In an interview with film critic Baradwaj Rangan, Reema Kagti and Zoya Akhtar described themselves as "low-hanging fruits" when it comes to their love for Archie comics. That's precisely why their adaptation, The Archies, is a candy-colored disaster. They are merely content with constructing the colorful sets. They only want to spend time with the characters. So much attention is given to the props, the costumes, and the buildings that no one bothered to take a look at the script. Kagti and Akhtar have passionately talked about the comics, but their passion is solely evident in the film's aesthetic. The Archies, indeed, looks like a comic book. It appears just right. However, there is not much else that deserves our admiration. What's shocking is that filmmakers like Akhtar and Kagti are involved in this fluffy hokum.
The movie opens with a quick exposition, telling us how Riverdale was established in the first place. By quick, I literally mean quick. The words are uttered so swiftly that you just stop following them. But logical explanations be damned. Riverdale is a fictional place, and it could have very well appeared out of thin air. Who cares? What throws you off balance is the film's various attempts at inserting real India into this fiction. So it's greatly unconvincing when Lucknow or Shammi Kapoor are mentioned. You never believe that these characters and this place were ever influenced by outside forces. It was simply like this from the beginning itself. Its history feels like a fairy tale cooked up by adults for their children. The train that arrives at the Riverdale station seems to have materialized on the tracks just a few meters before the destination. Veronica (Suhana Khan) apparently returns from London, but it feels as if she never left. Everyone was frozen in time and waiting for the movie to begin.
This flimsy world consists of trivial issues and subjects. The problems - corrupt government officials, and greedy businessmen - are derived from our contemporary times and given nonchalant treatment. The Archies informs you about the power of people, the power of the free press, and the power the youngsters hold and can wield provided they get out of their bubble, but these weighty discussions become a nuisance in this intellectual featherweight. The political and societal arguments make you wish for a lighthearted romance. The Archies, though, fails to offer us such simple pleasures. There is a half-hearted love triangle as Archie (Agastya Nanda) falls in love with Veronica and Betty (Khushi Kapoor), her best friend. Without an iota of chemistry, this angle becomes painful to witness. Watch Kaathuvaakula Rendu Kaadhal if you want to see a man in love with two women. What's worse is that the love triangle is used to pay lip service to "girl power." The best friends choose one another and leave Archie alone in his bed. Such surface-level gestures further harm the whole vehicle. Yes, dear filmmakers, we get it! You have a progressive mindset. Instead of showing off your wokeness, couldn't you have at least made a decent picture?
The eye-popping colors and wonderful costumes and sets soon become monotonous. The William Shakespeare and other quotes motivate you to pull your hair. But nothing can beat that moment when Jean-Luc Godard is quoted. When that happened, I immediately started waiting for the movie to end. There is only so much intellectual masturbation a viewer can digest. Yes, the filmmakers know their Shakespeare/Einstein/Godard lessons. Then what? How about making a movie as innovative as the ideas conveyed by these icons? Sure, it's easy to defend the creative bankruptcy by saying, "This is a comic book adaptation." If this is all one can do with such adaptations, then why do adaptations in the first place? If filmmakers like Akhtar and Kagti can just add tokenism to someone else's text, then they are better off writing their own original text.
The dialogues written by Farhan Akhtar are extremely unpleasant to your ears. With lines like "Hearts don't break; they just fracture. Time heals everything," who needs cartoon villains for complications? I have not read any of the Archies comics, though I have seen some of its pages. This may be why I didn't understand why a character was scared of Veronica's presence. At best, she handcuffs Jughead (Mihir Ahuja) and tortures him with his favorite dishes. But Khan's smile is not psychotic. It has a naughtiness that assures us that it's all unserious. If the character is terrified of her, that's because he's programmed that way. Nothing in this movie suggests anyone should be frightened by Veronica's presence. The young actors look as if they are being rigidly controlled by the filmmakers. They don't express themselves. Rather, they generate ready-made emoticon faces - they are live-action emojis. The real strength of this film can be glimpsed during the musical segments, as the choreography of the camera and the actors' movements smoothly combine to deliver a pleasing experience. "Va Va Voom" produces a lot of energy on the screen, but that excitement instantly dissipates in the next scene when the characters talk about the future of a bookstore.
There is no control over the tone. Emotions appear and disappear within seconds. Hell, Archie becomes interested in politics within the span of a single song sequence. The writing is amateurish. A dad talks about the influence of journalism so that his son can repeat the same line later. When two girls discuss sharing everything, you quickly recognize they will have the same boyfriend. It's clear The Archies is targeting what type of audience: Idiots like Moose Mason.
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