Cast : Agastya Nanda, Khushi Kapoor, Suhana Khan, Vedang Arora.
The movie by Zoya Akhtar is one of the most awaited films this year. The hype around the movie had set up great expectations. The cast has been busy promoting the movie this entire year and now that it’s streaming on Netflix, it has left audiences dissatisfied.
It’s set in the hilly town of Riverdale where a group of Anglo-Indians have settled down and created their little world. It’s the typical Archie comic book universe, there is Archie played by Agastya Nanda, Betty Cooper played by Khushi Kapoor and Veronica played by Suhana Khan.
It’s a retro-classic environment, a small town with 8000 or more people where everyone knows everyone. We are transported to that in an instant. The opening scene shows us Archie Andrews taking a group of tourists around Green Park, the heart of Riverdale. The people of the town have an emotional connection with the park, it’s an integral element of their culture and heritage. When a businessman wants to put up a hotel in the aforementioned location, the kids take charge and whip up a plan to stop it from happening. This forms the plot of the movie, but this happens so far along in its duration, that you lose interest.
The movie is 2 hours and 21 minutes long, packed with songs. For a movie that is termed a ‘musical’ that is unnecessary and very half-heartedly made.
The movie-making is magical, Zoya Akhtar draws you in and wants to revel in the beauty of the town. But a movie cannot work on just the basis of the stunning locales. And that’s where you start to zone out.
It has a weak screenplay, it starts slow and becomes slower. The movie focuses too much on these ‘ star kids’ attempts at acting, yes, they are newcomers, and they are quite average to be honest. Agastya Nanda gives us a sincere performance, he is enthusiastic and as likable as Archie Andrews. He plays his part well. Khushi Kapoor is a breath of fresh air, she is trying hard and has quite the potential. She has an innocence about her and an eagerness that fits perfectly with her character as Betty. Suhana Khan is the weakest link among them all. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, being Shahrukh Khan’s kid comes with a fair share of expectations. If we look past the big Bollywood families that these kids come from, they have done a decent job. The others, Vedang Raina as Reggie give an honest performance, and so does Mihir Ahuja as Jughead Jones, Yuvraj Menda as Dilton Doiley and Dot as Ethel Muggs.
Music and songs can uplift a movie’s feel and entertainment quotient. The music in the film is disappointing. The songs are too many and not even one will stay with you post the movie. For a musical, that’s saying something. Too many songs spoil the plot!
It’s disappointing also because the movie was directed by Zoya Akhtar, she has the flair of fleshing out great characters and giving us stories that have stayed with us. The movie is a complete letdown. But if you are still keen on giving it a try, here are a few reasons why you should watch it: One, all the actors who played the parents and their generation made the film a delight. They make it worthwhile. Two, the set, the costumes and the overall art direction in the film are spectacular. Full points to that. Three, the other actors, apart from the main lead, gave it their all, like the lead, they are also debutants and seem promising.
Four, the girls and women had agency, when Betty and Veronica tell Archie that they chose their friendship over him, it was a winning moment. Five, the movie is an ode to childhood friendships, you will be transported to simpler times. How a heartbreak or two doesn’t deter the strong foundation of their bond.
The movie is one hour too long, the problem also lies with its editing. It’s draggy and doesn’t have much to offer, it’s a simple straightforward story, you know the end, and you know the kids will come out winners. A crisper cut would have done everyone some good.
Verdict: Old wine in a new bottle? More like an old wine that went bad!