It begins well.

For at least the third time in franchise history, we get an origin for Mystery, Inc. Forget Coolsville or Crystal Cove: the lonely child Shaggy (Will Forte, Iain Armitage) meets a pup named Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) in Venice Beach, where they escape a scrape together. Later, on Halloween night, they encounter some bullies and make friends with Fred Jones (Zac Efron, Pierce Gagnon), Daphne Blake (Amanda Seyfried, Mckenna Grace), and Velma Dinkley (Gina Rodriguez, Ariana Greenblatt). Naturally, this leads to the gang solving a mystery in a haunted house which, of course, is a front for a stunningly ineffectual criminal.

We fast-forward through their career via a fun montage based on the original Scooby-Doo, Where are You? credit sequence, and join the familiar, now-grown gang. Since it's a big-budget CGI cartoon, we cannot just have a straightforward Scooby spook-show. No, those meddling kids find themselves in a crazy, globe-trotting storyline that involves superheroes, supervillains, an Indiana Jones-type mystery, a lost world, and the fate of the known one. The film, more overloaded than Shaggy and Scooby's sandwiches, clearly wants to establish some kind of Hanna-Barbera Cinematic Universe. Like so many other attempts to launch a Marvel-style crossover franchise, this one falls short because it tries to do too much at once. It's all quite ridiculous. When it's not pretending to be anything else, however, it's passably entertaining.

We have a lot of Easter Eggs, but most are not overemphasized. If you don't recognize them, you won't feel lost. The less-familiar legacy characters get introduced to the new audience. Kids won't need to know that they have a cartoon past. The writers have seeded the script with a number of parent-aimed jokes, but that's a time-honoured tradition in theatrical cartoons. Most of the humour, however, has been aimed at children. It short, it's quite silly, has (somewhat forced) child-friendly themes, and boasts entertaining cartoon physics. Little kids will find the action sequences funny. Adults may find themselves growing weary.

The film's supporting superhero is Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), the late-1970s Hanna-Barbera property. The original Falcon, alas, has retired, and his narcissistic, incompetent son has taken over the role. The heavy lifting gets done by the robot sidekick, DynoMutt (Ken Jeong), and a tech-savvy personal assistant, Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons), based on a character from Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels. They're trying to stop an evil, mysterious plot hatched by Dick Dastardly, the villain who first appeared in Wacky Races (1968). Voiced by Jason Isaacs, he's hilariously over-the-top, as silly a parody of evil as he's ever been. Past crimes listed on his rap sheet include stealing precious artefacts, tripping old ladies, and watching Netflix without paying. His traditional sidekick, Muttley, has vanished. His fate will play a key role in the story. For the time, Muttley has been replaced by a legion of vertically-challenged robots, obviously intended as answers to Gru's minions.

Of course, the gang is having some personal problems, and Scooby and Shaggy have gone their own way-- only to realize they're part of the solution to Dastardly's evil plot. Can the heroes get it together in time to save the world?

Whether resting the Fate of the World on the actions of Mystery, Inc. is a good idea remains a fair question. The type of movie the studio wanted requires something big, so let's move on to the execution. Some choices prove better than others. The scenes in classic Scooby settings-- the characters variously find themselves in a haunted house, a decrepit amusement park, and on an isolated highway-- prove amusing, and help evoke the spirit of the old cartoon. However, giving Simon Cowell a cameo role and joking about him throughout the film only baffles. Such jokes were long past their best before date by 2020. By now, they're completely meaningless.

The finale also features a blend of elements and animation styles that may not work for everyone, as our heroes encounter the truth about Scooby's lineage and face a character from Greek mythology.

Warner Brothers hoped to reboot the franchise for the big screen and, as I've already noted, unleash a cinematic universe. The mixed response to this bloated effort cancelled those plans.*

Still, if Scoob! did not become the Pixar-challenging, universe-building blockbuster the filmmakers clearly desired, it's an enjoyable kids' film, and entertaining enough for its target audience.

*Jet-Poop writes: Hey, feel like it should be mentioned that the Scoob sequel *was* coming, until it was cancelled and permanently shelved, along with the "Batgirl" movie, and in fact was so close to being finished that the studio told the filmmakers to finish it even though it wasn't going to be released.

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