Review: ‘Firestarter’ (2022), starring Zac Efron, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Sydney Lemmon, Kurtwood Smith, John Beasley, Michael Greyeyes and Gloria Reuben

May 12, 2022

by Carla Hay

Zac Efron and Ryan Kiera Armstrong in “Firestarter” (Photo by Ken Woroner/Universal Pictures)

“Firestarter” (2022)

Directed by Keith Thomas

Culture Representation: Taking place mostly in Lewiston, New York, the horror film “Firestarter” features a cast of predominantly white characters (with some African Americans, Latinos and one Native American) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A psychic father goes on the run with his 11-year-daughter, who has the deadly ability to start fires through her mind power, and they are fugitives of the U.S. government and law enforcement. 

Culture Audience: “Firestarter” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Zac Efron and the Stephen King novel on which the movie is based, but the movie is another failed attempt to do justice to the book.

Michael Greyeyes in “Firestarter” (Photo by Ken Woroner/Universal Pictures)

The 1984 and 2022 versions of “Firestarter” are both awful horror movies for different reasons. The 2022 version has better acting than the 1984 version, but the screenplay is worse. It’s a dull, incoherent mess with the last 15 minutes as the most heinous. The 2022 edition of “Firestarter” is from the horror-oriented Blumhouse Productions, which has a “hit and miss” track record, when it comes to putting out quality films. The same can be said of any movie adapted from a Stephen King novel or short story. “Firestarter” is based on King’s 1980 novel of the same name.

Directed by Keith Thomas and written by Scott Teems, the 2022 version of “Firestarter” should get a little credit for not being a copycat of the 1984 version. But that’s not saying much when the 2022 version is a tedious remake that takes too long to get to the “fugitives on the run” aspect of the story that was shown right away in the 1984 version of “Firestarter.” The first two-thirds of the 2002 movie are bogged down with a lot of repetitive scenes that don’t effectively further the story and in fact stall it on very monotonous levels. And the ending of the 2022 “Firestarter” movie is drastically different than the ending of both the book and the 1984 movie.

And even worse: The title character in the 2022 version of “Firestarter” goes from being a compassionate child to being a ruthless killer during a certain part of the movie. It’s a huge change in personality that looks very phony and hard to believe. People watching “Firestarter” already know that this girl has the ability to kill people with her fire-starting powers. But when she starts killing for reasons that aren’t really justified (and one of her murders is particularly shocking and despicable), it’s going to be a problem for a lot of audience members to see an 11-year-old child depicted in a way that doesn’t stay true to the book or the 1984 movie.

In both movies, a father named Andy McGee and his pre-teen daughter Charlene “Charlie” McGee are being hunted by the U.S. government because they both have unusual abilities as the result of a top-secret experiments that the father underwent when he was a college student. The research was being conducted in a lab by a mysterious government agency called The Shop, which administered a psychedelic drug called Lot 6 to the research participants, who were usually young people desperate for money. Andy met his future wife Vicky (the mother of Charlie) during these experiments.

As a result of these experiments, Andy developed psychic abilities where he could exert control over other people’s minds. Vicky also developed psychic abilities too, but not to the extent that she had mind control powers. Meanwhile, Charlie’s psychic powers came with the ability to start fires with her mind. She’s most likely to start fires when she’s angry or afraid.

Both movies also have a scene where Charlie gets angry at her mother and accidentally sets her mother’s hands on fire. And both movies show that when Charlie starts to get worked up, the temperature rises considerably wherever she’s at, and people start to sweat as a result. Charlie has to be trained to control her fire-starting abilities, but any training she gets isn’t enough. Meanwhile, Andy’s psychic abilities put a strain on his mind, which has internal hemorrhaging every time he uses his abilities, resulting in blood coming out of his eyes.

Back when Syfy was called the Sci-Fi Channel, it had a 2002 miniseries called “Firestarter 2: Rekindled,” which was about Charlie as an adult. This low-quality sequel series is not essential viewing along with any “Firestarter” movie. In fact, it’s not essential viewing for anyone who likes good entertainment.

In the 1984 “Firestarter” movie, Vicky is already dead, but she is seen in flashbacks. In the 1984 version of “Firestarter” (directed by Mark L. Lester and written by Stanley Mann), the McGee family was played by Drew Barrymore as Charlie, David Keith as Andy, and Heather Locklear as Vicky. It’s a very sloppily edited film with terrible dialogue and campy theatrics, including over-acting by Keith and co-stars such as Martin Sheen and George C. Scott.

