The world of Scooby Doo lends itself to satire. All element de the classic Hanna-Barbera series has been the target of thousands of jokes since its premiere in the late 1960s: from its limited animation, which fought its low budget with memorable visual resources such as door chases that defied all laws of physics, Until those recurring endings in which our protagonists took off the mask of the monster of the week and it was nothing more than the owner of the mansion.
Your sixties camp energy has been both claimed and parodied in the ensuing decades, and the dozens of TV and film reinventions of the character have done nothing to dilute this.
Despite this, of course, there have been more and less fortunate. Perhaps the best example of its possibilities for reinvention (almost comparable to that of the masterful Duck adventures of 2017) is Mysteries Incorporated, a reboot that modernized the structure of the series as a serialized mystery while further exploring the personalities of its cast. Velma I had a lot of points to live up to, but for now, it just leaves those illogical doors open.
The series, created by Charlie Grandy and produced by Mindy Kaling, part of a very promising proposal (place their characters in a kind of adolescent slasher, another pillar of modern television camp); but he gives his starting gun without really knowing what he wants to be. You just know what you want to do. and even that ends up being thin: he wants to take the protagonists of a recognizable children’s series and put them in a clearly “adult” setting that is provocative and shocking, surprising the audience along the way.
This, of course, can be done brilliantly (I am thinking of the recent Harley Quinn, or even in The Flintstones of Mark Russell Y Steve Pugh, which returns the characters to their initial adult context through a refreshing new social satire filtered through their imaginary prehistory). But so far, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Why Velma neither does it express any special interest in exploring or deconstructing this particular universe, nor these particular characters, and it ends up being quite inevitable to consider why they were chosen in the first place. In no version of Scooby Doo were especially complex, which makes it all the more surprising that Velma be unable to tell their personalities apart, giving everyone an almost identical comedic voice (specifically, that of a television scriptwriter).
Absent of the appreciation for its cast that recent Kaling creations have had, since The sex life of college girls even the lovely I never, the protagonists seem to be reduced to cruel stereotypes who despise each other releasing easily interchangeable taunts. Comedy is an ever-evolving art, but nothing here seems to go further than a random episode of Family Guy in 2005.
But most surprising of all, especially coming from key figures in recent comedy, she never seems to find a tone she’s comfortable with. The pieces are there: the series is visually remarkable, with character design and art direction well above average for current television animation, shining especially during the impressive fantasy sequences in which Velma experiences body-horror hallucinations.
And its cast is fantastic, from Kaling herself to a Sam Richardson fresh out of The Afterparty, going through a Glenn Howerton who embodies Fred almost as a lookalike of his Dennis in the brilliant Hanging out in Philly… but, although the comparisons are hateful, invoking his mere memory is perhaps the worst decision this series makes.
It is inevitable to think about how comfortable she is always hanging… being a cruel sitcom and full of despicable characters, and how much that usually works like a charm because it is very clear about what it is doing. by his side, Velma wants to be so provocative and at the same time so self-aware that it is often nothing, contradicting itself in form and substance and detracting from the potential of its proposal and distribution. Even her meta humor, which she wears as a badge of honor, seems to exist only to point out the series’ mistakes with self-referential jokes instead of making even the slightest effort to correct them. All of her is like the dog in the manger, who neither eats nor lets eat. Unless here the dog does not even appear.
In the end, even the irregular live-action films of the franchise (revalued a few years ago thanks to the presence of a young James Gunn to the script) had the ability to lampoon their own character archetypes and the workings of their universe without falling into outright disdain.
It wouldn’t be the first time that the gradual evolution of a series has ended up living up to its potential – just take a look at wonders with similar beginnings, such as Morale Orel either The Venture Bros.– but right now, remove the mask from Velma it just means discovering a collection of the worst topics in the last decades of animation for adults.
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‘Velma’: the ‘Scooby-Doo’ series for adults uncovers cruelty as monster of the week
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