalgia for. It’s never good when a big part of your childhood is thrown onto the big screen, just look at Tom and Jerry for evidence on that. But perhaps a return to Scooby-Doo would provide the shakeup of nostalgia that I needed.
Assuming that we all share a love for Matthew Lillard’s performance as Shaggy, it’s great to relay how substantial his performance is. He really does hold up to those impossibly high standards set by ridiculous fan expectations. Everyone in the Mystery Incorporated crew feels well cast, with Freddie Prinze Jr., Linda Cardellini and Sarah Michelle Gellar all bringing to life roles that feel incredibly difficult to bring to the big screen in a suitable manner. Great costume and set design keeps this ensemble together rather well, capturing the colourful nature of the various cartoon iterations rather nicely.
For the most part, the dated CGI and rather forgettable side-antagonists are all aspects that, in every other circumstance, would be justifiably criticised. With Scooby-Doo, it adds a real sense of charm to the overall proceedings. It’s all about capturing that cartoon dynamic, and with that in mind, it’s easy to see why there are staples of the show littered throughout, parts that don’t make all that much sense as a collective narrative feature, but do work on a level that would bring out some enjoyable moments and further the story in one way or another.
Really, the only let-downs the film offers up are a couple of subplots. Velma and Fred appear to be the weakest on the whole in that regard, playing up to the expected stereotypes of the 60s show well enough, but mired by ineffective additions to their archetype. It’s nice to see that the film does subvert the various, outdated tropes of the past adaptations by reinforcing them with irony, a thick layer draped across the masculinity of Fred or the damsel in distress nature of Daphne. They’re subverted through humour, and it’s a solid success.
I’d always had fond memories of Scooby-Doo, but this was a genuinely lovely surprise. There’s never a moment where the film puts a foot wrong, and its stylish choices capture the cartoonish appeal of the classic show in such a vivid and imaginative way. Oozing out of the script with some memorable one-liners, visible in a perfect cast who embody the traits of these characters with surprising grace, bringing depth in places I never thought possible. Scooby-Doo is fun, a real treat that has stood up incredibly well.