In the 2022 “Firestarter” movie, a lot of screen time (about half of the movie) is taken up showing Andy (played by Zac Efron) and Vicky (played by Sydney Lemmon) raising 11-year-old Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) in Lewiston, New York. (The movie was actually filmed in the Canadian city of Hamilton, Ontario.) Both parents have very different opinions on how to handle Charlie’s fire-starting abilities. Vicky strongly believes that they should train Charlie to control these abilities. Andy disagrees.

“We have to protect her,” Andy tells Vicky, who replies: “Training is protecting.” There’s cause for concern, because Charlie has told them that, after a three-year hiatus, her “bad thing” has started to come back. “Something feels weird. My body.” And she says it’s not puberty.

The experiments that Andy and Vicky underwent in collage are breezed through in an opening-credits montage that shows quick flashbacks and voiceovers. These experiments were led by Dr. Joseph Wanless (played by Kurtwood Smith), who is seen later in the movie in a scene that doesn’t have very good placement in the story. The U.S. government has been looking for people who underwent these experiments to possibly use their superpowers as weapons of mass destruction.

The first half of the 2022 version of “Firestarter” has a lot of monotonous scenes of Andy, Vicky and Charlie at home, work or school. Andy’s backstory is briefly explained in the experiments montage, where he tells Dr. Wanless in an interview that he was orphaned at the age of 7 years old because his parents died in a car accident. When Andy is asked if he’s ever had an authentic psychic experience, he reveals that he had a premonition about this fatal car accident a week before it happened. The movie doesn’t bother to reveal anything about Vicky’s family background.

Andy works as a life coach/therapist, where he puts people through hypnosis/mind control to solve whatever personal problem they want to be solved There’s an unnecessary scene that shows Andy doing just that in a session with a client named Darla Gurney (played by Hannan Younis), who wants to quit smoking. Apparently, Andy and Vicky never thought about Andy controlling Charlie’s mind to brainwash her into not starting fires. Maybe Charlie is immune to this kind of mind control, but the movie never says so either way.

The 2022 version of “Firestarter” also spends considerable time showing Charlie in school, which is something that the 1984 “Firestarter” movie didn’t waste time showing. Charlie (who is a quiet and introverted student) is harassed in school by a bully named Gavin (played by Gavin Maciver-Wright), who picks on Charlie because he thinks she and her family are weird. For example, Gavin taunts Charlie because her parents won’t let her use the Internet.

Charlie’s teacher Ms. Gardner (played by Tina Jung) gently suggests to Charlie that Charlie can use the Internet at school to help her with her homework, but Charlie says that her mother has told her that using computers for extended periods of time can cause health problems. Later at home, Charlie pleads with her mother to get Internet access in their home.

Vicky is firm with her response: “That stuff rots your brains. We can’t afford it right now.” Charlie later finds out the real reason why her parents don’t want to have Internet access or computers: They think it will make the U.S. government easier to track them and spy on them.

In a scene that takes place in a school gym, the kids are playing dodgeball, and Gavin cruelly throws the ball at the back of Charlie’s head. The throw is hard enough to definitely hurt Charlie, who runs away and hides in a school restroom. Gavin calls Charlie a “loser” and sneers, “Yeah, run away, you freak!”

Ms. Gardner is the teacher on duty, so she follows Charlie in the restroom and is shocked to see the restroom filled with smoke. And as soon as she walks in, Ms. Gardner sees a closed restroom stall have its door blown wide open, as if an explosion was set off in the stall. The teacher sees Charlie come out of the stall, so Charlie gets in trouble for the damage.

The police are called to investigate. Charlie’s parents try to smooth things over and insist that Charlie did not set off an explosive device, but they can’t say the real reason why the restroom stall exploded. When the parents are at home, Andy has this to say about this explosive incident: “Our cover’s been blown.” Andy knows it’s only a matter of time before The Shop finds out about Charlie.

And he’s right. The McGee family gets on the radar of an official from The Shop named Captain June Hollister (played by Gloria Reuben), who sets a plan in motion to capture Andy and Charlie. She contacts an embittered war veteran named Rainbird (played by Michael Greyeyes) to enlist him as a hired mercenary. His mission is to find Andy and Charlie and bring them in for research. Captain Hollister insists that unlike previous mercenary jobs that Rainbird has done for the U.S. government, this quarry (Charlie and Andy) must be brought back alive.

