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story.lead_photo.caption The Mystery Machine and its denizens (from left) Fred (voice of Zac Efron), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker), Shaggy (Will Forte), and Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) are back as another iteration of those darn mystery-solving kids in Scoob!

For all of its flaws, it's obvious Scoob! was made with love. Director Tony Cervone and his team clearly adore the crew of Mystery Machine and want to do justice to the easily frightened dog whose primary goal in life is a Scooby Snack.

While far more generously budgeted than a typical episode of the series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, Scoob! recycles some of the sound and music cues preventing fans of the old show from feeling too disoriented.

Scoob!

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Cast: (voices of) Frank Welker, Will Forte, Mark Wahlberg, Zac Efron, Jason Isaacs, Gina Rodriguez, Amanda Seyfried, Kiersey Clemons, Ken Jeong, Tracy Morgan, Simon Cowell

Director: Tony Cervone

Rating: PG, for some action, language and rude/suggestive humor.

Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

While the movie has a PG rating, it's tempting to wonder if Scoob! is intended for the grandparents of today's kids. People who grew up with Hanna-Barbera cartoons in the 1960s and '70s will find enough Easter eggs to keep Paas in business for centuries.

The movie is loaded with HB characters who don't regularly appear on Boomerang. Even some of the locales are named after people who helped originate Scooby-Doo, like voice actor Don Messick. It was he who first uttered sentences where "R" was the only consonant.

(Hey, Scooby-Doo is a dog, so the fact that he speaks at all is impressive.)

Screenwriters Matt Lieberman, Adam Sztykiel, Jack Donaldson and Derek Elliott have the unenviable challenge of making a story that retains most of the tropes from the show but must also have enough variations to prevent tedium from setting in. Even people who've never seen the 1969 TV series know that the bad guys would have gotten away with it if "it weren't for you meddling kids."

The passengers in the Mystery Machine are fleshed out this time even if their fashion sense hasn't gotten past the paisley age, much less grunge or emo. Scoob! begins by recounting how Shaggy (Will Forte), Scooby-Doo (veteran animation voice Frank Welker), Fred (Zac Enron), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and Velma (Gina Rodriguez) came to take on make-believe ghosts.

The prologue helps get the prerequisite origin story out of the way so that the team's current adventure can take place. Mystery, Inc. wants to turn their detective work into a publicly traded company, but their potential investor Simon Cowell (providing his own voice) doesn't think perpetual cowards Shaggy and Scooby are worth the potential commitment.

Perennial Hanna-Barbera villain Dick Dastardly (gleefully overplayed by Jason Isaacs) thinks differently. To the rest of the world Scooby is a mutt, but Dastardly learns that the hound is really a descendant of Alexander the Great's canine companion. As a result, Scooby is the only way to access the Macedonian conqueror's hidden treasure.

Dastardly has an army of shape-shifting robots, so he's a more formidable opponent to the gang. Who needs crooks pretending to be ghosts, when Dastardly can summon either a mechanical horde or the legendary three-headed dog Cerberus?

Fortunately, Mystery, Inc. has an ally with superhero Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and his sidekicks Dynomutt (an appropriately sniping Ken Jeong) and Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons). This Blue Falcon has lots of cool high tech toys, including Dynomutt himself, but unlike his 1970s incarnation, the new man in the blue suit is the son of the previous costumed creator and has some serious insecurities. In crisis situations, he makes Shaggy and Scooby seem like paragons of courage.

Wahlberg and Efron take what are usually bland, dull characters and give them just enough quirks to make 90 minutes in their company worthwhile. The rest of the A-listers all sound like they're having fun and not simply imitating what Messick and his cohorts did before.

Cervone manages to update the 2D look for a 4K digital presentation, so the old character designs don't look like they're awkwardly shoehorned into the 21st century.

There is some unmasking here and there, but for the most part Cervone and company stick with their current story. The new spins on the characters are clever, but the quest seems like a letdown, because there isn't much of a mystery.

Isaacs is an old hand at playing antagonists and thankfully hasn't gotten bored with it.

Still, there isn't anything dynamic when you already know Dastardly is up to no good.

It's in his name.

Oh, and his mustache is suitable for twirling.

Perhaps Cervone and his cohorts can be forgiven if like Alexander the Great, they feel they have no more worlds left to conquer. It's hard to locate new mysteries when Mystery Machine has been rolling for more than half a century.

Shaggy (voice of Will Forte), Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) utilize some cool technology to unmask the make-believe ghosts in Scoob!

MovieStyle on 05/22/2020

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