Sometimes part of the hassle with the holiday season is finding the perfect gift for someone. And, that's kind of the idea behind today's edition of The New Archies Reviewed.
Now, unfortunately, this episode is not Christmas themed, which makes Day #11 of A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S GUIDE TO LIFE a bit tough...however, I can honestly say that one of the plots of this episode is all about gift-giving. Sure, it might be Archie trying to get Veronica a one of a kind birthday present, but just like Christmas, birthday presents can be hard to find.
In the case of Archie and Jughead, they find that their small problem becomes a big problem by being a small problem.
Confused? Allow me to post this Christmas themed New Archies comic book cover while I compose myself.
That's better. Let's take a look at the first half of the eleventh episode.
This is Episode 11A: Incredible Shrinking Archie. I wonder if this means that Archie's bank account shrinks, or if Archie himself shrinks. I guess we'll find out.
As already mentioned, Veronica's birthday is when this episode takes place, and at Pop's, everyone is giving Veronica a lot of presents. Betty gave Veronica a sweater, Jughead gave her a free meal at Pop's, and Reggie gave her a bottle of expensive perfume. Wait, did 12-year-olds back in 1987 wear any expensive perfume other than Exclamation? Did Exclamation even exist back in 1987?
Well, the only exclamation that Archie has to declare is that he's flat broke, and leave it to Reggie to call out Archie's cheapskate behaviour right in front of Veronica.
Naturally, Archie is the king of bluffing and tells Veronica that he has a special present that he will deliver to her birthday party later that afternoon, and that he needs Jughead to help. Why do I get the feeling that Archie might regret this decision?
In the school's chemistry lab (which for some reason is open after school hours - Tsk tsk, Professor Flutesnoot, you're getting careless in your age), Archie is working on some sort of science experiment which causes Jughead to nearly throw up. I guess Archie is trying to actually make Veronica a birthday gift. You know, Archie...a trip to the school's art closet would probably be a better option. Just saying.
But Archie insists that he can make something wonderful for Veronica using the power of science, and proceeds to dump a strange chemical into the bowl of other chemicals he is mixing up, which causes a bright reddish-blue fog to engulf Archie and Jughead. Why do I get the feeling that Archie and Jughead are in big trouble?
Or, maybe I should say SMALL trouble. See, that concoction that Archie made has caused Archie and Jughead to go from being five feet tall to five inches tall! It's a good thing that their clothes also shrunk with them...otherwise NBC would have maybe banned this episode due to nudity!
After climbing a broom up to the table top, Archie reads the label of the last chemical that he used, and realizes that he is a complete moron. Apparently there's a label on the side of the container that the chemical can cause extreme shrinkage. Well, that's nice to know NOW!
(Note how I didn't go for the obvious below the belt reference about shrinkage? Get it? Below the belt? Ah, you know what? Forget it.)
Fortunately, Archie and Jughead aren't totally screwed. There is apparently an antidote to the shrinking formula, and they have to apply it within two hours (by five o'clock) to prevent permanent shrinkage.
(Be good, Matthew...Be very, very good. Do not insert any references to phallic symbols in this blog post at all...)
It sounds simple enough...until Jughead realizes that the antidote is made up of random food items - which is worrisome because I feel that Jughead would eat the ingredients before Archie gets a chance to mix it up.
Oh, and did I mention that a random cat decides at that moment to try to kill Archie and Jughead? Yeah, that's real random. But then again, in the teenage Archie comics, the school janitor, Mr. Svenson had a cat named Loki. I wonder if this cat is named Loki?
We really don't have time to answer this question because the cat has Jughead in its clutches. Archie tries to rescue him, only to pull off Jughead's shoes instead. Seriously, Jughead? Those are what you call socks? You seriously need to do some clothes shopping in the Ken and Barbie section at Toys R Us.
Second time proves the charm as Archie and Jughead escape the cat's clutches and dive down a crack in the wall, leading to a secret area that kind of looks like an underground cavern.
But before you know it, Archie and Jughead happen to run smack dab into a spider and wake it up.
And in case you're wondering why Archie and Jughead are so frightened of that spider, keep in mind that they are only five inches tall, and to them, that spider is about the same size as one found in the Australian Outback.
The spider spins a web and captures Archie and Jughead. Hey, a spider's gotta eat too right!
I guess it's a good thing that Archie and Jughead know how to play Ring Around The Rosey because when they have a game of it with the spider, the spider gets all tied up and can't move. It sounds kind of cruel, but at least Archie and Jughead didn't kill the spider.
Archie and Jughead may have survived that battle, but now they have no idea of where they are or how to get out of the school. And before you know it, they find themselves face to face with a giant rat!
Geez...this is like playing Dungeons and Dragons! First spiders, and now rats? If a minotaur pops out from behind the wall, I'm leaving.
And this is where the show gets a little bit contrived, for Archie just happens to find a piece of red fabric that he uses to be the bull...ahem...ratfighter. I don't know where Archie got the time to go to Spain to learn how to be a matador, but wherever he picked up that skill worked. He knocks the rat out cold, and Archie and Jughead climb on the rat's back, hoping that he can lead them out of this maze. The rat responds by super charging to a hole leading outside and throwing them out of his house! You show those two, Mr. Rat!
Fortunately, the rat's mood swing has swung them outside, and now comes the next challenge for the duo. Trying to get someone to help them.
