As someone who spent a lot of his youth buying Archie comics every single chance he got, “To Riverdale and Back Again” is a mix of disappointing and confusing. Even in 1990, studios thought the Archie comics were a bit dated and old fashioned for live action formats, so they basically made the whole universe of Archie and gave it mortality. They take the entire gang shoot them over a decade in to the future where they are all confused middle aged folks trying their best to figure out the current predicaments in their lives. While the premise has a lot of potential to be original and unique, it really isn’t. The concept is painfully old hat, while the movie itself is not just bland, but 1990 bland. That’s that flavor of vanilla that was almost kind of impossible to swallow, even for a half hour.
Christopher Rich is Archie Andrews, the famous love interest of Betty and Veronica. Now with the upcoming class reunion, all the folks from Riverdale are returning to seal old grudges, and help out some of their old friends. Archie is now a lawyer on the verge of marriage, Jughead is a therapist trying to connect with a bratty son who has a love for pranking adults (because “Home Alone”), Betty is a beloved school teacher, and Veronica is a globe trotting aristocrat–and sexy as hell. Also, Reggie is still a prick, who is planning to shut down Pap’s soda shop. This prompts Archie to do his best to help Pap’s and keep the shop around for younger generations. A lot of “To Riverdale and Back Again” is meant to appeal to the older kids that grew up reading “Archie” in the sixties.
So rather than making Archie and his gang teens, they transform them in to a bunch of adults entering middle aged, still trying to grasp life, as most of their loyal readers would also be in 1990. Christopher Rich is a decent Archie who pulls off the ginger and bow tie aesthetic, but everyone else seems cast on the bases that they kind of look like their comic book counterparts. Even Midge and Moose are featured as a pair of married chiropractors. Oddly enough there’s no mention of Sabrina, or Josie and the Pussycats, but that’s more of a nitpick. “To Riverdale and Back” is mostly brought down by its tonal problems, as it opts to be a PG-13 drama comedy but really has a good time sexualizing Betty and Veronica over and over. The attempts at humor are so broad for a movie based on a comic that succeeded in providing unique PG rated humor.
They also make an odd choice of filming flashbacks of the Archie gang with the thirty something cast playing their teen counterparts, making the movie again feel awkward rather than funny or engrossing. “To Riverdale and Back” is an oddly interesting misfire of the Archie universe that purposely misunderstands the comics as a means of appealing to eighties audiences. It’s only worth watching if you’re a hardcore Archie buff and have to see how much they botch the concept.