Warner Bros. DVD | Buy at Amazon | Review by Dan Taylor
1988's tv movie SCOOBY-DOO AND THE RELUCTANT WEREWOLF emerged at a time when the Scooby-Doo franchise was at a bit of a crossroads. Fans of the original series were all grown up, ironic appreciation of the series was a few years off, and newer fans had boosted flagging ratings only after the introduction of Scrappy-Doo, the brave, energetic and highly annoying nephew of the star pooch. The early 80s had even seen producers alter the core concept by having Scooby, Scrappy and various members of the gang battle "real" monsters instead of mischievous insurance adjusters.
The last of three movies to follow that approach, RELUCTANT WEREWOLF jettisons Fred, Daphne and Velma in favor of Shaggy (voiced by the one and only Casey Kasem) and his "adoring but liberated girlfriend" Googie. Now an accomplished race car driver (?!), Shaggy becomes the object of desire of none other than Count Dracula himself.
Turns out that The Wolf Man has retired to Florida and an ancient book explains that every 500 years the moon comes into perfect position to create a new werewolf. The ancient tome includes a handy picture of Shaggy (which Drac hilariously mispronounces as "SHAH-gee" throughout) so a pair of hunchback brothers known as The Hunch Bunch head to America to turn Shaggy into a werewolf. Why? So he can be brought to Transylvania for the Monster Road Rally, which decides the Monster of The Year Award, of course.
What follows is a frequently excruciating, occasionally funny and mildly head-scratching exercise in trying to make the flick enjoyable for kids without being a total bore for the grown-ups in the room. (They could have started by chopping about 20 minutes from the grueling 90-minute running time.)
Playing like an episode of Scooby-Doo cross-pollinated with The Wacky Races, Shaggy makes a deal with the green-skinned Drac to participate in the road rally with the proviso that if he wins, the vampire king will turn him back into normal old Shaggy Rogers.
Oh, if only it were that easy. Dracula (voiced by cartoon and tv veteran Hamilton Camp) enlists a motley crew of monsters both famous (Frankenstein's Monster, Mr. Hyde) and not-so-famous (Bojangles, The Schlock Ness Monster, Ghengis Kong) to help derail Shaggy's pursuit of freedom and keep him a werewolf forever.
The race – which takes up a good 30 to 40 minutes of the flick – features Dracula and company setting various traps for Shaggy (man eating plants, quick drying cement, detours and shrink rays) only to have them backfire and frequently leave Drac standing around in his underwear. Camp plays the fearsome vampire more like the dad in a 70s sitcom than anything thanks to a wife (?) named Vanna Pira who frustrates him to no end and monsters that make him crazy with their childlike antics and misbehavior. He can't even get a rise out of the local peasants who line the race's route.
Musical interludes like "Doin' the Werewolf Rock" and humor that ranges from groan inducing (scream beans, bat burgers and plasma pizza) to archaic (Drac channels his inner Jackie Gleason on more than one occasion) are but some of the moments that make SCOOBY-DOO AND THE RELUCTANT WEREWOLF such a bizarre offshoot of the Scooby-Doo tree.