Shaggy: Hey guys we’ve got suspects!
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
In 2009 Cartoon Network decided to make a live-action made-for-TV Scooby-Doo Movie. Only this time unlike the last two theatrically released movies, this one would be an origin story of how Shaggy met Scooby and how all of the gang came together and solved their first mystery. The result of the whole thing sadly isn’t something that can be considered a definitive origin story for the gang.
The story is that four teens, geek outcast Norville “Shaggy” Rogers (Nick Palatas), science nerd Velma Dinkley (Hayley Kiyoko), drama club member Daphne Blake (Kate Melton), and high school football quarterback Fred (Robbie Amell) all wind up in detention together after accidentally getting into a fight on the school bus which results in the bus getting into an accident and ruining the vice principal’s car. However while the four are in detention, a bunch of ghosts attack the school. The vice principal however does not believe that there were actual ghosts and repeatedly blame the four for the damage to the school. Thus they band together along with Scooby, who Shaggy had befriended to find the culprit and clear their names.
One of the biggest mistakes of the movie is having actual ghosts incorporated into the movie. This is something that might have worked in a sequel or something but given that it’s an origin story in vein of the mythos of the original series (as it references the first ever episode of the series involving the Black Knight Ghost towards the end), which never involved real monsters, it’s rather odd when you consider how it ties in with the gang’s skepticism in later adventures. One of the other flaws involving the ghosts is that the climax involves a horde of them being unleashed all over the city without any real stakes as they do not go towards the gang but rather just attack randomly throughout the city.
The movie also implies that Shaggy invented Scooby Snacks as he named them after Scooby since Scooby liked them so much. This is yet another strange plot point in context of the mythos of the franchise, as it’s kind of hard to believe that Shaggy got no credit for their creation much less manufactured them.
The gang’s friendship is also strange as they all come from completely different social backgrounds and the only thing that brings them together is their love for mysteries which is very tacked on and there isn’t much time to explore any further as the attack on the school happens within minutes and the gang is off solving the mystery. To the movie’s credit, all the actors do a good job of capturing the personalities of the characters we know and love and the aforementioned social backgrounds tie in well to establish them. And once the movie goes into drive for the gang to solve the mystery, the way they interact off one another and gather the clues feels believable. The movie could have used more interactions with the members of the gang in the first third but the interactions they have during the last two thirds of the movie are enjoyable.
While it is nice that they got Frank Welker to voice Scooby just as he did in the cartoon, the movie went out of its way to make Scooby look exactly like the cartoon. As a result he looks rather two-dimensional and poorly animated. With that being said, the meeting between Shaggy and Scooby (in addition to how he’s known as Scooby) was handled well enough.
Like the previous live-action movies the mystery on paper is not a bad one (and the culprit’s motivation works well in context of the motivations that the villains in the show would have) but again the execution is off. The movie tries to set up red herrings in the janitor, the librarian, and the vice principal but with no real logic or reason as to how their gripes tie into the motivation of the villain. As a result once again, the reveal is rather obvious.
In regards to the jokes of the movie there are a fair couple that can get a laugh. For instance when Shaggy and Scooby are running away from the ghosts one of them corrects his grammar by telling him to never start a sentence with the word like. After the vice principal expels the gang from the school and threatens to have them arrested for trespassing should they ever be found on school property again, they decide to disguise themselves to infiltrate the place. Shaggy and Scooby go as trash cans, Fred goes looking like Vanilla Ice, and Daphne goes as a goth girl. While at the school Fred and Daphne find out that the janitor yearns to be a dance star. At the same time, a disguised Velma gets involved in a brief Russian conversation with the librarian.
Scooby-Doo the Mystery Begins isn’t a horrible movie but it leaves a lot to be desired. The actors turned in some decent performances and some of the jokes are funny. But in regards to establishing an origin story and tying in with the various mythoi that the franchise has established it misses the mark in many respects.