The movie hints that Rainbird has been mistreated by the government, so Captain Hollister tries to appeal to him, by saying that his mistreatment came from “the old guard … I’m the new [guard].” Rainbird also drops a big hint about his own personal experiences with government experiments: “Before they tested their poison on pretty young co-eds, they had to use the lab rats.”

The Rainbird character was also in the “Firestarter” book, but he was not the main pursuer in the 1984 “Firestarter” movie. Instead, 1984’s “Firestarter” had a bunch of nameless government agents (all men, usually in business suits) in physical pursuit of Andy and Charlie, while Rainbird (played by Scott) makes his move much later in the story. In the 2022 “Firestarter” movie, it looks completely unrealistic that Rainbird is the lone person (without any real backup) looking for Andy and Charlie. If Andy and Charlie are so important to The Shop, there should be teams of trained professionals who go out looking for these two people with dangerous psychic abilities.

At any rate, Rainbird breaks into the McGee home, which results in Andy and Charlie escaping and going on the run without Vicky, whose fate is shown in this home invasion scene. Both “Firestarter” movies have a scene of Andy and Charlie temporarily hiding at a rural farm home. In the 2022 version of “Firestarter,” this hideout scenario happens when fugitives Andy and Charlie get a truck ride from a stranger named Irv Manders (played by John Beasley), who ends up inviting Andy and Charlie into his farm home for a temporary place to stay.

Not all of Charlie’s victims are human. After Charlie and Andy go on the run, there’s a scene where Charlie sees a stray cat and tries to pet it, but the cat scratches her out of fear. This unlucky feline then gets scorched to death.

When Charlie and Andy bury the cat and pray over this makeshift grave, Andy seems more concerned about the cat than the fact that Vicky is no longer with them. Vicky seems almost like an afterthought in this prayer scene, when Charlie says offhandedly toward the end of the prayer: “And bless mommy too,” as a reminder to Andy that they shouldn’t just be praying about the dead cat.

One of the most unrealistic aspects of the 2022 version of “Firestarter” is that when people get burned by Charlie’s fire, they almost never scream out in pain. It’s an odd choice to not have this type of screaming in a horror movie. There are also unrealistic scenes where Charlie should be burned by all the flames or overcome by all the smoke in a blazing room, but she’s not.

Most of Charlie’s freakout fire blazes don’t happen until the last third of the movie, but hardly anything in this boring sludge of a story is scary. The acting in the 1984 “Firestarter” movie was very over-the-top, and it was bad in a “train wreck” type of way. In comparison, the acting in the 2022 “Firestarter” movie is a little more professional and polished, but much of it is too restrained and often downright lackluster, especially from Efron, who is never convincing as a grieving husband.

Charlie goes from being a meek child who’s scared of her fire-starting powers for most of the movie to a sudden transformation into a rampaging, cold-blooded serial killer. It’s a jarring and extreme change that makes Charlie look like she’s got a personality disorder too. The ending of the 2022 version of “Firestarter” is what really makes it irredeemable, because it’s just mindless mayhem that tries to overcompensate for the lack of scares in most of this disjointed, bland and misguided movie.

Universal Pictures will release “Firestarter” in U.S. cinemas and on Peacock on May 13, 2022.

Review: ‘Gold’ (2022), starring Zac Efron

April 22, 2022

by Carla Hay

Zac Efron in “Gold” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

“Gold” (2022)

Directed by Anthony Hayes

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed location, the dramatic film “Gold” features a nearly all-white cast characters (with a few Aborigines who make brief appearances) representing the working-class.

Culture Clash: Two men find a gold treasure in the desert, and one of the men leaves to find an excavator that can get the gold out of the ground, while the other man stays behind to guard the gold, and he encounters some dangerous situations. 

Culture Audience: “Gold” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star Zac Efron and anyone who is interested in watching a well-acted survivalist story, despite not having much of a plot.

Anthony Hayes and Zac Efron in “Gold” (Photo courtesy of Screen Media Films)

Gritty and minimalist, “Gold” is a desert survival story with an ending that could’ve been better, but the movie’s lead performance by Zac Efron is compelling enough to maintain viewer interest. “Gold” is not the movie for you if you want all suspenseful movies to have a lot of dialogue. Most of “Gold” shows Efron’s unnamed character alone in the desert, with no talking in long stretches of the movie.

“Gold” isn’t a movie like Tom Hanks’ 2000 film “Cast Away,” where Hanks’ character was stranded on a deserted island and talked a lot to himself and a wilted volleyball that he called Wilson. “Gold” is as dirty and dusty as the landscape where Efron’s character is stuck for most of the movie with no transportation. He’s waiting for a new acquaintance (played by Anthony Hayes), who also has no name in the movie, who has driven them both there and has taken his car to get help.

