The new movies just keep on coming.
With theaters continuing to be closed due to the ongoing pandemic, I’m frankly shocked at how many new, high profile releases are still coming out each week.
Both of the movies I watched this week were originally set to receive theatrical releases, but instead were released early to video-on-demand streaming services.
The first of which is an animated reimagining featuring everyone’s favorite mystery solving pooch, the second a film following the last days of the world’s most famous gangster, Al Capone.
Let’s get to the reviews.
First up is “Scoob!”
Since childhood, Shaggy (Will Forte), Fred (Will Forte), Velma (Will Forte), and Daphne (Will Forte) have been solving mysteries across the globe accompanied by Shaggy’s pet dog, Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker).
But their greatest mystery together comes in a turn of events when they run into the Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg) and his robotic dog sidekick Dynomutt (Ken Jeong), who is trying to stop his arch-rival, Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), from causing a global “dogpocalypse” by unleashing the great Cerberus upon the world.
What do you get when you take some of Hanna-Barbera’s most popular cartoon characters, shove them all in a blender, and toss the resulting animated slush on the big screen?
Why, you get this film of course.
Minus the “big screen” aspect since “Scoob!” was one of the many movies originally scheduled to be open in theaters, but was instead released straight to video-on-demand.
Either way we have our Hanna-Barbera slush in hand, and it really is interesting to see which of the old cast of characters Warner Bros. decided to throw in here.
Of course there’s Shaggy, Scooby, and the gang. But, in an odd twist, Fred, Velma, and Daphne practically end up playing second fiddle to a couple lesser known Hanna-Barbera characters, Dynomutt and Blue Falcon.
Heck, Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons), a character originally from “Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels,” is just as, if not more prominent here than Shaggy and Scooby’s friends.
I guess if you’re already going that far out of your way to add more characters from the Hanna-Barbera canon, you might as well throw in one of their most prominent villains. Especially if they have a name as fun as Dick Dastardly.
Frankly, I’m surprised the filmmakers had the restraint not to throw in Yogi Bear, Fred Flintstone, or the entire Jetson family, just for kicks. Though I’m sure future film reimaginings featuring all those characters are currently in the works.
You might be wondering why I keep talking about which characters they ended up cramming in this movie, instead of actually talking about the movie itself. And well, it’s because the movie isn’t all that interesting beyond who’s in it.
It’s not bad. It’s just not all that great either.
To the film’s credit, it looks nice. Warner Bros. contracted the animation work out to Reel FX Animation Studios, the studio which helped make “The Book of Life” back in 2014 and more recently “UglyDolls.”
Regardless of my thoughts on the overall quality of any of these films, Reel FX is definitely putting some quality work into their productions. Especially when you compare their films to blights on the animated world like last year’s “ Addams Family” movie. For me, the look of “Scoob!” was easily the biggest highlight
“Scoob!” is cartoony looking, and I mean that in the best possible way.
The film reminds me of an old fashioned cartoon. It’s all very colorful, and the characters are incredibly lively and very expressive. This is all heightened by all the goofy sound effects they added in for when someone falls, gets hit, or even when someone’s wiggling their fingers right before they’re about to grab something they shouldn’t.
I like the aesthetic as a whole. If Warner Bros. decides to make more films featuring dozens of Hanna-Barbera characters, I hope they bring back Reel FX. Just as long as they don’t bring back the writers for “Scoob!”
The story here is so lazy.
It all seems like a half-baked excuse to stitch all these Hanna-Barbera properties together. One after the other, after the other, after the other.
Of course there has to be some kind of internal conflict, so the movie briefly pits Scooby and Shaggy against each other, even though the setup leading up to their conflict is sloppy at best.
Blue Falcon decides to make Scooby a superhero because Dick Dastardly wants to kidnap him. Why? Because Falcon is a moron and takes his cues on who to make a hero from the bad guy? I guess?
This makes Shaggy a little jealous, but worse makes him feel like he’s losing a friend.
I could see this story element working. Heck, I’ve seen it work okay in dozens of other movies and TV shows. But setup behind is just so forced, not to mention plain stupid.
This leads into the film’s biggest problem of all. One involving setup and payoff.
In most good movies, and stories in general, you have lots of moments setting up things early on. Things which will eventually come into play later.
This film’s issue is that it’s all payoff, with very little setup.
There’s a lot of jokes and references that the movie expects the audience to be in on, but which are never actually set up in the film.
Maybe some would make more sense to those well versed in the Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but not all of them. Many are pop culture references that practically already feel dated.
The movie may have gotten a half-hearted chuckle out of me every once in a long while, but the large majority of the jokes fell completely flat.
I don’t know.
I kind of wish Warner Bros. would have taken the simpler route and made a movie just about Scooby and the gang. Add in your other Hanna-Barbera references if you want, but don’t make them the main focal point.
And certainly don’t throw them in a plot to save the world. This is Scooby-Doo, not “The Avengers.” Not every movie needs to have planet ending stakes for crying out loud.
“Scoob!” is far from an unwatchable animated feature. In fact, I expect many kids and parents alike to enjoy it just fine.
As for me though, all I see is a lost opportunity. A movie that could have been the small start of a series of films that could have grown into something grand, but just isn’t.
It seems Warner Bros. still hasn’t learned its lesson from entries in their other cinematic universes like “Batman v Superman” in the DC Extended Universe.
