Few are the maniacs who have voyaged into the deep catalog of Scooby-Doo movies, with almost 50 entries across more than four decades. Yet, amongst so many movies in such a classic and beloved series, Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo! manages to shine through and carve a place for itself as one of the best Scooby-Doo films ever made.
Those few maniacs who have watched all Scooby-Doo movies will know that they can be separated into (mostly easily) discernable eras, differentiated by a change in tone, vision, and especially art style: The batch from 1979 to 1994, the Zombie Island quadrilogy from 1998 to 2001, the What’s New era from 2003 to 2009, and the last era that ran from 2010 to 2021. And I say it lasted until 2021 because Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo! feels like the first step into something entirely new, bringing about exciting, bold changes and takes on the timeless characters.
We open in Kathmandu, Nepal, as the gang is capturing another costumed criminal. The first proof that this is indeed the start of a new era is the animation, taken from the latest TV show; Scooby-Doo and Guess Who, only with an increased budget, which might also be the most fluid animation this franchise has ever seen. How far have we come from the stiff animation of ‘Where Are You?’! As it turns out, the crime being solved is not the sole focus of attention of the Mystery Gang, as we discover it’s only a piece to solve a bigger mystery, a mystery that dates back to 1969, to the beginning of the franchise.
With the newly acquired evidence, the Gang discovers that every villain they have faced up until that point had their costume made by one particular person; the costume designer, Coco Diablo. After capturing her and spending a whole year free of mystery, the Gang ends up needing to join forces with Coco (to the displeasure of some and the great joy of one other) to uncover a new mystery strange even to her.
With Coco in the conversation, it is necessary for my own well-being to discuss what probably everyone reading this review knows: Velma has a crush on her. Yes, you heard that right! After decades of speculation and fan theories almost as old as the show and various attempts by creative teams to make the character queer, Velma is finally officially represented as a lesbian. Of course, we have known for some time that Velma’s own show would see her exploring her sexuality, probably confirming her lesbianism once and for all, which is amazing. However, that will be a show targeted at an older audience, likely teens and adults. It was completely unexpected, as it was not even advertised in trailers, that they would make it official in the kids’ movies. It’s such an achievement to have that representation in a movie that children are able to watch, and now a lot of them will be able to see themselves in Velma’s character. Seeing her explicitly say she had a crush on Coco felt like an out-of-body experience for me.
Of course, execution is important, so it is a pleasure to say that their romance is very well handled! The concept of Velma falling helplessly in love with a villain is a funny concept by itself, only made better by how cute it all is. It never feels like a group of old people writing teenagers, or straight people writing queer people. It just naturally feels like a lesbian teen falling in love, and it is amazing. I can only hope Coco keeps showing up in future iterations of the franchise from time to time, as her character fits perfectly with the gang, and it would be lovely to see the relationship with Velma evolve.
But it is not only Velma that feels true to herself here; Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo! might be the one movie to best understand the meddling kids as a group. It depicts the teens in a way rarely seen, in that they are not really interested in crime-solving, so much as they are relentlessly obsessed with mystery as an abstract, inherent part of their world that they need in their lives. At an individual level, the film doesn’t do much, with very little in the way of arcs, instead going for some character-defining moments. One of these is a story beat with Daphne that, despite not having the best setup, ends up being an incredible moment that perfectly defines her role in the Gang.
There is a complaint to be made about one particular choice the movie makes, in my opinion. Despite how great Coco is and how much I enjoyed her character and story, it comes with consequences. The world of Scooby-Doo is as enchanting as it is because there’s a feeling that mystery is present at every corner. No matter where they go, what they do, or who they catch, there will always be another costumed weirdo terrorizing people, a gothic castle, a mystery to solve. Coco being responsible for every single villain and the consequent normality of the world with an abhorrent lack of mysteries takes an incredible amount of charm out of the setting. However, the lack of a strict continuity and a little choice at the end make this decision better.
Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo! positions itself as one of the best movies in the history of the franchise, with a fun new artstyle and incredibly fluid animation, exciting steps that feel vital to the characters and the dynamics of the Mystery Gang, a fun story that is different to most of what has been done in the last 20 years, great music, and character depictions that make this not only a new iteration in the franchise but a generation-defining movie that will make kids fall in love with the Scooby-Doo series.