Why do they need help? The two men have found a massive, boulder-sized chunk of gold in the desert, but it’s too heavy and embedded to dislodge from the ground with their bare hands. Tying it to car with a rope didn’t work either. They need serious excavation equipment. Hayes directed “Gold” from a screenplay that he co-wrote with Polly Smyth.

How did these two strangers end up meeting? The beginning of “Gold” shows Efron’s character (listed as Man One in the film’s credits) boarding a cargo train, because he’s on his way to an outpost to get a ride to a compound, where he hopes to get an unspecified job involving physical labor. This character is a loner who gives the impression that he’s down on his luck and needs this job, which he calls a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” Hayes’ character (who is called Man Two in the film’s credits) is tasked with giving Man One a ride to this compound in Man Two’s truck.

“Gold” was filmed on location in South Australia, although the movie never comes right out and says where the movie takes place. Hayes (who is Australian in real life) has an American accent in the movie, while Efron keeps his natural American accent. When Efron’s character is on the cargo train, he briefly encounters an Aborigine woman (played by Akuol Ngot) and her infant child (played by Thiik Biar), which is the only real clue that this movie was filmed Down Under.

The time period in which “Gold” takes place is also not explicitly stated, although the movie’s production notes say that “Gold” is supposed to take place in the “not too distant future.” There are big indications that it’s in a post-apocalyptic era, because there are mentions of a disaster that has caused factions of people in the land to fight each other for food, water and other resources. In this land, there are pay phones and mobile phones, but the mobile phones look like walkie talkies.

When Man One is stranded out in the desert, his only form of communication is a mobile phone, but the movie never explains how Man One can use the phone without any phone towers or WiFi service. That’s why “Gold” has a somewhat sci-fi otherworldly tone to it, although it’s implied that everything in the movie is happening somewhere on Earth. “Gold” was deliberately filmed to take place in an unspecified decade, although the mention of automobiles using gas still ties it to a period of time when most cars needed gas to operate.

Man One and Man Two have to travel through the desert to get to the compound. And the most predictable thing in a road trip movie happens in “Gold”: The travelers have car trouble. In this case, it’s a flat tire, which Man Two changes with a spare tire.

While staying overnight in the desert, the two men have a conversation around a campfire. Man One gives a little more information about himself. He says he’s from the west (whatever that means), while Man Two comments that “people are turning on each other.” The driver also says that there’s a “mass exodus down south” and that “pretty soon, hordes of people will be coming this way.”

Man One shows Man Two a flyer for the compound that lured Man One into starting a new life there. The flyer says, “In just four months, you’ll be a changed man. Work at the compound.” Man Two scoffs at the flyer and tells Man One that he will be a “target” at the compound because of his “puppy-dog eyes and right nature.”

But is this man who’s determined to change his life at the compound so gullible and innocent as the other man thinks he is? Man One says of any trouble he might find at the compound, “I can handle it.” Man Two says skeptically, “I’m sure you can.”

It isn’t long before the two men find the gold that completely changes the original intention of their trip. The gold is too heavy to take out of the ground. A decision is made that one of the men will go find an excavator with the equipment and transportation to be able to lift the gold. The other man will stay behind and guard the gold.

Both men debate over who should be the one to leave and who should stay. At first, Man Two insists that he should be the one to stay because he thinks he’s more experienced at handling the dangers of this desert. However, Man One stands firm in saying that he should be the one to stay because Man Two has the personal connections to get the excavator they need quicker than Man One, who doesn’t know anyone who can help them.

The rest of “Gold” shows what happens when Man One is left behind to guard the gold. There are the expected problems with wild animals, harsh desert weather and the very real possibility of dying of dehydration. Man One has a supply of water in the beginning, but it should come as no surprise when that water supply is compromised. And there’s always the underlying question: Who can really be trusted among the people who find out about this gold treasure?

Perhaps the biggest threat that Man One encounters is with any other human being whose intentions are not clear and could be a possible attacker. As shown in the trailer for “Gold,” this potential threat happens in the last third of the movie when a mysterious woman with an Irish accent (played by Susie Porter) shows up and starts asking Man One a lot of questions in a suspicious manner. It’s here where “Gold” becomes more of a tension-filled thriller.

