Scooby-Doo is one of the most iconic cartoon characters ever, with a multitude of animated series and family movies over the years depicting everyone’s favourite detective dog and his Mystery Machine buddies. After two very fun 2000s movies featuring Scoob and the gang in live-action, there’s always been a demand for Scooby-Doo 3. Well, that movie already exists, and judging by the poster, there appears to be a weird porn parody vibe going on.
For the uninitiated, Scooby-Doo is an anthropomorphic canine who spends most of his days gorging on food and chilling with his best friend Shaggy. When they’re not chowing down on obscenely large sandwiches, the pair can be found sinking their teeth into a spot of detective work, alongside Fred, Daphne, and Velma. The group often take on ghouls and monsters, who eventually turn out to be local citizens with an evil agenda.
James Gunn, the man behind the Guardians of the Galaxy MCU movies, wrote the script for the first two Scooby-Doo live-action outings. The adventure movies were very silly, but played perfectly to their intended audience, and left fans wanting more. Gunn has often teased a Scooby-Doo 3, but someone got there first, and all signs pointed to it being a dumpster fire.
Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins is essentially a prequel to the two child-friendly ghost movies from the Gunn era. This origin story shows us how Scoobert finds himself in the care of Shaggy, and how the group of friends go from avoiding each other on the school bus to being the best of friends.
Sounds perfectly fine, right? Well, one of the main issues many people have with this effort is the fact they recast very recognisable stars like Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini, Matthew Lillard, and Freddie Prinze Jr. In their places, a cast of relative unknowns, save for Arrowverse actor Robbie Amell.
A big part of the magic of the original kids movies is the chemistry between the cast and the way each of them embodies their characters so effectively. Sadly, neither the chemistry nor the talent are replicated with The Mystery Begins, with the acting from the ensemble here feeling more like something out of a soap opera.
However, before we condemn this made-for-television horror movie to the hall of shame, it’s worth remembering the spirit of the original Scooby-Doo TV series. The animated show from the ’60s was very cheesy, very theatrical, and very much catered to a young audience.
For the kids: The best animated movies
While the cast may not be as accomplished as their predecessors, they still bring a certain endearing quality to this scary movie for kids. Best of all though, Frank Welker, the man who has voiced the titular pooch since his inception, lends his vocal talents to Scooby once again, bringing an instant nostalgia hit.
Funnily enough, other creatives made the transition from the first two movies to this effort, too. David Newman provides the musical score once more, and Warner Bros put its name to the product, albeit denying The Mystery Begins a theatrical release.
As for the story, it’s a pretty standard ghoulish mystery for the gang to get stuck into, as Coolsville High finds itself plagued by two spectres, raised from the dead by an unknown adversary. I have to say, I did guess who was behind the spooky goings-on pretty early, but maybe that’s just a sign that I’ve developed my deduction skills over time.
Nevertheless, we do get to see the team lean into the detective movie tropes a lot more than in the previous two instalments, and it’s the kind of small-scale adventure that really does lend itself well to casual viewing. This is far less of a comedy movie than the big screen efforts, but it makes up for that with its simple pleasures.
Retro vibes: The best ’90s TV shows
There are plenty of things you could criticise in this movie; the CGI is a bit dodgy in places, there’s a fair few cringeworthy moments, and the attempts at humour really don’t land. But, at the same time, there are some really nice nods to the lore of Scooby-Doo, and I’d argue this flick achieves pretty much exactly what it set out to.
I’m certainly not about to say this is a good movie by any means, but I wouldn’t be able to describe it as awful either. In the end, Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins is a perfectly harmless, rather fun, feel-good movie that deserves more recognition as part of the Scooby-Doo franchise.
The boogeyman! The best monster movies
Speaking of, this cast teamed up again for Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Monster Lake just a year later. Stay tuned because this writer is absolutely going to dive into that one and see how Scooby Doo 4 holds up!