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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

Quick Reviews: 'Shirley', 'Scoob!' | Elisabeth Moss In A Biopic, 'Scooby-Doo' Reboot, Comedy

Elisabeth Moss with a shaggy look, Shaggy next to nachos
Shirley (L), Scoob! (R)


Diminishing returns in a single year are something that you’d very much prefer to avoid when it comes to art you consume but that is the path I’ve had with movies starring Elisabeth Moss. Starting with a high of ‘The Invisible Man’ and after moving on to messy-but-ambitious ‘Her Smell’ in preparation for Shirley where she plays the named author Shirley Jackson, I was ready to get back to the heights. You do eventually get used to the bittersweet taste of emptiness and disappointment with some projects but when it’s paired with equally empty storytelling or technical execution, it’s always a hard lesson with a film you’ve anticipated a lot.

Shirley as a movie is a quite conflicting case to talk about. For most of it, we’re locked in the Jackson house with Shirley, her professor husband Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg) as well as their new housemate couple Rose (Odessa Young) and Fred (Logan Lerman). The house feels both lively and claustrophobic with the way it’s lit and how the rooms always seem full. There’s some perspective here on mental illness so the sets work for that very well, everything is just a bit off but it’s often still a controlled chaos. That would be a nice setup coupled with an unreliable narrator but the tone shifts are noticeable. Italian and French cinema seems to be carelessly instilled because there’s a lot of cheap riffing on those but then there’s a theatre play happening in the dialogue and some western drama quirks.

Perhaps the biggest factor of making it feel so empty is that for a film called Shirley, she is the least of the characters while Rose really becomes the focal point. You appreciate when you can clearly see the director’s, like Josephine Decker here, handprint on the style but when you’re constantly pushed away from the characters, who do you even care about? Shirley, Stanley and Fred are the prime example of the word ”off-putting” and when that doesn’t change for 100 minutes, having only thinly-written Rose doesn’t cut it. The four characters and the main story happening go hand in hand so when the people are so empty and vain, it’s hard to even describe the story or how it affected you. Feeling drained from the time spent and not from the emotional journey is rather disheartening.

Smileys: Set decoration

Frowneys: Story, tone, characterisation, atmosphere

Says a lot about the roles when I didn’t even want to talk about the acting performances. The Invisible People.


Elisabeth Moss touching Odessa Young's chin


Let’s do a quick quiz about Scoob! to break the ice here: How many writers did it take to write it (preferably answers from those who have actually seen it and possibly wondered about it themselves)? Well, there are three credited for the script and two for the story. Does that answer shock you perhaps? After going through the motions with the movie, I certainly found myself shocked by that fact because you’d think with that many people someone would stop certain jokes and actions from happening. It’s quite honestly unbelievable how outdated and cookie-cutter it is, mainly because you smell in the air how a bunch of Gen X writers sipped on some gin & tonic to write something equivalent to using AOL chat room language on TikTok.

I do bet on one thing though which is that anyone who watches it will feel very comfortable during the first 15 minute act. We start with Shaggy (Will Forte) as an outcast kid who one day runs into a stray god, naming it Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker). It’s a genuinely heartfelt beginning which is all sorts of adorable for a family film. Then we take a small jump to Halloween time when Shaggy and Scooby-Doo run into what later will turn out to be the rest of Mystery Inc.; Velma (Gina Rodriguez), Fred (Zac Efron) and Daphne (Amanda Seyfried). They solve their first mystery and you think ”Oh wow, this is cute. Hopefully they keep this tone.” That doesn’t unfortunately happen as the movie forgets its origin-story themed title and takes another jump to time when everyone is an adult. Several things happen at the same time and somehow because of them, the rest of this painfully loud film exists.

We might as well go with the most obvious fault first. Why on earth is Simon Cowell featured here? It’s a cameo/role which already dates your movie to mid-2000s but also is baffling because do the writers and director Tony Cervone think kids will even know who he is? His first scene also has an actual impact for the story which is the sad part. Strike one. Humour overall is awful across the board as the jokes are pop culture references from 1998 which they try to soften with dabbing. Yes you read that right, strike two. One thing that the three writers do to modernise Scoob! is by bringing superhero characters to the mix, that however is done by turning the story into lazy, rip-off superhero fare. Strike three, pack your bags.

With no mystery element and sidelining three out of five crew members to focus more on characters like Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) and Dee Dee Skyes (Kiersey Clemons), it’s safe to say that the writing is a disservice to Scooby-Doo characters and also a disservice for family entertainment in year 2020.

Smileys: Premise

Frowneys: Humour, screenplay, story, dialogue

So how do ya do fellow kids?


Shaggy and Scooby-Doo sharing nachos in a cinema
Warner Bros. Pictures

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