“Gold” is a fairly simple story, but it shows impactfully how greed and survival can be intertwined and can affect each other in ways that aren’t always healthy. Efron, who gets the vast majority of screen time in “Gold,” gives an obviously physically challenging performance, but he also brings some depth to the psychological transformation his character undergoes during the course of the story. The pacing of “Gold” might be too slow for viewers who are expecting more of an action-adventure film instead of an introspective character study.

The movie invites viewers to think about how priorities can shift when it comes to the lengths that people will go to for “get rich quick” schemes. It shows that wealth can make people even more of a target of crime, danger and other bad intentions, and thereby fuel paranoia and mistrust. Although some viewers might not like the final minute in the last scene of “Gold,” it leaves viewers to ponder if what these characters do in the movie was really worth it in the end.

Screen Media Films released “Gold” in select U.S. cinemas on March 11, 2022. The movie is set for release on Blu-ray and DVD on June 14, 2022.

Review: ‘Scoob!,’ starring Will Forte, Frank Welker, Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried, Mark Wahlberg, Gina Rodriguez and Jason Isaacs

May 16, 2020

by Carla Hay

Daphne (voiced by Amanda Seyfried), Velma (voiced by Gina Rodriguez), Shaggy (voiced by Will Forte), Fred (voiced by Zac Efron) and Scooby-Doo (voiced by Frank Welker) in “Scoob!” (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

“Scoob!”

Directed by Tony Cervone

Culture Representation: Taking place primarily in California’s Venice Beach and other parts of the universe, the animated film “Scoob!” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans, Asians and Latinos) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A villain is out to kidnap Scooby-Doo, the lovable, talking Great Dane that’s the best friend of one of the four young people who’ve started a detective agency called Mystery Inc.

Culture Audience: “Scoob!” will appeal primarily to fans of the original “Scooby Doo” TV cartoon series and to people who are looking for lightweight animation for entertainment.

Dick Dastardly (voiced by Jason Isaacs) and Scooby-Doo (voiced  by Frank Welker) in “Scoob!” (Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

People who loved the original “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” TV series should brace themselves if they see the animated film “Scoob!,” because the uncomplicated charm of the TV show has been turned into a overly busy, often-mediocre film that has a serious identity crisis. The “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” TV series was essentially a detective show, with each mystery solved at the end of each episode. The “Scoob!” movie tries to be too many things at once—a comedy, a mystery, a superhero story, a supernatural horror movie and a sci-fi adventure. But the worst change in the “Scoob!” movie is that Scooby-Doo and the four young detectives at the heart of the “Scooby-Doo” series are split up for most of the “Scoob!” movie.

“Scoob!” begins with showing how the talking Great Dane known as Scooby-Doo ended up with his best friend Shaggy. In the bohemian beach city of Venice, California, a homeless Great Dane puppy is being chased by a bicycle cop and hides out in a mound of sand on the beach. It just so happens that a lonely boy named Norville “Shaggy” Rogers (who’s about 9 or 10 years old) is nearby on the same beach and discovers the dog.

Shaggy names the dog Scooby Dooby Doo. And when the bicycle cop catches up to the dog, Shaggy convinces the cop that he’s the dog’s rightful owner. Shaggy takes Scooby home with him, and they become fast friends. As a token of their friendship, Shaggy gives Scooby a dog collar with a tag engraved with the initials “SD” on it.

Shaggy’s favorite superhero is Blue Falcon, who has a canine sidekick named Dynomutt. Shaggy keeps action figures and pictures of them in his room. Shaggy is such a fan that, for Halloween, he dresses up as Blue Falcon and Scooby as Dynomutt. While they’re out trick-or-treating, some kid bullies steal Shaggy’s candy and knock him  and Scooby down on the sidewalk as they run away.

It’s here that Shaggy and Scooby first meet the three young people who will become their close friends: brawny Fred, compassionate Daphne and brainy Velma. For their Halloween costumes, Fred is dressed as a knight in armor, Daphne is dressed as Wonder Woman and Daphne is dressed as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Shaggy mistakes Daphne for trying to be someone in a “Harry Potter” movie.

Fred, Daphne and Velma offer to help Shaggy after seeing him get knocked down, but he says the only things that are bruised are his “ego and tailfeathers.” (This line is one of the many signs that this movie was written by adults who can’t write realistic kids’ dialogue.) As soon as Scooby and this quartet of new friends start to bond, they encounter their first big mystery together, as they enter what’s rumored to be a haunted house.

They’re immediately terrorized by a menacing ghost in the house. Instead of running away (which is always Shaggy’s inclination), they band together to fight the ghost, which turns out not to be ghost, but a thief who has kept a houseful of stolen electronics and appliances stashed there. And, of course, when he’s arrested, he snarls that he would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for those meddling kids. It’s the first real mystery solved by the four friends and Scooby.

