Sunday, September 19, 2021

Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog

One Cartoon Network series I have distinct memories of watching growing up, and have seen reruns for on Boomerang, is Courage the Cowardly Dog (Courage), about a dog named Courage who must stand up to his fears as he protects his owners Eustace and Muriel Bagge from supernatural or otherwise evil happenings in the middle of Nowhere, Kansas. Since ending its run in 2002, not much has been done with the property aside from the 2014 The Fog of Courage special (which I was not aware of), so I was thrown off-guard by the announcement that the latest in the line of direct-to-video Scooby-Doo films would be a full-length crossover with Courage, known as Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog (Straight Outta Nowhere). Though there is some precedent for a crossover in the form of old Cartoon Network bumpers, I was a bit on the fence on the idea even after watching a trailer, in part because of Courage creator John R. Dilworth’s lack of involvement and also the last DTV Scooby-Doo feature I watched, Return to Zombie Island, didn’t turn out that great.

What made me decide to give it a watch, however, was the unfortunate passing of Muriel Bagge’s original VA, Thea White, in the time between the release of the trailer and the movie itself, making this the last time she ever got to voice the character. After watching Straight Outta Nowhere through an Amazon Prime Video rental, I was pleasantly surprised by its faithfulness to Courage the Cowardly Dog, though it had maybe a little too much vinegar.

While the gang resolve a mystery, Scooby (Frank Welker) begins to act weird for mysterious reasons and runs off. As the gang track him down by following a tracking chip on his person, Scooby finds himself drawn to a farmhouse in the middle of Nowhere, where he meets Courage (Marty Grabstein). As this is happening, a swarm of giant cicadas attacks the farmhouse. Though the gang manage to ward them off, the cicadas keep coming back.

As it stands, the plot manages to find a solid middle ground between Scooby-Doo and Courage, incorporating elements of the former into the world of the latter without invalidating the established tone of the latter and while actually committing to Courage’s supernatural elements. There’s also a consistent running theme of overcoming fear, which works well within Courage’s wheelhouse. That said, while the storytelling is faithful to Courage the Cowardly Dog, there were a couple missed opportunities to reference recurring jokes from the series and the Scooby-Doo elements sort of get in the way towards the end in a very questionable manner, though the resolution of the mystery still manages to satisfy both series.

While it is weird seeing Courage the Cowardly Dog characters animated digitally rather than the original series’ pen and paper, the animation of the characters is very faithful to the show, with special mention going to Courage himself. The DTV art style of the Scooby-Doo characters does definitely clash with that of Courage, which is especially noticeable since Courage’s art direction is more predominant, however the two art styles aren’t so far off as for the clash to be distracting. In a nice touch, there’s also plenty of visual nods to various episodes of Courage the Cowardly Dog, including a point where footage is recycled from the original series in an interesting way, providing a nice treat for longtime fans of the series.

The casts of Scooby-Doo and Courage the Cowardly Dog come together at last.
From left: Fred Jones (Frank Welker), Daphne Blake (Grey Griffin),
Velma Dinkley (Kate Micucci), Shaggy Rogers (Matthew Lillard, background),
Eustace Bagge (Jeff Bergman), Courage (Marty Grabstein),
Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker), Muriel Bagge (Thea White)

On that note, the voice acting for returning Courage characters is on point. In particular, Marty Grabstein reprises his role of Courage from the show and sounds just as good as ever. With the aforementioned passing of Thea White, it was nice to hear her voice Muriel Bagge one final time, with her voice acting remaining faithful to her portrayal in the original series. Due to circumstance, Eustace Bagge is voice by Jeff Bergman in this movie, and he does a spectacular job channeling Lionel Winston and Arthur Anderson, getting Eustace’s inflections and mannerisms down to a tee. The returning Scooby-Doo cast also reprise their roles well, though while I have gotten a little more used to Kate Micucci’s take on Velma, I couldn’t not think of Webby Vanderquack from DuckTales (2017) whenever her voice was disembodied.

The music from Courage the Cowardly Dog also returns in familiar and interesting ways, plus the opening credits song “Game of Life” and the chase sequence song “The Opposite of Fear is Fun” work well with the movie. However, the “Straight Outta Nowhere” rap sequence comes “straight outta nowhere”, contributes nothing to the storyline and is perhaps the one out of character moment in the entire movie. You can honestly easily skip over that song and not miss anything.

Despite some rough patches, Straight Outta Nowhere is an excellent love letter to Courage the Cowardly Dog and a solid watch for fans of the series looking for more Courage content. Fans of both Scooby-Doo and Courage, however, will ultimately find the best of both worlds here.

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