But with school letting out for the day, Archie and Jughead have to be careful not to get stomped on by a bunch of junior high school kids running from the school to go home. Eventually, they hitch a ride inside someone's pant cuffs - judging by the shape of the pants, I want to say that they hitched a ride on Eugene, but Eugene's yellow shoes aren't on. Unless Eugene is one of those rare people who has more than one set of shoes.
Archie and Jughead happen to notice that Betty, Veronica, and Reggie are nearby, and they try to get their attention, but they are so tiny that their screams are inaudible.
And, soon enough, Archie and Jughead's lives are in danger again - if you're keeping track, this makes five times now - when the person crosses over a puddle and dumps Archie and Jughead into the drink.
Now, in real life, the puddle would only be an inch deep. For Archie and Jughead, it may as well be twelve feet deep. But Archie and Jughead manage to spot one of those plastic styrofoam cups floating down the river, and he and Jughead climb inside of it to safety. Probably one the only times ever that plastic styrofoam can be considered good for the environment.
Okay, seriously? Now they're approaching a waterfall? How many times are Archie and Jughead going to almost die in this episode? This may be the most death attempts ever made in one show!
Incredibly, Archie and Jughead survive going over Street Corner Falls and end up in what I assume is the big river that is flowing through Riverdale. But time is running out for the duo, and they are far from home. How are they going to get the stuff needed to make the antidote?
Well, how about boarding a yacht that happens to be docked at Riverdale Harbor? Turns out that yacht is where Veronica's twelfth birthday party is held (as if we needed any more proof that the Lodge family is ridiculously rich). Archie and Jughead somehow manage to sail their cup boat to the side of the yacht and climb up the side of it. Okay, let's be realistic here. By the time Archie and Jughead climb up to the starboard of the boat, their 5:00 deadline would have expired. By two days. But since this is a cartoon, anything goes.
So after unsuccessfully trying to get the attention of the party guests, Archie and Jughead manage to sneak into the kitchen of the yacht, and what a surprise! 90% of the ingredients are right at their fingertips!
The only thing that they are lacking is a peanut. And peanut butter, peanut brittle, and circus peanuts don't exactly count as an acceptable substitute. So, where did all the peanuts go?
Typical. Reggie ate them all. Judging by the look on Veronica's face, we know she knows who ate all the peanuts, but since Reggie is part of her "in-crowd", we know that he's not going anywhere. And since Archie and Jughead saw Reggie stick a peanut in the pocket of his sweater, they know that they have to get that peanut at all costs.
Now, here's where the episode gets fun - mainly because Archie and Jughead are just the right size to play tricks on Reggie without him knowing!
First, Archie and Jughead tie Reggie's shoelaces together which sends him face first into Veronica's birthday cake. And, it likely causes Reggie facial burns since all the candles on the cake were lit at the time!
Then Archie manages to undo the belt on Reggie's pants, exposing his rubber ducky boxer shorts and making him fall flat on his face, causing Betty and Veronica to laugh at him.
But while Reggie is trying to pull his pants back up, Archie and Jughead snag the opportunity to reach inside Reggie's sweater pocket to grab the peanut, which they do successfully. They have the peanut and the clock is about to strike five. What could possibly go wrong n...
...oh, look...a random dog happens to be running around the boat too. I wonder if this is another one of Veronica's gifts, or if the captain owned a dog, or if Loki the cat hired the dog as a hitman...it makes no sense as to why a dog should be on the boat except to create another near death scenario for Jughead and Archie. At this point, I hope they can find a way to go back to normal...I'm tired just watching them cheat death again and again.
Luckily, the dog crashes into a waiter, and the dog somersaults on top of a wooden spoon that acts as a catapult sending Jughead and Archie back on the table top where the mixer is with the antidote ingredients. I'm also realizing that this will be the one and only time I will ever write a sentence like this again, so I hope you enjoyed it.
Archie adds the final two ingredients - the peanut and a splash of seltzer - and pushes the blender button just as the clock strikes five. A nasty cloud of smelly green smoke engulfs both Archie and Jughead and dissipates leaving Archie and Jughead still shrunk. Jughead laments that the potion did not work...
...or maybe Jughead spoke too soon, as Archie and Jughead expand back to their normal size! Now, I think a funnier twist would have been if they grew to be fifty times their size and sank the boat to the bottom of the sea, but they'd need to make the episode a full 22 minutes for that to happen.
Just at that moment, Betty, Veronica, and Reggie walk into the kitchen and wonder why Archie and Jughead are standing on a table, what the green stuff is in the blender, and why Jughead is wearing socks that should have been pitched in the garbage sometime around August 1985. Oh, and Reggie is taunting Archie about not giving Veronica a birthday present.
Oh, wait...Archie...you can't...you're seriously not thinking of giving Veronica your antidote for shrinkage and claiming that it's a one of a kind perfume? Archie, that "perfume" is a combination of pizza toppings at best! Boy, have you lost your mind?
No, wait. Veronica likes the food perfume, saying it smells delicious and puts on a couple of drops. Veronica, you do realize that Archie basically tried to pass off salad dressing as a birthday gift, right? Archie could have easily gone to the supermarket and bought a bottle of raspberry vinaigrette and gotten the same result!
Oh, and now Jughead is eating Veronica's gift! And that's gonna be our cue to end this episode.
Okay, so the ending was...stupid. Hell, the whole plot of the story was pretty stupid. But there were some parts I did like. Archie and Jughead prove that their friendship is solid and that they make a good team. And any episode where Reggie is humiliated is always good. Plus, no animals were harmed (too badly) in the making of this episode, so they won't have PETA to deal with.
Overall...a terrible plot with some decent moments. I give this one a D+.