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'Velma' Tries to Milk Adult Laughs Out of 'Scooby-Doo's' Pre-Dog Days

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(CNN) -- "This is my story, told my way," the title character narrates at the outset of "Velma," an adult-oriented take on "Scooby-Doo" that demonstrates the limits of stretching what amounts to a one-note joke into a series.

Sporadically witty but ultimately rather tedious, the HBO Max comedy leverages more than a half-century of name equity to yield an animated prequel that's definitely not for kids, meddling or otherwise.Playing revisionist games with "Scooby-Doo" has become a fashionable pastime, including a recent movie that established Velma's LGBTQ credentials, which not surprisingly garnered a fair amount of media attention."Velma" fleshes out that idea with a protracted murder mystery, courtesy of producers Mindy Kaling (who provides the voice of Velma) and her "The Mindy Project" collaborator Charlie Grandy, bringing new wrinkles to the gang and their mostly bizarre parents, during the pre-dog days of their high-school years.Aside from becoming a more diverse bunch, the Scooby-free gang includes the airheaded and lascivious Fred (Glenn Howerton); Daphne (Constance Wu), who was Velma's pal until she reached her teens and became "hot"; and Norville (Sam Richardson), who hasn't gone Shaggy yet, but who is a walking emotional doormat with an unreciprocated crush on Velma.When classmates start dying (specifically -- Ruh-roh -- having their brains extracted), Velma leaps into investigator mode, although having a serial killer in town takes a back seat to the indignities of the high-school years and raging hormones.

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