Maren Doll is an Indiana-based writer and lover of poetry.
Be still my nostalgic heart: There is a new animated Scooby Doo movie, Return to Zombie Island.
It’s a sequel to the 1998 classic Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, and the entire aesthetic completely lifts from its predecessor. I’m a big fan of the musical score, which gives me slight Haunted Mansion ride vibes. The animation is a direct throwback to a more classic Scooby than what we see in the more recent Be Cool Scooby Doo show, which sports a more “modern” drawing style that seems to be a gnarly combination of Loud House and Big Mouth.
Most importantly, Return to Zombie Island has the spirit and feel of the original series, with superficial updates to modern lingo and pacing sensibilities. Some background characters make a joke about not knowing what VHS tapes are, for example, and another while using a smartphone. But these instances don’t change how the gang acts or does things, and new tech doesn’t play into how they solve the mystery and catch the monster.
An opening montage shows the Mystery Gang splitting up due to a mystery-solving ban by the local sheriff. Heartbreaking. Fred even sells the Mystery Machine. One of the best things about this movie is that it convinced me without a doubt that Fred is the guy from My Strange Addiction in a romantic relationship with his car. There are so many scenes in which Fred is dreaming about or missing his van; for older audiences, it starts to feel a little weird. While the other members are trying to find a different pastime, Shaggy wins an awfully convenient “tropical island getaway” to a place called Moonstar Island. The “tropical” paradise ends up being to the same swamp island from the first movie, which leads to one of my favorite conversations:
Daphne: “Moonstar Island Resort, haven’t we stayed here before?”
Shaggy: “I’m sure it’s just part of a chain!”
Velma: “I think Daphne’s thinking of Moonscar. The island we visited with the zombies. And the cat people. And danger. The island that’s clearly not this one” (Velma motions to a screen full of evil-looking cats).
Fred is still the leader, as always. However, it almost feels as though Velma has taken more of a front-leading role in the gang for this adventure. She freaks out at the opportunity to finally solve the true mystery of Zombie Island from the first movie, what happened to the cat people, and how zombies existed. Daphne also steps up in her role, and the two ladies seem to be at the top of their game — being the main characters to figure things out and explain stuff to the others. This is not to say that Fred or Shaggy do not contribute, but Fred is mostly preoccupied with getting the Mystery Machine back and Shaggy is off eating with Scooby. The rejiggering of gender dynamics in Scooby’s gang is also a welcome modern touch.
The gang unravels the mystery of the movie being shot on the island, which involves a local film crew and some hidden gold. But as in the first Zombie Island movie, not all questions get answered. Just as Velma was unable to discover the complete truth about the cat people and zombies in the past, there is a more sinister cat-monster unaffiliated with the bad guys of this movie whose existence goes unresolved.
This open-ended conclusion fits well with one of the last lines Velma says; “We can’t stop solving crimes because we might get hurt or step on some toes. It is in our blood. It is our destiny.” The gang will continue to solve mysteries, no matter what other people think or want, Mystery bans be damned, that’s what they are meant to do.