“Darby And The Dead” is the latest teen comedy film from 20th Century Studios and tells the story of Darby Harper, who is played by Riele Downs, who suffered a near-death experience as a young girl, and gains the ability to see dead people. As a result, she becomes extremely introverted and shuts herself off from her high school peers and prefers to spend time counselling lonely spirits who have unfinished business on earth, as she loves the feeling of helping people go to the other side.
But all that changes when Capri, played by Auli’i Cravalho, who is the Queen Bee of the school’s most exclusive clique, unexpectedly dies in a freak hair straightening accident. Resulting in her coming to Darby for help, as she struggles to come to terms not just with her death, but with how people actually saw her in real life. Capri manages to manipulate Darby into helping put on a “Sweet 17” birthday party for Capri, who thinks this might help her move to the other side. To do so, Capri teaches Darby how to become popular at high school, how to get the attention of boys, how to dress, how to act and even how to become a cheerleader.
As you might expect, this film has almost every single American high school cliche possible, with the big school dance that everyone is getting prepared for, cheerleading, a love triangle, being completely unknown for years and then being the most popular person. Throw in lots of modern references about Tiktok, eggplant emojis, Instagram, influencers etc. Many of these will probably date this film very quickly as things change. Plus, you’ve got some fourth-wall-breaking moments with Darby talking to us and generally, it’s just a hotchpotch of modern-day cultural methods to make a film seem relevant.
Riele Downs, was a really good choice for the main role of Darby, she was very likeable, and I did feel for her throughout the film, Auli’i Cravalho, played the part of the bitchy head cheerleader really well, though at times they tried to make her relatable, it fell a little flat, since she was so superficial throughout the film.
It’s also another major issue I have with US high school dramas, is that everyone in the film looks in their mid to late twenties. They all drive big expensive cars, have expensive clothes, have huge bedrooms and generally seem so far removed from the real high school experience. “Darby And The Dead” just lean in so heavily on this and is less convincing than Darby talking to dead people. I also thought it was interesting how while the story involves people moving over to the next life, there is no element of religion, or even what is on the other side, which the dead seem to want to get to quickly, which seemed old. You’d think most ghosts would want to stay with their loved ones as long as they can, and there’s one scene, where it makes little sense as to why this ghost would suddenly want to leave.
“Darby And The Dead” is a very easygoing film, it’s got a few jokes in there that made me laugh, but there wasn’t really anything in this film that was that original. It was a paint-by-numbers comedy film, where there is a tickbox for high school stereotypes and cliche there is. I did enjoy watching the film and am glad I’ve seen it, but it’s not something I would watch again, since it’s just so generic. There sadly isn’t anything in the film that makes it stand out as that original.
Rating – 3 Out Of 5
“Darby And The Dead” is coming out on Friday, 2nd December 2022, on Hulu in the United States and on Disney+ around the world.
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.