Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are those solely of the writer.
The Scooby-Doo franchise is releasing their 28th direct-to-video feature this month. Scooby-Doo and the Gourmet Ghost continues the crossovers the franchise has attempted in this format - WWE, Batman, KISS, etc. and returns to a more traditional story of haunted old mansions and food-related jokes. I've been on record lately as the resident Professor of Scooby Studies here as claiming the franchise is at an all-time low right now. The most recent TV series have failed to move the needle for viewers and fans. The movies have deviated from what was appealing about the franchise from the start. It's hard when the best things going for the series is the Supernatural crossover and the Meddling Kids book. I was ready to dismiss this entry on face value of the title that this included "famous chefs" but I went into it with an open mind hoping for the best.
The premise caught me right away because it's much closer to an amalgam of the classic television episodes. The group goes to visit Fred's uncle who happens to be famous chef, Bobby Flay. Chef Flay is running a chef school/resort at an old inn that is haunted back from Revolutionary times by the Red Ghost. Luckily, the return of the hauntings happen at the same time that Mystery Inc. is visiting the resort. In addition to Bobby Flay, the group is working with famous chef, Giada De Laurentiis. And that's the depth of the plot. Not anything more complicated than would cover a 30-minute episode for a 77-minute "film".
The consistent themes of the series that always bring enjoyment are all here. There is a historical ghost. In this case, the Red Ghost dates back over 200 years. There is food humor. That's here in ways that they could only dream of in other films. Shaggy and Scooby-Doo are at a resort with chefs. There's a plethora of jokes from the start about the appetite of the boys. If you don't like food jokes, then this movie will not be for you. The mystery involves music and chases. That's here too as the mystery unfolds. I was pleasantly surprised after the past few years of abandoning the classic format to see the return to a traditional mystery. It's awkward to throw in the "celebrity chefs" but it doesn't take away the quality of the film. The animation isn't the distracting anime style or computer-animated style of some of the past few films. It's just what you would expect - a ghost, a haunted resort and our crew solving the mystery. In between there are lots of food jokes, cat jokes (lots of cat jokes), and chases with ghosts. There is a Sous Chef named Sue - in case you need to know the level of humor we are dealing with here. The plot flows like what it essentially is - somewhere between two and three episodes of the television series.
The vocal cast has remained consistent over the years. And they are the strength of this film too. I miss Mindy Cohn as Velma but Kate Micucci has picked up the character quickly and I'm already hearing her as the character. The rest of the production and disc presentation remains consistent. There aren't many extras. There are some trailers for upcoming Warner Brothers releases. There are also three bonus cartoons with eating themes - What's New Scooby-Doo? with "Recipe For Disaster", A Pup Named Scooby-Doo with "Wanted: Cheddar Alive" and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated with "The Devouring". All of which are the pedigree of this episode. Interesting and daring to possibly overshadow your own film with the type of episodes you are trying to live up to.
I appreciate the return to a classic mystery for the direct-to-video releases. The chef theme was not as distracting or off putting as I had originally feared. The franchise still needs a shot in the arm. It could stand from either a "Rick and Morty meet Adventure Time" reboot or something in the vein of Riverdale to give some energy back to the Mystery Inc. Since they aren't knocking on my door for a spec script on that just yet - what we have here is probably the best we can hope for in the short term. A solid mystery filled with some fun jokes and hijinx.