Scooby-Doo, where ARE you?
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Scooby-Doo – the first episode of Hanna-Barbera’s spooky cartoon Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was aired in 1969 – and the past five decades have seen countless iterations of the Scooby gang’s adventures, including multiple animated shows, direct-to-video animated movies – some under the Lego label – and several live action movies, including two (2002’s Scooby-Doo and 2004’s Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed) that found their way into cinemas. They’ve met the rock band KISS!, had not one but two adventures with Batman, introduced a new character – Scooby-Doo’s fearless cousin, Scrappy Doo – who did for Scooby-Doo what Poochie did for Itchy and Scratchy, and solved more mysteries than Jessica Fletcher and Mrs Marple put together. But their strangest screen incarnation yet may be the direct-to-video feature film Daphne & Velma, in which the female half of the Scooby gang get their very own live action movie. And as if taking a sisters-doing-it-for-themselves approach wasn’t ‘woke’ enough for 2019, Daphne is played by a mixed-race actress (Sarah Jeffery), making her the first person of colour to be part of the Scooby gang. Right on, Scoob!
On paper, it’s all good: Daphne & Velma takes place before Daphne Blake (Jeffery) and Velma Dinkleuy (Sarah Gilman) met Fred, Shaggy and his great dane Scooby-Doo – in fact, as the story begins, Daphne and Velma have only met each other online, although that changes when Daphne moves to Velma’s home town, Ridge Valley, and attends the same high school. The orange-haired one is surprised that the orange-jumpered one isn’t a bit more welcoming, but she soon learns that Velma is already deep in a mystery, and is afraid of pulling Daphne in with her. It seems that some students at Ridge Valley High, which is sponsored by a mysterious tech billionaire, have become “zombified”, walking around like automata and apparently able to say only “I’m good” when challenged about why they have, say, fallen asleep while standing up in science class, or are suddenly flunking Driver’s Ed. As if this wasn’t enough trouble, what with the SATs coming up and all, Daphne’s own father is behaving strangely, a fact that may or may not be linked to the mystery at Ridge Valley High. Whoever or whatever is behind the spooky goings-on, they’d no doubt have gotten away with it, if it wasn’t for these meddling chicks.
The film itself is stranger than anything going on at Ridge Valley High. It was a strange decision to have Velma actively resisting being Daphne’s friend “IRL” when they’d already been buddies online; wouldn’t it have made more sense for them to start as strangers, before having the two opposites – the spunky, fashion-conscious Daphne and booksmart, socially awkward Velma – forced together by circumstances and slowly become friends? That’s just one of the umpteen questions raised by a bizarro screenplay that feels like a fan film improvised by two enthusiastic Scooby-Doo cosplayers. The plot takes one bizarre turn after another, the comedy moments rarely land, the production value make the average Disney Channel series look like the MCU. The whole enterprise feels like somebody at Hanna-Barbera said “We want a Daphne and Velma movie, and we don’t want it good, we want it Tuesday!” And yet…
Is Daphne & Velma a Good Movie for Kids?
I watched Daphne & Velma with my 7-year-old daughter, who’s a huge Scooby fan, and loves Daphne and Velma equally – and she was riveted from start to finish. She loved Sarahs Jeffery and Gilman’s interpretation of the characters, bought into the bizarro plot, and was suitably surprised when the villain was unmasked, in traditional Scooby style. It’s slipshod, ramshackle, amateurish… and yet the two Sarahs throw themselves into their parts with such gusto, it’s hard not to be charmed – especially if you’re 7. It may only be a ★ movie, but after 50 years of #ScoobySoWhite, it deserves an extra ★ for adventurous casting. Rooby-roo!