Stream it or skip it: ‘Darby and the Dead’ on Hulu, an uneven teen comedy about a supernatural medium and her dead cheerleader Frenemy

Darby and the Dead (now on Hulu) is a supernatural teen black comedy, or superteendarcom if you like it short, about a high schooler who’s half honest, able to converse with ghosts and whatnot. . It co-stars Riele Downs and Auli’i Carvalho, which I didn’t think would be legal, considering the former is a veteran of Nickelodeon productions (Henry Danger and some holiday specials), and the latter is a veteran of Nickelodeon productions. from Disney (Moana and The Little Mermaid Live!). I guess Mickey Mouse is getting ahead here since the movie landed on Disney-owned Hulu, but will you get ahead here if you see it? Ehh… I have my doubts.

DARBY AND THE DEAD: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

The Gist: Darby see, how’s that line going? – people who used to be alive but are no longer alive? Close enough. She can also talk to us and watch us moviegoers out here watching her movie. Why can she do this? Well, when she was seven years old, she and her mother were swept away by an ocean current; Darby drowned and was revived, but her mother did not survive. See the article : How NFL player Tony Boselli made a surprise proposal. After coming to, he was able to see and talk to dead people who didn’t cross over to the other side; she calls them “deados”. I think this high concept implies that we, the viewers watching his movie, are dead, and I don’t know how I feel about that. Now, Darby is a teenage high school social outcast dressed all in black who spends her Friday nights mingling with ghosts, helping them with their “unfinished business” before they complete their journey to the afterlife, and I think that implies that we, Moviegoers watching his film have “unfinished business.” My main “unfinished business” right now is trying to talk myself out of turning the movie off.

In any case. There are other characters in this movie that I need to identify. Derek Luke has almost nothing to do here as Darby’s father, the only way he would have less to do is if he wasn’t involved at all. Tony Danza plays a sweet grandfather-like ghost who is waiting for his wife Linda to die so they can cross over together; he and Darby play chess and have the following exchange: “They took Linda to the hospice.” “That’s good news!” Keeping up with the old decrepit cliché regarding social dynamics in high school, there are the Mean Girls cheerleaders in Barbie costumes who leer and wrinkle their noses at the likes of Darby, but are up to date with the new decrepit cliché in that They exist to take dozens. of selfies a day and collect followers on social networks. Their leader is Capri (Cravalho), who was Darby’s friend before I-see-people-who-used-to-be-alive-but-are-not-anymore, but are now rivals. It’s worth noting that Capri is dating sensitive singer-songwriter James (Asher Angel), and Darby’s love interest is new guy Alex (Chosen Jacobs), who wears the mascot costume of the corporate donut retailer he pays to advertise on. the school. .

The plot begins to unfold when Capri accidentally commits suicide via an alternate board game scenario: electrocution, with a hair straightener, in the locker room. Darby and the other Mean Girls even witness it. In any other world, one without witty camera commentary or over-the-top TeenNick pilot concepts, such a gruesome event would be traumatic. But this is a dark comedy, and therefore a cruel and disturbing universe, as Capri’s ghost can now continue to haunt Darby and force her to help her with her “unfinished business”—namely, making sure Darby’s birthday Capri go ahead, like an ultrabash. memorial service, so that everyone will forever remember her as the most popular girl in school. This ridiculous scheme gets even more ridiculous when Capri gives Darby a popularity makeover (hip wardrobe, behavior adjustment, etc.) to help her convince everyone to go ahead with the party. This requires Darby to join the cheerleading squad and try not to let the grieving James fall for her. CHAOS REIGNS.

What movies will it remind you of?: Darby has less tantalizing execution than the elevator pitch of Mean Girls-meets-The Sixth Sense. Exploding-teen saga Spontaneous is much better at this kind of black comedy and manages to find a resonant allegory in its grim concept.

Performance Worth Watching: Carvalho and Downs are certainly charismatic actors who certainly deserve better material than this, which is admittedly uneven.

Memorable Dialogue: The ghost of Tony Danza gives Capri a pep talk: “You’re so young and smart, you’ve got all your death ahead of you!”

Our take: There’s a lot going on in/with Darby and the Dead, and very little of it involves us in any meaningful way. I liked how the character in Dance views the teen drama with patient puzzlement. I liked Darby’s neo-Goth girl sensibilities and Veronica Mars’ supernatural isms. I liked an all-too-brief moment where Darby and James have a serious discussion about grief. I liked Cravalho’s energy, even though she was a bit miscast as a narcissistic stalker. The movie has its moments.

But this handful of positives leaves much to dislike: very few movies can pull off straight-to-camera directing Fleabagisms; most, like Darby, should throw the idea down the drain, because it’s a proven scientific fact that too much meta-causes pollution eruption. Their sub-Mean Girls dialogue rings out rather than crackles (“I cross my heart and I hope to die, again”, “The theme is Coachella, not Stagecoach”, “You can’t be friends with a donut, it’s social suicide”). The black comedy stands out, as if she wasn’t fully committed to the part. It includes romance, montages, a big speech in front of a crowd, and other superficial nonsense, like you’re threatened with a big fine for not adhering to teen movie clichés. And it concludes with a mixed message about Darby’s individual personality that could be considered satirical if you’re too generous, or a disaster if you’re perfectly reasonable. Credit the film for trying to be a sweetly-intentioned underscored dark comedy, which is a tough tightrope to walk; Too bad it doesn’t come close to achieving it.

Our call: AVOID IT. The Darby and the Dead script needs another pass or two to make it fully functional.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.

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