'The Hardy Boys' Review: A charming interpretation of the books brings Frank and Joe Hardy to life
The show puts its own spin on the beloved adventure books while still capturing its charm, with an engaging mystery that starts slow
Spoilers for 'The Hardy Boys' Season 1
The best part of what makes 'The Hardy Boys' work is right there in its opening scene. It's a simple scene of Frank (Rohan Campbell) and Joe Hardy (Alexander Elliott) arguing over whose turn it is to play an old school video game, with their mother Laura (Janet Porter) mischievously allowing Joe to ruin Frank's high score. There's teasing, there's fraternal frustration, and above it all, there's love. Frank and Joe Hardy, from the minute they appear on the screen, are brothers, for better and worse, and the series' best job is in how well that's portrayed.
Unfortunately, the family aspect is stilted somewhat in its first several episodes, as Laura dies in a car crash, the boys and their father, Fenton (James Tupper) move to Bridgetown to live with their aunt Trudy (Bea Santos). The series takes a while to set up its mystery, introduce its wide cast, and set up the Hardy brothers as actual investigators instead of just two brothers dealing with their grief. It's not until about the fourth or fifth episode that the series truly picks up, but once it does, it is a great interpretation of the beloved adventure books.
'The Hardy Boys' has two main strengths: how well the cast interacts with each other, and how well written its mystery is. Every single member of the cast has a unique relationship with each other, and it all comes out in quite engaging ways on screen. The boys are investigating their mother's last case, which pulls them deeper and deeper into a Bridgeport mystery that goes back decades and unearths a rather intricate conspiracy. While the mystery grows ever more complicated, it's all handled well - none of it is hard to keep track of, and the characters are charismatic enough in the meanwhile to keep things entertaining.
The show has made some updates to the books - most notably in the difference in ages between Frank and Joe. Where in the books Joe was only a year younger than Frank, the Joe on TV appears to be at least 6-8 years younger than his older brother. The show makes it work, giving Joe an age-appropriate companion in a gender-swapped Biff Hooper (Riley O'Donnell) - who, truth be told, is the most competent character on the show - but where it falters is in introducing a supernatural element to the show.
Between the nostalgia factor of a Bridgetown that's apparently set in the '80s, with a soundtrack to match and actual magic creeping its way into the mystery, it's obvious that 'The Hardy Boys' is attempting to chase a 'Stranger Things' vibe, falling short of what made the latter show so compelling.
'The Hardy Boys' works better as a show on its own right, featuring children who don't just luck and fumble their way into answers, but display genuine intelligence and competence that is an important part of every good detective story. With its small town charm, engaging mystery and memorable characters, 'The Hardy Boys' feels like the novels at its best. It's not a huge, impactful, blockbuster of a series, but a more evenly paced story that ought to be enjoyed at leisure.
All episodes of 'The Hardy Boys' are now streaming on Hulu.