Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Archie's Weird Mysteries: Driven To Distraction

You know the one thing I never understood about Archie Andrews?  Why does every young woman who's single decide he's the absolute best dating material to ever live?

I mean, sure, he's a nice guy, but he constantly has two women jumping in and out of his life (well, okay, only Veronica really jumps "out" of his life, Betty just moves into the background for a bit, biding her time).  His car is a classic junker, he never really seems able to hold down any kind of summer job, he's continuously broke, he's clumsy, goofy, and always getting into trouble.

There's a lot of other guys in town who are probably dating material (and in today's modern age we can even include boys who aren't the same race.  And yet, Archie's had five serious girlfriends that I can think of off the top of my head, and lord knows how many girls as simple "one-offs."

So what does that have to do with today's episode?  Well, when the inspiration for the episode is pretty blatantly Steven King's Christine, except the car is in love with Archie, it makes you wonder.

We open on Betty, Veronica, and the worst line reading ever done in the history of people opening their mouths and words coming out.  I'm not exaggerating (much) here.  In fact, I'm going to do something I've never done in any of these Archie reviews.

I'm sharing the episode since someone posted it to Youtube.

Okay, jump to 1:33 and listen to Betty say the words "a little jog around the park is just what we need to clear the cobwebs from our heads after all that homework."  First off, that's a seriously awkward sentence to say to the one other person who already knows what you're doing and why you're doing it.  Second, are you trying to sound tired while your character has a huge smile on her face?  Are you realizing that you forgot half the line and you're reading it directly from the script?  Did the director tell you "no, that's fine, we'll just fix the line in post with another reading" and then forget?

I could spend the entire rest of this blog post breaking down that sentence, figuring out where the emphasis was supposed to be on words, picking apart pronunciation, but I won't.  You know why?  None of Betty's lines that immediately follow are any better.

I hate to say that sometimes an actor just doesn't have what it takes, and considering this show is so goofy and bizarre, I'm fully willing to accept that sometimes an actor just isn't given enough to work with so they try to hedge their bets or play it safe.  Considering the actress who plays Betty also played the really young Wendy Darling in Tinker Bell as well as a variety of voices for Monster High (which no, I don't plan on reviewing at any point soon.  So there.  Now, its sister series...) I'm willing to accept that this was just one of those days.

But man.  What a day it must have been.

Betty and Veronica find Archie doting on his car ("Betsy," for some reason), and even though they both try to straight up seduce him, nothing seems to take his attention away from making sure his car is perfect.

There's a cute line when Betty and Veronica are sitting at Pop Tate's later, and Veronica says, "it's bad enough when Archie dates you, but this is too humiliating!"  Things don't really improve when Reggie shows up trying to get either girl to go out with him on a date.  In an interesting twist (we really haven't seen that much of Reggie so far), Reggie actually comes across as speaking what most of the audience is probably thinking.

"Archie's lucky enough to have two beautiful females moping over him, and all he wants to do is work on his car?  Why, that's unnatural!  That's wasteful!  I am morally offended!"

Reggie, morally offended.
It gets even better when Reggie confronts Archie outside his house, and opens with "Archie, for some crazy reason Betty and Veronica think you're wonderful."   He tries to get Archie to pay more attention to the people in his life, but to no avail.  His attempt to kick the car triggers a "step away from the vehicle" that sounds significantly less impressive than the ones I used to see on TV.

Archie drives off in a huff and finds his way to the set of Big Trouble In Little China.

To be fair, if this episode turned into Archie fighting Lo Pan, this would be great.
Archie spots a pair of fuzzy dice for sale inside the store and heads inside, but things are, to put it mildly, "unusual" inside.  Signs warn about touching "cursed jewelry," and another says "you read a spell book, you bought a spell book."  Oh, and this thing lives in a fish tank within:

It's like H. R. Giger and H. R. Pufnstuf worked together to create a nightmare.
Archie eventually spots the owner in the middle of some kind of ceremony.  He has his hands to his forehead, the gem on his turban is glowing green, and he's rattling off numbers and things like "love potion" and "age reduction cream."  Turns out he's just placing a "long distance order."

This is Dr. Spooky from the first episode of this series I ever reviewed, and I had to remind myself that the first DVD set I watched actually did come after these episodes.   His name is "Dr. Horatio Beauregard Beaumont," and I have to admit that's a pretty great name.

Archie tries to buy the fuzzy dice in the window, but Dr. Horatio tries to discourage him from that purchase.  He finally breaks, willing to charge Archie the exact amount in his pocket, and then we get possibly one of the BEST line readings I've heard in this show.  Go back up above and fast forward to 8:25 and listen up to 8:53.  That's about as high quality as the acting in this show gets right there.

When Archie gets home, he-

Hold on.

The guy buys a pair of fuzzy dice, they get packed into a cushioned box with a clasp on it, but he doesn't even hang them up in the car until after he gets home?

I'm not sure what part of that sentence bothers me more, the box or Archie's behavior.

Archie hangs the dice up, and we immediately get a flash of energy and Betsy suddenly has green eyes instead of headlights.  Archie, showing all the perceptive ability of an Easter Island head, doesn't notice this as days go by.

