Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the item reviewed. The opinions shared are the writer's own.
As the Scooby-Doo fan in residence, the painful demise of the franchise has been swift. The most recent series, Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! was problematic from the start but even with a couple interesting episodes, it ended poorly with the remaining episodes dumped onto the website. A proud series that dates back to the Saturday mornings when Hanna-Barbera ruled the airwaves doesn't even rate a 30-minute spot on Boomerang anymore. The one-off appearance crossover with Supernatural and the parody/tribute book Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero showed some new life but it is fleeting and mostly under the pop culture radar. Amidst this drop in popularity comes a direct-to-video film called Daphne & Velma as a live-action attempt to find a new tween fan base for the show starring the female leads. Warner Bros has released the movie on DVD and Blu-ray on May 22, 2018 with only the very basic of promotions that even a fan like myself was slightly aware of what the movie was about.
The movie traces the origins of the friendship between Daphne and Velma. The two have been online friends when Daphne Blake (Sarah Jeffrey) transfers to the super STEM-influenced, high-tech Ridge Valley High to join Velma Dinkley (Sarah Gilman). The setup of typical high school hijinx take a turn when students start showing up as "zombies". Don't think of Walking Dead or Day of the Dead zombies but more of sleep-walking and emotionless "zombies". This is something only acknowledged by Daphne and Velma, with the adults clueless as to what's happening around them - the girls embark upon what is a derivative solution to the mystery made to make the viewer feel like it's somehow a Scooby mystery. Throw in a few robots, spiders, and wacky gadgets and boom, mystery solved.
I don't even know where to start. If you have to call your product "Original Movie", I'd hope you were trying to live up to the word "original". Turns out they barely lived up to the word "movie" at just barely a 75-minute entry. The production is directed and acted and executive produced by women, which is a great message for the youth. But it also feels like a bit of a dress-up play put together by people who have not put in much research to the franchise or characters. The great thing about the series has always been how Daphne and Velma play key roles in solving the mysteries. Their equality was never challenged. Telling an origin story of the two women without the guys feels just like that - forced and missing something. Take away the title character, a talking dog, and the comedy of how Daphne and Velma smartly play off Scooby, Fred, and Shaggy is lost.
This is a mess. No matter how I try to spin it. I just can't reconcile it from a Warner Bros' point of view. Did they just need to give Ashley Tisdale something to produce? The days of releasing movies directly to home video feels like a great 1998 move but not so much in 2018. Release it to Netflix or Amazon or even some Cartoon Network site but why to DVD? Who is this marketed for? The movie appeals at best to the 10-to-14-year-old who probably mostly watches Nick and Disney XD. I don't feel like they are big movers on the Blu-ray market.
No one wants this franchise to work more than me. But this isn't the path. The template is there in the Supernatural episode and in Meddling Kids - this is an excuse for WB to not greenlight any new Scooby project for a decade. I want more positive mystery-solving adventures, not low-budget retreads that don't humor or scare. The Blu-ray includes extras "Daphne & Velma: A New Ambition", "Iconic Styles of Daphne & Velma Reimagined", and "An Updated Classic Mystery" that all try to make the release feel more attached to the franchise than the actual "original movie" does. If your child is showing interest in the series - this isn't a good starting point.