Fast forward about 10 years later, and the four friends are now in their late teens/early 20s. They’ve started a detective agency named Mystery Inc., and are trying to figure out how to raise money to keep the business going. While they have a meeting at a diner, Velma (voiced by Gina Rodriguez) thinks that they should find investors.

And lo and behold, Simon Cowell (voiced by the real Cowell) randomly shows up unannounced at the diner, sits down at the table, and says that he’s willing to invest in the detective agency—but only if they get rid of Shaggy and Scooby, since Cowell thinks they’re useless. Cowell cynically adds, “When you get in trouble, friendship won’t save the day.”

Shaggy and Scooby are so insulted, that they don’t wait around to hear how Fred (voiced by Zac Efron), Daphne (voiced Amanda Seyfried) and Velma react to Cowell’s ultimatum to get rid of Shaggy and Scooby. Leaving in a huff, Shaggy and Scooby end up at a bowling alley, where they encounter bowling balls and bowling pins that turn into minion-like robots with chainsaws for hands.

The robots chase Shaggy and Scooby around a bowling alley. Just then, a blue light beams down. It’s the Falcon Fury spaceship owned by Blue Falcon (voiced by Mark Wahlberg) and navigated by pilot Dee Dee Skyes (voiced by Kiersey Clemons), who rescue Shaggy and Scooby from the robots. Dee Dee tells Shaggy and Scooby that the robots are from a villain called Dick Dastardly (voiced by Jason Isaacs).

While on the ship, Shaggy meets his hero Blue Falcon. The superhero is really a guy named Brian who’s taken over the Blue Falcon superhero persona from his retired father, and he hides his insecurity by putting up a blustery brave front. Dynomutt (voiced by Ken Jeong) has the power to extend his neck to great lengths and he’s a loyal and enthusiastic sidekick to Blue Falcon.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Velma has found out through research that Dick Dastardly is wanted by authorities for stealing archeological artifacts from Peru (including a giant skull of a dog) and for taking genealogical records of dogs from the Global Kennel Club. It’s pretty easy to figure out at this point that Scooby is the target of Dick Dastardly’s evil plans. But why? The movie answers that question, but there’s a lot of filler action, as the movie zigzags from genre to genre the way that the characters zig zig from Earth to outer space.

“Scoob!” has four screenwriters—Adam Sztykiel, Jack C. Donaldson, Derek Elliott and Matt Lieberman—and the whole movie gives the impression that the screenplay had “too many cooks in the kitchen.” It tries to be a comedy, but the jokes aren’t very good. When one of the characters calls athletic Fred “a poor man’s Hemsworth,” Fred asks, “Chris or Liam?” And the “mystery” in the movie is very easy to solve, even for young children who might be watching.

As for the animation, when there are Pixar movies in the world, many other animated films look inferior in comparison. The best action sequences in “Scoob!” are with the fearsome Cerberus (the three-headed hound of Hades), which has to do with the supernatural horror aspect of this messy film. There’s a chase scene through an abandoned amusement park that ramps up the action, but nothing in this movie is awards-worthy.

Although the actors do a good job with the screenplay that they’ve been given, it seems as if the Blue Falcon character was added to the world of Scooby-Doo just to jump on the bandwagon of superhero movies and to create a possible cinematic universe with various Hanna-Barbera characters. And the celebrity cameo from Cowell just seems weird and out of place. Cowell’s son Eric even has a voice role in the movie. (Did someone on the “Scoob!” filmmaking team owe Simon Cowell a favor?) Tracy Morgan has a cameo as Captain Caveman on Mystery Island, but his wacky character is very under-used in a script that needed more originality instead of a derivative superhero subplot.

And since Shaggy and Scooby are separated from Fred, Daphne and Velma during most of the movie, this estrangement ruins the original appeal of the “Scooby-Doo” series, which is all about the teamwork and camaraderie between this lovable dog and his four human friends. Another travesty: Mystery Inc.’s 1970s-style van the Mystery Machine is literally destroyed in the movie, which is an apt metaphor for how this movie wrecks the spirit of the original “Scooby-Doo” series. If “Scoob!” had stuck to a well-crafted story about a good mystery that needed solving—instead of trying to be too many things to too many people—then it would have turned out to be a much better movie.

Warner Bros. Pictures released “Scoob!” on digital and VOD on May 15, 2020.

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