Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again (1990)

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The Riverdale gang reunites for their high school reunion in this made-for-television film that’s all fun and nonsense…and that’s not a completely bad thing.

It’s been fifteen years since Archie Andrews and his friends have graduated from Riverdale High. Now, the time has come for their high school reunion. Archie is a promising lawyer who is now engaged to city girl and fellow lawyer Pam. Veronica Lodge lives in Paris and still pines for Archie after divorcing for the fourth time. Betty Cooper is a teacher at nearby Midvale and is dating Robert. Jughead Jones is a psychiatrist who is still dealing with his divorce, which he gained custody of his son Jordan. As for Reggie Mantle, he is a top gym club owner in Riverdale.

At Veronica’s home in Riverdale, the gang reunites and things seem to go well, yet Archie is warned by Mr. Lodge not to pursue Veronica in any way, yet she constantly comes on to him. At the same time, Betty’s old feelings for Archie begin to re-emerge as they reminisce about their days at Riverdale High. However, this becomes the least of Archie’s problems as he learns that longtime soda shop owner Pops Tate is being evicted by Reggie, who is planning to expand on his gym. To make matters worse, when it is revealed that Mr. Lodge owns the building that connects the gym to Pops’ soda shop, as well as Pam returning to join Archie, everything soon comes to ahead on the night of the Riverdale High School reunion. This is one reunion the gang will never forget.

Since its inception in 1939, Archie Comics has been one of the longest-running series to focus on the Riverdale gang of high schoolers with the focus being the love triangle between Archie, Betty, and Veronica. What is interesting is that these comics were done for comic panache and brought wholesome hijinx amongst readers all over the world. When the time had come for a live-action movie to emerge, perhaps to commemorate not only the 50th anniversary of the comic, but also as NBC had a Saturday morning cartoon series, The New Archies, which focused on the gang as middle schoolers, the idea of the movie was, what would they be like grown up?

Evan Katz’s script does quite an interesting thing in meshing the classic love triangle between Archie, Betty, and Veronica, and expanding it to a rectangle with Archie being engaged to someone else; the comic hijinx that is a trademark for Archie and yet brings some very interesting adult humor done in a tasteful manner while tackling a central theme of nostalgia.

The film’s core cast practically fits their comic counterparts with Christopher Rich of Reba fame leading the pack as Archie, a lawyer who realizes that he can’t let go of the past but would rather do just that while staying in his hometown. Lauren Holly’s version of Betty is just like that of the comics, a little goody goody who soon realizes Archie may be the one to show her something different, and it’s because her boyfriend, played by Police Academy alumnus Matt McCoy, is a city guy who acts more like a bully. Karen Kopins’ Veronica is also like her comic counterpart, having the money while pining for Archie in almost every way imaginable and even though Archie finally helps Veronica “get over him”, she truly is not over him.

The late Sam Whipple delivers Jughead not so much the constant eater he is known for in the comics, but rather a psychiatrist who attempts to solve his own issues with women while trying to maintain a relationship with his son Jordan, played by Billy Cohen. A plus however is that Jughead does deliver some of the best lines in the script while Gary Kroeger’s Reggie is dead-on both resemblance and manner-wise as he amps up his rivalry with Archie to a tee. Even Riverdale couple Moose and Midge look like their comic versions as they are Archie’s chiropractors. The only ones who don’t get to look like their counterparts are Miss Grundy, played by Fran Ryan; Mr. Weatherbee, played by the late David Doyle; and Big Ethel Muggs, played by Cindy Ambuehl. However, in Ethel’s case, there is a good reason why she doesn’t look like her counterpart when it is revealed.

In the end, Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again is a harmless made-for-TV “what if” movie that takes the Archie story and comic hijinks and just brings them to life while tackling the topic of nostalgia. A fun film nonetheless.

WFG RATING: B

A Patchett-Kaufman Entertainment production in association with DIC. Director: Dick Lowry. Producer: Graham Cottle. Writer: Evan Katz, based on the comics by John L. Goldwater and Bob Montana. Cinematography: Frank Byers. Editing: Byron “Buzz” Brandt and Anita Brandt Burgoyne.

Cast: Christopher Rich, Lauren Holly, Karen Kopins, Sam Whipple, Gary Kroeger, Matt McCoy, Mike Nussbaum, Fran Ryan, Billy Cohen, David Doyle, Christian Hoff, Robert Munic, Aeryk Egan, Cindy Ambuehl, Christina Haag.

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