They’re impatient. They want their expanded, fully realized multi-movie spanning franchises up and running in the span of a single film. But despite their best efforts, this strategy of building a cinematic universe hasn’t worked. Not for Warner Bros., not for any Hollywood studio.
With the success of Marvel’s cinematic universe, all these studios are keen on manufacturing their own. Sadly, they lack the care and creative talent necessary to make a single high quality movie right out of the gate.
“Scoob!” is rated PG.
The other movie this week is “Capone.”
Once a ruthless businessman and bootlegger who ruled Chicago with an iron fist, Alfonse Capone (Tom Hardy) was the most infamous and feared gangster of American lore. But at the age of 47, following nearly a decade of imprisonment, dementia begins to rot Alfonse’s mind and his past becomes present.
As harrowing memories of his violent and brutal origins melt into his waking life, he spends his final year surrounded by family with the FBI lying in wait, all while this ailing patriarch struggles to place the memory of the location of millions of dollars he hid away on his property.
Oh Josh Trank. What are you doing man?
Back in 2012 you seemed like such an interesting up and coming director after the release of your first film, “Chronicle.”
I was a pretty big fan of “Chronicle” when it came out. At the time the “found footage” gimmick still seemed fairly fresh, and Trank’s film made for an interesting twist on the genre just by being a superhero/villain story.
Trank’s success with “Chronicle” quickly hoisted him into the spotlight, and not long after its release the young director had talks with Warner Bros., Sony, and 20th Century Fox to helm new projects from each studio.
But for better or worse, both the Sony and WB productions never made it off the ground with Trank attached. The young filmmaker did go on to direct a film for Fox though. And what a movie it turned out to be.
If you’ve never seen the 2015 version of “Fantastic Four” made by Josh Trank, then count yourself fortunate.
The film is a trainwreck.
Strong disagreements from Trank and the studio completely marred the production, with Trank wanting to take the film in a darker direction.
Ultimately the studio got their way, though it took a number of reshoots. All of which stand out like a sore thumb in the final film.
Plus the movie felt like it was missing an entire 45 minutes of runtime, which didn’t help the story much either.
Trank then did the unthinkable and trashed “Fantastic Four” on opening weekend tweeting “A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would’ve recieved [sic] great reviews. You’ll probably never see it. That’s reality though.”
To the surprise of no one, Trank had a tough time finding work in Hollywood after that comment, and has been on hiatus as a filmmaker ever since.
That is, until recently.
Through all of Trank’s issues with “Fantastic Four,” I had always hoped that it was the studio’s fault that the film ended up being such a disaster.
But after watching “Capone,” a film which Trank had complete control over the writing, directing, and editing, I’m not convinced “Fantastic Four” would have ended up any better under his singular vision.
“Capone” is a bizarre, deeply unpleasant film to watch. One with very little payoff for sitting through all its various oddities and outright disturbing scenes.
The whole thing feels like a prank pulled on the audience. Most of the time I was completely baffled, wondering why the things on screen were happening.
Why does Al Capone sound like the lovechild of a chain smoking toad and Baby Herman from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”
Why did Tom Hardy think making Capone sound like a cartoon character in a serious role was a good idea? Seriously. Hardy based his performance for Al Capone, the infamous gangster, on Bugs Bunny.
Also, Tom, what the heck are all the noises you’re making with your mouth. Those aren’t words Tom. Mumble grunts aren’t words.
Why is Al Capone constantly pooping his pants or peeing on himself? There’s other ways of showing that the man is incontinent. And we don’t need to see the messes he makes for goodness sake.
Why does Al Capone randomly dress in drag to sneak past the FBI’s watch? Why does he need to dress as a woman to go unnoticed? I know Bugs Bunny did it too, but that’s not a good excuse Tom.
Why does he need to sing The Cowardly Lion’s song “If I Were King of the Forest” from “The Wizard of Oz” at the top of his lungs during a screening of the film? Why do you hate me movie? Why?
Then there’s all the fever dream sequences where Capone relives dramatic moments during the heights of his reign. None of which seem to have much of a point, beyond being ridiculously violent. Nor do they tie into a greater overall narrative. Mostly because there isn’t an overall narrative.
Oh sure, there is a subplot about Capone’s estranged son, though the movie doesn’t do a very good job of showing why they’re alienated from each other in the first place.
They do eventually have a moment towards the end of the film, but it didn’t matter to me because the movie hadn’t bothered making me care about Capone or his illegitimate son.
There’s another subplot about Capone, his family, and the FBI searching for Capone’s lost money, which he squirreled away in the past. Naturally, that narrative thread goes absolutely nowhere and is left unresolved by the end of the film.
Why did you make this film Josh Trank? You went on a five year hiatus from making movies only to come back with this? I don’t understand.
I’m sorry Trank. After “Chronicle” I really wanted to be a fan of yours. I wanted to see you get another chance after “Fantastic Four.”
I just knew given the opportunity, and full creative control, you would come out with something fresh and captivating.
Something that would show that “Fantastic Four” was just a fluke. A case of studio interference gone amuck, through no fault of your own.
That sure does seem foolish now, doesn’t it?
Don’t watch “Capone.” It’s not worth the time nor the money to rent it. Even the biggest fans of Tom Hardy will find this strange dumpster fire of a film difficult to sit though.
“Capone” is rated R.