The two first ladies of cartoon mystery solving get their own live-action spin-off.
Daphne Blake (Sarah Jeffrey) is a rich high-schooler who hosts a web show about supernatural conspiracies. Her family moves a lot, so her closest friend is her Skype buddy Velma Dinkley (Sarah Gilman), who attends an elite high-school and usually debunks Daphne’s theories. Daphne’s mom gets a job in Ridge Valley working for tech mogul Tobias Bloom (Brooks Forrester) which allows Daphne to attend high-school with her. Velma reveals that there are strange happenings in the school and the two pair up to solve a mystery (but not rewrite history because that’s a different franchise).
Up front, this was definitely made for kids. Scooby-Doo properties have run the gamut on age appropriateness and, while the best ones work for all age groups, this one skews younger (though I am still holding out for just one legit R-rated movie, so far it’s only parodies and Supernatural). I will say that it has one or two jokes that were, in retrospect, kind of dark, but it’s definitely rated G. Still, it’s a Scooby-Doo property, so I was bound to see it at some point and I will say that I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not the best Scooby-Doo movie ( that’s either Zombie Island, Moon Monster Madness, or, and I’m not kidding, Scooby-Doo and KISS Rock and Roll Mystery, which features the members of KISS with magical powers and Sailor Moon transformation sequences), but it’s definitely in the top half. Granted, that’s probably only because most Scooby-Doo films are terrible (and I say that as a fan) and so are many of the shows (Mystery Incorporated was amazing, but that doesn’t offset Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo).
Part of what works in the movie is that it is filled with absurdity that completely meshes with the traditionally abnormal world of Scooby-Doo. It takes place in a super-high-tech high school where clothing is hackable and robots have human emotions, something that’s more in the vein of Eureka than Supernatural, but since Scooby-Doo usually involves people using ridiculous technology to perpetrate absurd schemes, that’s still on-brand. There are suspicious people EVERYWHERE and everyone has weird quirks, which, again, fits the genre.
The humor is genuinely better than most Scooby-Doo properties. I actually laughed quite a few times, particularly with lines like “I forgot to put in the wolves” which is just as ridiculous in context, trust me. The humor is also self-aware enough to call out a ton of the insanity witnessed on-screen without ruining the suspension of disbelief. It helps that Velma’s deadpan snark perfectly compliments Daphne’s humorous over-the-top positivity. While it does contain some generic characters, it uses them in funny ways and usually subverts the tropes by the end. Honestly, the supporting characters are generally really well-done for this kind of movie.
The best part of the film, though, is that they use Daphne and Velma well. Both of the actresses do a great job emphasizing why these characters keep working throughout the years. While Velma has been fairly consistently portrayed throughout the years, Daphne’s character has varied much more, and yet the film makes use of all of them, from damsel-in-distress to action-girl, without feeling out-of-character. They play off of each other perfectly and you really get a good sense that, while they’re very different, they still care about each other and respect each other.
Look, I’m not going to say this is a “good” movie, but it was a decent Scooby-Doo film. It works because it never pretends to be anything else and the effort was focused in the right direction. It’s dumb, but if you’re willing to suspend disbelief to the right level, it’s actually pretty fun.
If, like me, you’re a Scooby-Doo fan, watch this with your kids… or just drink until you feel younger. At least it’s better than Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf. If you’re not a Scooby-Doo fan, give Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island a try.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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