‘The Archies’ review: Zoya Akhtar delivers more yawns than sparks
(Credits: Netflix)

Film Reviews

‘The Archies’ review: Zoya Akhtar delivers more yawns than sparks

The Archies - Zoya Akhtar

Zoya Akhtar’s Netflix adaptation of the iconic comics The Archies plays it so safe that it makes a padded room look like a thrill ride. The immaculately crafted, nostalgia-riddled journey has Akhtar coddling the gang of newbies in a cinematic blanket so edgeless that even bubble wrap will give her the side-eye.

The characters and the story offer very little novelty. Agastya Nanda as Archie is so bland that you’ll find more excitement in a cup of decaf coffee. And Khushi Kapoor, bless her expressive eyes and the softest girl-next-door vibes, seems to be on a mission to break the record for the stiffest upper lip. But there is still promise in her as there is in Suhana Khan, who walks with the confidence of someone who knows the world has space carved out for her no matter what.

Khan, who plays Veronica Lodge, the bully with a big heart, speaks in a sing-song tone fit for a spoilt rich brat. It sounds like privilege whining on occasion. But you are supposed to look past it. Kapoor plays the sweet Betty Cooper like a doormat—step on her, and she won’t even whimper for fear of disturbing your favourite stride. She can run a self-help seminar on how to be a pushover and win hearts in an instant.

The other actors are like the supporting cast in a school play—there, but barely. It’s as if Akhtar wanted to make a point about the media ignoring everyone but star kids by, well, ignoring them herself. This is not to say the non-nepos get no screen time. Yuvraj Menda as Dilton Doiley is veritably adorable. In Vedang Raina (who plays Reggie Mantle), there is a promising future star. Mihir Ahuja as Jughead Jones deserved more—burgers, trotters, and scenes.

As much attention is given to the costumes, animations, and exquisite set designs, the dialogues are ignored that much more. We have the lamest repartee this side of Independence. “I thought I’d find you here,” says Cheryl Blossom, flirting with our young lad, Archie, who drones back, “Kya memory hai tumhari.” (translation: Wow, what a memory you have!).

There are also throwaway lines like “Every Englishman owes India” that are cringeworthy and as stodgy as songs like ‘Everything is Politics’, which reads more like a basic manifesto for the socio-culturally aware Gen Z. This script is chockful of vacuous moments. It is meant for ten-year-olds, and even they deserve better.

At the 30-minute mark, it dawned on me that this was one of those 143-minute films that could have easily been an hour shorter. You’ll get more boredom than a sloth on a Sunday for another hour before the pace picks up even a little. And you will check the timer every ten minutes to see how much is left!

When you are playing with already-established characters, the whole point is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time explaining who they are. But Akhtar stretches out the Archie-Betty-Ronnie triangle and shoves the actual interesting part of the story in the last 30 minutes of the movie. We could have had a crisp 90-minute film about idealistic kids winning the day—and saving the environment—with song and peaceful protest. Instead, we get a snoozefest.

This movie could have been a miniseries. The story is about as fresh as yesterday’s bread, with a plot that screams ‘Gentrification for Dummies.’ It’s like Student of the Year met The Archies, but the only thing they have in common is being forgettable for anything other than their debutantes. It will be curious to see how the main squad thrives in stories where the language and setting haven’t been tailor-made for them. It’s time we had some fresh infusion of talent in the industry. Bollywood’s ‘insider’ pool has been feeling more stagnant than a puddle in a drought; maybe, just maybe, these guys can bring in some actual acting talent and not just rely on the usual glitter and glam of being nepo-babies. 

In the end, The Archies feels like a good-looking but bad Tinder date—it takes forever to end, and you wonder if you’ll ever get those hours back. The film, despite its grand production values, needed dollops of more spice (maybe not as much as Riverdale). Even Archie and the gang would agree that a bit of chaos is better than a lot of yawns.