Finally, when Friday comes and Jughead reminds Archie he's supposed to meet Veronica for a date, we get the first glimpse of the old Archie as he quickly panics and runs in to change clothes.  However, he is still broke, and in a scene that the show decides to draw attention to just as I was observing it, he attempts to mooch money off Jughead.

"You're messing with the natural order of things" indeed.

As Archie drives Veronica to Pop Tate's, Veronica has a few not-so-nice things to say about Archie's car, which culminates in Betsy attempting to pull a "Darnell" on Veronica by crushing her against the windshield.

While Archie and Veronica spoon feed each other milkshakes, Reggie passes by Betsy with a snide comment, leading to Betsy actively trying to run Reggie down in the parking lot while Archie and Veronica completely fail to notice what's going on outside their window.  Pop Tate must have really thick glass in those windows.

Veronica finally notices and tries to tell Archie that his car is acting crazy, but Archie, in a move that made me pause the video and just stare at the screen for five minutes, refuses to even look out the window and instead complains about how everybody just wants to insult his car.

Dude, I'm all for standing up for your belongings when someone calls it a junker, but "hey, your car is actively trying to murder someone while we're talking, which you can see if you just tilt your head a bit to the left" is a strange thing to take offense to without at least TRYING to gather visual evidence that the person is lying.

Somehow, the car hears when Veronica tries to make Archie look and zips back into its parking space again just in time.

Archie decides the date is over, but when Veronica tries to talk to Archie in the parking lot, Betsy interrupts with her fancy talking security system, spraying Veronica down with oil to drive her away.  This move by Betsy puzzles me, because I'm pretty sure oil is important in cars.  It'd be like slicing a vein just to I can smear blood all over someone out of spite.

Which I guess might actually make Betsy the most terrifying monster we've seen so far.  It's willing to physically harm itself just to be spiteful.

Betsy starts to dote on Archie (who stupidly gets into the car when Betsy invites him to), fastening his seat belt for him, and comments that "she" never really liked any of Archie's friends and doesn't think that he should see them any more.

When the commercial break ends we see it's evening, and Archie comments they've been driving since "last night."  Think about that.  Archie apparently never got home the night before and has been driving around in his car for A FULL DAY.  I'm willing to bet the car never needed gas, either, because, well, magic, I guess?

Archie talks Betsy into letting him go home to get some sleep, but Betsy is worried that Archie plans on running off to meet Betty for the big spring dance.  I'm willing to bet that's actually what Archie does, even though his first action should be to find a gun and kill Betsy dead.

Archie stupidly blabs that he actually is going to the spring dance and THEN he's going to try to figure out how to turn Betsy back into a normal car (PRIORITIES, Archie?), but Betsy flips out, smashes out of Archie's garage, and decides its "her" job to get rid of Archie's "friends" once and for all.

At the school, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, and Jughead are chased into the gym by Betsy, and I find it rather amazing that even though there are other people there at the school (despite the dance being over, as Betty helpfully points out at one point), we don't hear anybody going "what the hell, a car just drove itself into the gym and almost killed some students!"

Archie finally gets to the school to find the gym completely trashed.  He bumps into Chuck and Nancy, and th- holy cow, Chuck and Nancy get speaking roles?  Anyway, they explain that the car chased "the gang" back outside.  Archie emerges to find his four friends clinging to a large statue in the parking lot.  Jughead starts to slip, and I can't help but notice that in a show where a mob of Veronica doubles seem to only have five outfits between all of them, someone felt the need to illustrate Jughead's fingers leaving actual grooves in a solid stone statue as he tries to keep from falling.

Archie manages to jump into the car and grabs the wheel in time to keep it from running over Jughead.  Betsy tries to shake Archie loose, but Archie is able to finally figure out that the fuzzy dice are the key to everything and grabs them from the mirror.  Betsy loses her sentience, and Archie's left in a car driving out of control.  One that plows into the statue and sends Archie flying from the vehicle.

Archie, naturally, dies horribly, and the gang simply attempt to solve mysteries in his honor while his ghost tries to provide help with strange poltergeist abilities.

No, that would make sense.  Instead, Archie is simply knocked out for a moment (three for three so far!) and is soon up and walking around like nothing's wrong.  Betsy, who has a completely crumpled front end and smoke pouring out from what's left of the hood, is "back to normal," but the gang points out that it would take Archie "weeks" to get his car fixed back up again.

"Weeks" worth of work.  I'm sorry, that car's totaled.
Archie decides to simply have a shop do the work so he can spend time with his friends.  The whole gang heads off, leaving Archie's car resting against school property, a destroyed gym, and with no thought as to the fuzzy dice.  Fortunately, Dr. Horatio Beaumont shows up, picks up the dice, and walks off with them.

At Archie's house, he wraps up his article by pointing out that "yes, fuzzy dice turning a car into a jealous monster is certainly weird, but what's REALLY weird is how I let myself forget that things aren't more important than people."

No, Archie.  Magic dice turning your car into a murderous intelligent death machine is weirder.  By far.  You really need to get your priorities in life sorted out.

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