Alex is a School of Visual Arts graduate with a passion for media, writing and animation. He writes reviews for film, television and games.
Since the 1960s, Scooby-Doo! became an iconic hit for its use of problem-solving, spooky nature, and memorable characters. However, after numerous attempts to branch out the franchise with mixed results, Hanna-Barbera decided to experiment with television specials/movies. For Scooby-Doo!, they started in 1978 with a musical-oriented special, Scooby Goes Hollywood, which satirized and parodied Hollywood and popular television shows at the time. Sometime later, Hanna-Barbera created a television movie series known as Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10 which ran during their Futuristic World programming block. While it had familiar favorites like The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones, three Scooby-Doo films were among the roster where each one is unique among the other. The first of the trilogy was Scooby-Doo! Meets the Boo Brothers.
Scooby-Doo, Shaggy, and Scrappy Doo (voiced by Don Messick and Casey Kasem) go on a treasure hunt to find Shaggy's inherited treasure. But when a series of unfortunate events occur, they called a group of ghost exterminators called The Boo Brothers for help, whom are surprisingly ghosts.
An Unfocused Mess with Thoughtful Clues and Real Ghosts
As soon as the movie begins, you will immediately notice something is quite different than usual. The Mystery Gang is simply Scooby, Shaggy and Scrappy. Velma, Fred and Daphne are absent and barely mentioned throughout the movie. True, there have been Scooby-Doo shows where the aforementioned characters don't appear as often before and Daphne would later be part of the main cast. But, for this movie's case, it's only the set-up of what's to come. The interesting factor of this set-up is Shaggy's family background where he learns that his late uncle was a Civil War colonel and left him his country estate. In order to find his inherited fortune, his uncle left them clues and each clue throughout the movie definitely elevates the problem solving element with cleverly written riddles. It is evident that writer definitely wanted to challenge its viewers instead of the simplicity that the original series offered.
However, once they do start their hunt, the usual strangeness and spookiness occur. Okay, before their arrival at the mansion, they were informed that a ghost . ape is lurking around. So, it's safe to assume that they should be on a lookout for- Suddenly, a headless horseman, a wolf and the Ghost of Shaggy's uncle attempt to attack them. Wait...what about the ape-? All of a sudden, we get introduced to creepy characters like the butler Farquard and a couple of hillbillies. Hold a minute, didn't the gang just encounter the ghost of-? Then, another ghost called The Ghost Skull is tormenting and wanting to claim the treasure himself and- HOLY SMOKES! WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?!
In case you haven't guess, one of the issues is that the plot goes all over the place with all these characters randomly appearing and losing track on the mystery itself. In other words, this story would get confusing after a while. In a Scooby-Doo episode, they always keep their focus on one mystery with one ghost. It's simple enough to make audiences understand. Now, since this is a movie, it is understandable that this an attempt to raise the stakes with these obstacles to make the treasure hunt as challenging as possible. Conceptually, it is not a bad idea for a Scooby-Doo movie. It was just executed a little too much. Once you do get past the crazy randomness, the movie still carries the spirit of the franchise, with elements such as Shaggy and Scooby's love for food and the mastermind of the whole mystery is someone in a ghost disguise.
Historically speaking, the main element of the concept that stands out from any Scooby-Doo movie at its time was the first-ever portrayal of real ghosts. While the original series always reminded us that ghosts don't exist, the movie gives a new take where the characters actually encounter actual supernatural beings. Okay, technically before this movie, the previous Scooby-Doo shows were occasionally experimenting with this idea, including The Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby-Doo featuring the legendary Vincent Price. Some fans thought that the first direct-to-video film Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island was the first to break the conventional of the original formula. In comparison to that film, the Boo Brothers are depicted more friendlier and comical, since the tone still maintains the lighthearted nature of any Hanna-Barbera project at the time.
Like any Scooby-Doo project, they also brighten up the mood with some comedy. Most of the humor relies on the slapstick whether it is Boo Brothers' antics or whenever the characters would bump into each other during a chase scene. Because of the mood, the results can be mixed since some of the slapstick does lead to payoffs with the Boo Brothers themselves being based on The Three Stooges, which I'll discuss later. Other times, the humor is tamed with one-liners and puns included. The story may have offered too much on its plate, but after a while, you'll be satisfied on what you had.
