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Here's how Netflix's musical The Archies compares to Riverdale

dot, the archies
How does The Archies compare to Riverdale?Netflix

We've been to Riverdale and even Rivervale, but now, thanks to Netflix and director Zoya Akhtar, fans of Archie Comics can visit another version of Riverdale circa India in the early '60s.

New setting aside, The Archies is far more faithful to the source material than the now-cancelled Riverdale ever was.

Gone are the bear fights, the floating babies and even the supernatural, super-powered post-apocalyptic battles with demons. In their place is a far more wholesome spin, set on a hill station (a high-elevation town overlooking a valley) in 1964.

Rock 'n' roll, burgers and milkshakes are back on the menu as Archie and the gang band together to save their beloved town from being transformed beyond recognition by greedy businessmen led by — yep, you've guessed it — Hiram Lodge.

vedang raina, khushi kapoor, suhana khan, agastya nanda, yuvraj menda, mihir ahuja, dot, the archies
Netflix

Along the way, songs are sung, kisses are shared and hearts are broken in a far more innocent take on Riverdale that fans only familiar with The CW show might struggle to recognise. (That is unless they stuck with it until the final season when these squeaky-clean values were parodied through time-travel ingenuity.)

The Archies is boldly sincere when it comes to this period. To help capture that, Akhtar almost exclusively cast newcomers in the role of each teen (aside from Mihir Ahuja, the new Jughead, who already has a few credits to his name).

Agastya Nanda (Archie), Khushi Kapoor (Betty), Suhana Khan (Veronica) and Vedang Raina (Reggie) all fare well, though, bringing the exact kind of spirited, exuberant energy you'd hope to see and feel in a camp, nostalgic musical like this.

Nanda's Archie is extremely likeable, making us fully buy into his struggles when choosing between Betty and Veronica. Sadly for him, though, there's no Riverdale-style quad action.

Special mention must also go to Yuvraj Menda, who plays Dilton Doiley with a sweet sensitivity that's especially vital in an important plotline later on — one that Indian cinema hasn't always handled particularly well.

Unfortunately, it won't matter to some people how good or bad the cast fares when it comes to bringing these iconic characters to life.

When The Archies trailer first arrived online, claims of nepotism and whitewashing plagued the comments sections across social media. At the time of this writing, the film currently has an IMDB user score of 2.2/10, taken from 387 reviews (over 60% of which scored The Archies just 1/10).

agastya nanda, the archies
Netflix

Of course, this all happened before anyone had even seen The Archies, so how does the film actually stack up now when watched in full?

First off, it's worth reiterating that Akhtar and her longtime writing partner, Reema Kagti, have done an incredible job channelling classic Archie Comics into a stylised version of '60s India. It's also established early on that there's a deliberate focus on the Anglo-Indian experience plot-wise, although that won't necessarily stem the tide of whitewashing accusations now the film's out.

That aside, the costumes and set design nail the vibe perfectly, plus pop-art comic book flourishes are used sporadically throughout to make the bold artifice of this world feel tangibly real.

This all comes together best in the musical numbers, which are easily the highlight of The Archies. 'Dhishoom Dhishoom' and 'Va Va Voom' are early standouts, but in truth, every song in the entire soundtrack will have you jiving and twisting like nobody's business.

The choreography sings as beautifully as the cast's voices do, to the point where you'll find yourself longing for the next song once the story kicks back in.

But therein lies the film's biggest problem.

Even with this exciting change in setting, The Archies plot is thin, to say the least, especially when it's stretched over two and a half hours.

What story there is leans towards the predictable and even boring at times — aside from that aforementioned Dilton arc. But even that's skirted over more quickly than it should have been, which feels odd given how much time the film has to play around with character.

mihir ahuja, yuvraj menda, agastya nanda, suhana khan, vedang raina, suhana khan, dot, the archies
Netflix

Although longer-than-average runtimes are par for the course throughout Indian cinema, the songs don't come often enough to make up for everything The Archies lacks in the story department.

There's a really fun 90-minute version of this film begging to be made — one that brings a welcome new dimension to the Archie Comics universe and is engaging beyond the change in setting and culture.

That's not to say The Archies would have benefited from the occasional bear fight or floating baby, but it wouldn't have hurt to inject at least a little more of Riverdale's wild personality into the film.

Instead, we're left with an entertaining yet overlong diversion that ends up being more preoccupied with paying tribute to the original story than delving completely into something new.

3 stars
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The Archies is available to watch now on Netflix.


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