Studio: Warner Bros. Animation
Director: Maxwell Atoms
Writer: Maxwell Atoms
Producer: Maxwell Atoms
Stars: Frank Welker, Grey Griffin, Matthew Lillard, Kate Micucci, Cassandra Peterson, Bill Nye, Dwight Schultz
Scooby and the gang team up with Elvira and Bill Nye to battle Batman villain The Scarecrow and an army of evil pumpkins.
In these uncertain times, there isn¡¯t a whole lot we can count on as a given. We also need escapist entertainment and nostalgic comforts now more than ever.
So when I saw the slugline for ¡°Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo,¡± which touted Mystery Incorporated joining forces with Elvira and Bill Nye to battle Gotham City¡¯s Scarecrow and an army of sentient pumpkins, I thought it read like a reliable recipe for surefire success. I also assumed it would be exactly the kind of kookiness the doctor ordered for getting out of one¡¯s head for a spell.
Oddball pop culture cameos? Batman villains? Horror¡¯s favorite holiday as a backdrop? These were all the right ingredients for brewing a modern Scooby mystery with the throwback treats of goofy guest stars and DC superhero connections. How could this come out as anything other than a charming cartoon caper full of sugary Saturday morning silliness like the Don Knotts/Phyllis Diller team-ups and Joker/Penguin face-offs of the past?
In these same uncertain times that are chock full of disappointments, it pains me to say, ¡°Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo¡± is another one. The movie may have a label that advertises guaranteed good times like only the Scooby gang can deliver. Inside, it¡¯s a low octane lark that¡¯s criminally light on mirth, meaning, or merely making sense as a story.
¡°Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo¡± is a very Velma forward movie. The good bit about that is the expanded role allows Kate Micucci to fully come into her own as Velma. Micucci has voiced Velma plenty of times since assuming the spectacled sleuth¡¯s mantle in 2015. Still, it was hard not to hear how ¡°off¡± she was in a mind¡¯s ear that had been tuned to two decades of Mindy Cohn. I was aboard the Cohn bandwagon not unlike a lot of Shaggy fans were for Matthew Lillard when Will Forte took that part in ¡°Scoob¡± (review here). But with this movie, I¡¯m finally ready to realign allegiances as Micucci appears to have figured out more of the tics and tones that truly make Velma sound like Velma.
While her voice may be right, Velma¡¯s characterization isn¡¯t. As though the script put each personality on a quickie diet, everyone else in the gang can be described in one or two words. Fred is flippantly forgettable. Daphne is star-struck with Elvira. Also experiencing a surprising reduction in screen time, Scooby and Shaggy are just their basic perpetually scared and food-obsessed selves.
Velma on the other hand, can be described in tons of terms, none of which are flattering. She¡¯s conceited, overconfident, reckless, smug, and shockingly dismissive of anyone she doesn¡¯t deem to be an intellectual equal. Velma drools over anything related to Bill Nye while waving a haughty hand at legitimate concerns from longtime pals Shaggy and Scooby. Some fair-weather friend she is.
What¡¯s weirder is Velma sets Scarecrow free after he¡¯s in police custody. Granted, she does it to save the villain from a pumpkin attack. But Scarecrow uses the opportunity to escape and Velma seems to experience zero guilt, let alone any other repercussion, for letting him go. ¡°Happy Halloween Scooby-Doo¡¯s¡± other evildoer also escapes at the end. Great job solving the mystery Velma, I guess. Except everyone eluded authorities and pulled off their plans anyway, making one wonder what Mystery Incorporated ever accomplished at all.
You¡¯d think a flick with this title would be heavy on Halloween, e.g. loaded up on costumes and candy and decorations and such. After an opening parade however, the calendar becomes irrelevant. Following the vibrant first few minutes, Crystal Cove turns into an empty town with just two people in the population. Scooby and Shaggy go trick-or-treating for all of 20 seconds, and their costumes consist of slathering themselves in sticky candy and putting pails on their heads. Sure, pumpkin creatures become the movie¡¯s big bad. But after this intro, they¡¯re the only occasional reminder that the movie takes place on October 31st.
What is ¡°Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo¡± all about then? Well, after first act cement solidifies, the movie bafflingly turns into a car chase that lasts half an hour. For 30 minutes, killer pumpkins dash after Daphne in Elvira¡¯s hearse, Fred and Velma in Bill Nye¡¯s pimped out Mystery Machine X, and Shaggy and Scooby in random resident Mike¡¯s regular old sedan. I¡¯d have been fine with a full-on ¡°Wacky Races¡± tribute. But turning most of the movie into a repetitive road race makes for a downright dull midsection.
Gags are hit or miss, mostly favoring miss. I got a couple chuckles out of jokes like Nye adding ¡®Bill Me Now¡¯ and ¡®Bill Me Later¡¯ buttons to his Mystery Machine X as features for contacting him directly or engaging autopilot. It was funny when Mike offered to do a favor like buying caramel corn to say thanks to the gang. When they call in that favor by asking him to risk his life during a dire moment, Mike clarifies how far he¡¯s willing to express his appreciation by shouting, ¡°I said caramel corn!¡± I can also get behind the goof of using juice from one million green glow sticks to simulate toxic waste.
Other bits are ¡°eh¡± at best. To Velma¡¯s declaration that ¡°There¡¯s something I trust even more than science,¡± Daphne asks, ¡°Bazookas?¡± In an example of the film¡¯s dated sense of ¡®hip¡¯ social media humor, a reporter works for an outlet called ¡®Newsy McNewsface News.¡¯ Elvira¡¯s coldly condescending quips make her sound like she¡¯s barely tolerating being in the movie. She weirdly gives Daphne the insulting ¡®compliment¡¯ of calling her ¡°a regular Mary Sue.¡± What kind of comment is that?
Even with a belly full of Skittles, suckers, and plenty of pumpkin ale, I couldn¡¯t get enough of a boozy buzz or sugar high to find the fun I expected from ¡°Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo.¡± The barely coherent plot is just a pathway to put together a bunch of flip remarks, cursory characterizations, and manic mayhem with no real resonance.
I don¡¯t think I could ever in good conscience give a negative rating to a Scooby-Doo movie. Even the worst one will still be moderately appealing in some fashion, if not to adult fans than to forgiving kids. But ¡°Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo¡± earns a disinterested 50/100, probably the lowest possible score for something like this, because I¡¯m hard pressed to think of a drabber Scooby-Doo animated adventure than this one.
Review Score: 50