The Archies Review: Comic Book Charm

Unlike Netflix’s Riverdale series which had little resemblance to the featherweight feel of a comic book, director Zoya Akhtar retains the breeziness of young teens with comic book simplicity.

General Rating

In a nut-shell:

Comic Book Charm

The Archies Star Cast/ Actors: Agastya Nanda as Archie Andrews, Khushi Kapoor as Betty Cooper, Suhana Khan as Veronica Lodge, Vedang Raina as Reggie Mantle, Mihir Ahuja as Jughead Jones, Aditi Dot Saigal as Ethel Muggs, Yuvraj Mehnda as Dilton Doiley, Koel Purie as Hermione Lodge, Tara Sharma as Mary Andrews and Vinay Pathak as H. Dawson.

The Archies Director: Zoya Akhtar

The Archies Release Date: 7th December, 2023

The Archies Available On: Netflix (OTT Release)

The Archies Released/ Available In Languages: English & Hindi

The Archies Runtime: 141 Minutes

The Archies Critic Review: A Riverdale in India gets the easy back story of Britishers who fell in love with India and didn’t go back home, spawning an Indo-English mix called the Anglo-Indians. It makes room for much English with a sprinkling of Hindito be spoken with one of the parents even getting his Hindi grammar all wrong.

It’s a dual task Zoya gives herself as she creates the comic book world and sets it in 1964 for a retro feel too. The team of writers which includes Farhan Akhtar, Reema Kagti and Ayesha DeVitre, plucks its main characters from the comic original and plonks them in the make-believe town of Riverdale. It’s an uncomplicated life with Green Park at its centre and a ritual where every kid who turns five is brought by its family to plant a tree. Family trees, everybody.

The lovable residents of Riverdale are more or less the way we knew them when they popped out of the pages of Archie comics way back in the 60s. Archie Andrews (Agastya Nanda) is still torn between wealthy chic Veronica Lodge (Suhana Khan) and girl-next-door Betty Cooper (Khushi Kapoor). Ronnie and Betty are besties, the vain Reggie Mantle (Vedang Raina), foodie Jughead (Mihir Ahuja), Ethel (Aditi Dot Saigal) and genius Dilton Doiley (Yuvraj Menda) are all around with familiar backdrops like Pop Tates and Riverdale High School.

But the super-rich Lodge Industries in its bid to develop Green Park into a sprawling hotel and plaza, is offering lucrative prices to buy it all up. Pop Tates, the Cooper’s bookstore, all of it. Green Park is the heart of Riverdale. Will Archie and gang stand by and let the council bulldoze the park? 

Peppered with songs and dances, including Sunoh, the introductory number by The Archies as the opening credits and visuals roll, Wooly Bully when Veronica throws a party, Dishoom Dishoom on skates and Va-va-voom on Founder’s Day, it’s an easy watch. Archie who can’t wait to go to London and shrugs off the Green Park politics, gets schooled with ‘Can’t live just for kicks, everything is politics’. Nicely done, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Ankur Tiwari, The Islanders and Aditi Saigal, along with choreographer Ganesh Hegde who brings in dance moves like the Twist, so popular in the 60s.

The coming-of-age musical with an earth-friendly ‘Go green’ at its core, has an interesting line or two. “The grass is green is where you water it,” says Archie. “The heart doesn’t break.,” he also says to Betty as consolation. “It fractures, time heals…” And the two-timer is still not a heel.

But this is 2023 and Zoya will have the girls teaming up to demand, how dare he play us?

Unfortunately, in its desperate need to shout updated inclusivity, there’s also a closet gay forced in, he wasn’t one in the original comic.

Reggie Mantle’s vanity and self-obsession were fun but Zoya makes him a nice guy, brimming with social responsibility. He’s even the first one to report Lodge’s brewing conspiracy. Vedang Raina plays Reggie rather well.

But I missed Jughead’s Hot Dog and except for the Betty-Ronnie-Archie trio, you need to have read Archie comics to relate to almost all the other characters. And Xmas morning where Ronnie’s the lonely little girl and Betty’s the lucky one with family is a rich-poor cliché.

The music and dance keep it refreshingly light-hearted; the charm is in its simplicity.

But it’s also a show that isn’t seriously immersive. It’s got that comic book feel, or like a college play on a Riverdale set. With the cast of superstar children as its main draw.

The main question: do we have a bunch of new celebrity kids poised for superstardom? All of them are uniformly confident without being cocky. Agastya Nanda, Suhana Khan and Khushi Kapoor are all charming and win you over effortlessly. But since they’ve been aptly cast and efficiently directed, we’ll need to see them in conventional Hindi cinema roles to understand their emotional range.

The Archies Watch it or not: It’s a gush of fresh air watching the energy of such fun-loving untouched faces.

The Archies Review Score Rating: 3 out of 5 

The Archies Official Trailer:

The Archies Official Trailer (Credit: Netflix)

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Comic Book CharmThe Archies Review: Comic Book Charm