It’s time for the Scooby gang to return to a rather familiar location. Zombie Island is known as one of the best Scooby Doo movies and I can confirm that it was quite excellent. This one is trying to play on nostalgia to sell, but does it actually have the quality to back it up? Unfortunately it feels like Zombie Island in name only. I wasn’t really expecting anything more than that, but it would have been nice if the plot had actually been a bit more relevant. Maybe that was hoping for a bit much to be honest, but it would have been nice. As it stands this is still a reasonable Scooby Doo adventure.
The gang has just finished solving a bunch of mysteries. They then sold the Mystery Van (For money I guess? The movie never really goes into detail on exactly why they had to sell the thing, but I assume they were low on cash) so now they are wondering what to do. Shaggy and Scooby pounce on their momentary weakness and force the gang to sign a promise that they will stop investigating mysteries. Shaggy then wins a vacation for the gang so they all head to an island. Interestingly it looks just like Zombie Island, but the gang is determined not to find any mysteries here. The creepy instances continue to add up though and they may be forced to break their promise this time. Can the gang stay strong?
Of course the place they went to is Zombie Island. The film does a good job of at least giving us a good narrative reason as to why they would return. They were basically suckered and the mastermind behind this had a good reason for doing this. The big twist here is on the fun side. It may not be exactly what you were expecting, but it does make sense without messing with the first film. You’ll be glad to know that the film doesn’t retcon the first one. That would have definitely been pretty annoying. It’s really just a completely separate adventure that happens to take place after the first one. There will be some continuity issues here like how the gang is younger now than they were in the original. This movie tries to hand wave that as a summer job, but we all know the truth.
The animation is pretty good and it looks a lot like a DC film with the backgrounds. The opening scene can easily be mistaken for one at first before the characters show up. It isn’t super detailed or anything, but I’ve always thought that this part has been pretty consistent over the years. Scooby Doo looks good and if the films continue with this style I’m certainly satisfied. The music is a bit more of a miss though. It’s trying to go for some kind of pop/scary theme and you can’t really pull both off at the same time. It’s an admirable attempt to be sure, but not one that really works.
As far as pacing goes, the movies have no problem with that. If anything it feels like this movie ends really quickly. By the time we find out the first twist the movie is basically halfway over. Then we get to the second half and it’s done. These movies end so fast that half of the time it’s hard to even pick someone as a suspect because the mystery is all wrapped up. I suppose it feels like that here as well since for most of the movie the gang is trying not to solve anything. If they were actually trying then this would be over very quickly. It’s a complement to the film’s writing though since any time a film ends so quickly that means they did something right. The humor with Shaggy and Scooby may not work too well, but the others are good. Scooby Doo is the kind of movie that will take a good gag and run it into the ground so you do have to be prepared to see the same jokes used a lot. They’re harmless fun though.
The cast is basically the same as you would usually expect. Fred is still the best member as he takes charge and solves all the cases. He does miss the van a lot, but you really can’t blame him for that. The van was a true member of the team and losing a squad mate is never easy. I also do respect the fact that he and the rest of the gang were determined to keep their promise to Shaggy and Scooby. Even when things got tough they didn’t cave. Shaggy and Scooby forgetting about the promise entirely just hurts them even more.
No worries we do get at least one supernatural element in the film. The movie intentionally doesn’t bother finishing this plot so it can just leave it out there. I appreciate having it, but it does basically amount to being a pointless addition in the end. Take this part of the plot away and nothing changes. I wouldn’t say it’s objectively bad to do that because everything within media is subjective, but it’s still an odd choice. You rarely see something like that nowadays.
Overall, Return to Zombie Island can’t beat the original but I don’t think very many of us ever assumed that it would. The first Zombie Island was great because the creatures were real and there was a lot of danger and suspense. You won’t be seeing that in a newer Scooby Doo film because the films go for a much lighter tone nowadays. It’s more comedy than horror while the original tried for a more 50/50 split. I do think it’s interesting how the animation looks worse than the original in many respects but one day we’ll catch up. The animation here is good as I mentioned earlier, it just doesn’t feel quite as detailed and fleshed out. If you haven’t seen this movie yet then you should check it out as long as you’re still a fan of the franchise. It gives you the experience you’d expect. It’s just a fun film and if we’re dipping into nostalgia I’d like to see a crossover with the other continuities in a film someday. Something like Spiderverse for Scooby Doo fans. Now that’d be ambitious and a blast!