Average Animation with Some Creativity
Upon initial observation, it is no surprise that the production values on the animation looks on par as any other Scooby-Doo project. Then again, it is a movie exclusively for television, so the animators have pulled out more what they usually do to make it feel like a movie instead of an extended episode of the show. The character designs on the main trio remain accurate to any Scooby-Doo show at its time. Carrying off from The Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, Shaggy continues wearing his red T-shirt and blue pants. Even the van they drive in is different from the Mystery Machine, since it is technically Fred's in most incarnations. Anyway, with animator Iwao Takamoto as creative designer, the visuals have been executed effectively as possible. Though there are a few characters that have simple designs, the ghost characters and Farquad have more of a ghastly vibe on their designs to build suspense on the mystery itself. With the limited character animation, the humans more down-to-earth while Scooby, Scrappy and the Boo Brothers are more energetic. For the latter, with the emphasis on slapstick, the animators have given fun and creative movements using squash-and-stretch. You can see one of their heads morph into a light bulb for an idea or having a mini "ghost demonstrator" for testing their ghost catching. The backgrounds of the mansion and the land surrounding it do deliver a creepy and chilling atmosphere that any Scooby-Doo fan would expect. For the setting taking place at a Civil War general's estate, the animators did a fair amount of research into making a Southern state environment without going too far and focus more on the solving the treasure hunt. It may sound fun looking for jewels at a mansion but while accidentally trespassing into a hillbilly territory or winding up in a bear cave. Even though their animation isn't top quality, Hanna-Barbera still gave fans what they anticipate visually in a Scooby-Doo movie.
Quantity over Quality
Any fan who grew up with this franchise needs no introduction to these characters. But, for the...two of you...reading this, I'll make it an exception. Besides, there is nothing complex to discuss about them with Hanna-Barbera maintaining its simplistic nature. Shaggy Rogers and his pet dog Scooby-Doo are usually the cowardly comedic duo with a huge appetite of the Mystery Gang. Strangely and refreshing enough, Shaggy shows a little but more responsibility and assertive (especially getting annoyed by the Boo Brothers' behavior) while he maintains his mannerisms. Scooby is no different than before and still as likable as fans remembered him. As for Scooby's nephew, Scrappy Doo...
Before continuing, with this being my first written review of anything Scooby-Doo related, it's best to address the elephant in the room. Scrappy was a new character as an attempt to boost struggling ratings for the previous Scooby-Doo shows of the time. The results made his character and appearances a nuisance and many fans have deemed him the worst character in Scooby-Doo history. Personally and honestly, Scrappy never bothered me as a kid and I thought he was alright. Some people even nicknamed me "Skrappy" because of my last name. I definitely understand why people don't like Scrappy and that's fine. With that said...
Scrappy is usually the "courageous" and "tough" puppy...where his oblivious and reckless nature would lead into trouble. Thankfully, he is downplayed where he is a lot braver and acts as the brains of the trio.
Then, we have the titular Boo Brothers - Freako, Meako and Shreako. Freako is the ill-tempered leader, Meako is the meekest and Shreako is the goofball. Together, they are ghost exterminators that are inept at their job and would sometimes cause mischief. In layman's terms, imagine The Three Stooges as Ghostbusters. On top of that, they provided actual slapstick than the actual Three Strooges would in The Scooby-Doo Movies show. Now to their credit, despite their poor job, they still show loyalty in aiding the gang and managed to capture the mastermind of the mystery.
In the "random" category, we have the "Ghost Ape" who is actually an escaped circus ape with a liking to Scooby. Sheriff Buzby is the local sheriff that constantly tries and fails capturing the ape. Farquard is the hunchbacked, passive-aggressive butler. Colonel Beauregard is Shaggy's late uncle whose "ghost" constantly warns them. Billy-Bob Sroggins is the hillbilly neighbor with a passionate hate for the Beauregard family and threatens to kill any related relative, especially Shaggy. Sadie-Mae is Billy's nice and surprisingly strong sister who has a massive crush on Shaggy. And finally, we have the Skull Ghost , whose minions would stop anyone while he desperately searches for the treasure. Even when we do find out who was behind the mystery in the end, these characters would still makes us confused.
If there's any satisfactory with the characters, it's definitely the voice acting. Don Messick and Casey Kasem knew exactly how to bring their characters to life. Other Hanna-Barbera actors like William Callaway and Arte Johnson provide some distinctive voices to their characters. Even Rob Paulsen, who was freshly new into voice acting, gives an entertaining and over-the-top performance as Shreako. They throw an assortment of characters at us, but there are some adequacy after a while.
Overall, Scooby-Doo! Meets the Boo Brothers is an average start of the movie trilogy with a jumbled story, standard humor, and overflowing characters. Flaws aside, the movie shows effort to be Scooby-Doo with an aforethought mystery, avant-garde ideas, pleasant animation and viable voice acting. For fans and young children, it is good enough to watch around the Halloween time. For non-fans, it would depend on one's taste for the franchise and the tone itself. For the next movie, it became more than just a personal favorite among fans but lead into an cult legacy...