Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided the writer with a free copy of the DVD reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions share are his own.
This February sees the release of the 32nd direct-to-video Scooby-Doo! movie. The series continues to bounce back and forth between a couple different genres. The previous Halloween movie had a contemporary setting where the gang crosses over with celebrities and other Warner Bros. characters. The newest release, Scooby-Doo! The Sword and the Scoob, sends the gang time traveling back to the Middle Ages and the legend of King Arthur. This film pulls from the same category as Scooby-Doo! and the Loch Ness Monster, Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy, and Scooby-Doo! and the Samurai Sword. The group is pulled into a mystery that involves a myth, old culture, or historical era where the plot can revolve around a parody of multiple movies and stories as the gang solves a mystery that runs through it.
The movie has a quick set-up that follows a now established formula. It starts like a Bond film with the end of one mystery that leads into the main plot of the movie. We discover that Shaggy might be a descendant of King Arthur and the gang travels to England. After an obligatory tour of the scenery of London and Stonehenge, the group is sent back to Medieval Times to Camelot. The movie runs a variety of parodies of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Sword in the Stone, and Excalibur just to mention a few. Not to leave out any potential crossovers, there’s a healthy nod to Thundarr the Barbarian.
In the direct-to-video movies, there’s a comfort level in the predictable flow of the action. There will be at least one eating montage, one travel montage, and at least a single musical chase scene. Those are all present here and I’m not sure there’s much room to expand the franchise in this format. After over fifty years, it’s difficult to not feel like we are covering the same ground. This is not the first time the group has dealt with castles, wizards, dragons, and swords. The story ticks off all the buttons of a classic Scooby-Doo mystery but it’s a bit like eating a comfortable meal again. It’s good but is it good enough to eat three to four times a year? That’s where the questions really start as you start your sixth decade of solving mysteries with your dog.
The voice cast remains familiar for people who have kept up with the past few years of films. Frank Welker has owned the Scooby-Doo and Fred Jones voices. Matthew Lillard is a fan favorite as Shaggy. Grey Griffin as Daphne and Kate Micucci as Velma are comfortable in their roles. The two guest voices in this movie are Jason Isaacs as King Arthur Pendragon and Nick Frost as Merlin (a great fit that was underutilized). The overall feeling is entertained but unimpressed. The scripts are increasingly portraying Fred as clueless, not in that he isn’t observant but in a way that is bordering on annoying. They are reaching with Daphne’s character to make her very hip and at the same time a closet Lara Croft character. Even here, Velma has some good clues that end up helping solve the mystery but as a viewer we aren’t presented the clues honestly to help us solve it along with her. It is just those small changes that leave too much entertainment potential on the table for this effort.
The extras are three similarly themed classic episodes. “Scared a Lot in Camelot” from the Scooby-Doo / Dynomutt Hour, and “What a Night for a Knight” and “Hassle in the Castle” from Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! The latter are the first and third episodes of the property and are quite a contrast to the new movie. It’s interesting to note the way the storytelling has changed. It’s a good illustration of how the structure doesn’t have to exclude telling a mystery in order to deliver the comedy and hijinks.
The King Arthur legend is a great backdrop for adventure and our Mystery Inc. gang is up for the challenge. The quest for laughter just happens to overwhelm the entertainment of a good mystery this time around.