It might have been nice to see director Zoya Akhtar take bigger swings, both in terms of her movie’s look as well as its sentimental concern with re-investing in one’s own community. But originality was never an essential strength for Akhtar, whose “8 Mile”-style 2019 rap drama “Gully Boy” also succeeds as an actor’s showcase for co-stars Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh. Not every genre movie needs to be unconventional, a fitting lesson given the corny material and characters that “The Archies” so lovingly riffs on. Sometimes, all you need to make a good song and dance number is to let a perpetually hungry teenager gawk at a team of rollerskating babes—in high-waisted shorts, polka dot blouses, and red bowties—as they gang up on him in a (very) mildly suggestive way.
If anything, it’s sort of a relief to see how lightly Akhtar and her collaborators wear their influences, both ideologically and stylistically. Sometimes the characters move or song in ways that recall, say, Jessica Paré’s slinky “Zou Bisou Bisou” dance number in “Mad Men,” or Claude Brasseur, Sami Frey, and Anna Karina’s hip French New Wave strut from “Band of Outsiders.” Thankfully, these acknowledged influences aren’t the focus of musical numbers whose look, design, and pace are about as on its face as song lyrics about the battle of the sexes, with representative lyrics like, “Don’t you know that he’s just a flirt with a smile like dessert made for you,” and its matching clapback, “Don’t you know that the flick in her eye is to trick every guy in her queue?”
It might have been interesting to hear Archie’s band, from whom the movie gets its name, try to play something that’s more inspired by Bollywood pop standards. There’s also something to be said for anglicized songs that periodically break up Hindi language lyrics with English hooks like, “You say I’m young and I’ve got nowhere to be/I say there’s so much I can do.” That line is also striking since it, and a lot else about “The Archies,” urges viewers to not only accept but cherish simple pleasures. Or, as one character observes—summarizing Jean-Luc Godard, of all people—“It’s not important how you look, it’s how you feel.”
On Netflix now.
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