Darby & The Dead
Picture of Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Darby & The Dead is a harmless teen comedy

After utilizing his directorial talents in the world of episodic television for the past few years, Silas Howard returns to features in Hulu’s Darby and The Dead. Becca Greene pens the screenplay from a story by Winnoah Wims. Darby Harper (Riele Downs) is your typical high school-aged teenager with one notable difference.

After suffering a near-death experience as a young girl that resulted in her mother’s death, she gained the ability to see dead people. Much to the chagrin of her father, Ben (Derek Luke), Darby has become introverted and shut off from her high school peers as she prefers to spend time counseling lonely spirits who have unfinished business on earth. Things take an unexpected turn when Capri (Auli’i Cravalho), the Queen Bee of the school’s most exclusive clique, unexpectedly dies in a freak hair-straightening accident. Naturally, the tragedy results in the cancellation of her upcoming “Sweet 17.” 

Capri, however, pleads with Darby from the other side to intervene and convince Capri’s friends to proceed with the party, changing the theme to a celebration of Capri’s life. To appease the wrath of the undead diva, Darby must emerge from her self-imposed exile and reinvent herself, which allows her to find new joy back in the land of the living. 

Firstly, looking at the cast of young talent and their previous films, I am outside the demographic for this kind of film. However, I give almost everything a chance, so I hit play on Darby and The Dead. The premise of the film smacks of repetition. A mean person dies and finds themselves unexpectedly brought back to earth to complete unfinished business, enlisting the help of an unlikely source. 

As the ghost and their assistant build their repertoire, there’s naturally hilarity along the way. Audiences have seen these tropes before. Amidst all this, however, the casting of the undead and the protagonist will either make or break the film. Thankfully the director has capable young performers in Riele Downs and Auli’i Cravalho.

The two young actresses play well off each other, focusing on sharp-witted dialogue. Darby and The Dead isn’t a film that tries to make teens smarter than adults. Instead, it relies on familiar tropes with a heart to get to the finish line. Where the film succeeds, Becca Greene stays true to what teens are dealing with now. Popularity in 2022 is all about social media, and the script uses that to its advantage.

I was invested in Darby’s arc as she came out of her shell, and Downs sold the material organically. In addition, I was fond of her interaction with two possible love interests portrayed by Chosen Jacobs and Asher Angel. That said, outside of some routine supporting work by Tony Danza and Wayne Knight, none of the adult characters have anything to do.

Darby and The Dead isn’t something I will ever revisit. However, younger viewers should enjoy the film, and I recommend it.

 

Final Grade: C+

Darby and The Dead is available to stream on Hulu this Friday, December 2nd.

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