Surprise, surprise, a new adaptation on a mystery favorite is here and this time it’s The Hardy Boys. This adaption being on Hulu, and I’m going to start out with this review with a few things. A) I like and disliked various parts of it and B) I left the series with mixed thoughts so I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. Honestly, the bar was on the floor with me ever since Nancy Drew came out and while this adaptation of the Hardy Boys was far from perfect, but I didn’t mind it. Somehow this show manages to capture the vibe and classic characteristics of the Hardy Boys despite it’s many, many flaws. This adaptation felt like a weird hybrid of the classic Hardy Boy novels mixed with Stranger Things if that makes sense. Either way, let’s dive into Hulu’s adaptation of The Hardy Boys.
Disclaimer: This has LOTS and LOTs of spoilers so if you don’t mind, proceed with scrolling.
So the main story of the series primarily focuses on the mysterious death of Frank and Joe’s mother, who dies in a car accident pretty early on into the first episode (About 17 minutes in). For me personally, I found the pacing to be quite odd and honestly believe it would’ve been better off had they of opened the scene with the Hardy brothers at their mother’s funeral and then have flashbacks off her as the series goes on. Following this, their father moves them to the town of Bridgeport for some reason and this is where they discover much to their work that their mother was murdered which is what sets off the chain of events within the 13 episodes.
Quick question writers: Why did you change the name of the town? Was the name Bayport not accessible to use or something? I’m just asking for a friend
The main mystery however seems to get sidetracked by a mysterious rock, that holds some bizarre power that various people are after. So yes, this show dives into a sci-fi like storyline as the season progresses which I find unnecessary and outright stupid. However, this somehow connects to the mother’s death because she was investigating the rock, which consists of three pieces (each having sets of powers that give it’s user luck and wisdom; yeah I know it’s ridiculous) and is controlled by an organization known as “The Circle”. There’s too much to dive into because it’s a long story but The Circle consists of three families who each own a piece of the rock, if the 3 pieces of the rock are united then essentially it will grant them worldwide power. Yeah it’s pretty dumb and it’s later revealed that the Hardy Boy’s grandmother, Gloria, is apart of this and knew her daughter was planning on taking down “The Circle”. It’s hard to tell who the main villain is with this story but I’m pretty sure it was the grandmother and her bodyguard (who was later to be revealed to be the killer of Frank & Joe’s mother; unknown to the Grandma). There are other antagonistic characters like this new girl, Stacey, and a mysterious assassin known as “the tall man” but it seems the grandmother is the main antagonist. I don’t know, it was poorly explained. Regardless, I felt this worked really well and despite it being ridiculous at times, they way the executed it made up for it.
Now moving onto what I actually thought of the main mystery and the storyline? I thought the potential was there and then they pulled the “supernatural” card and essentially ruined it. How many times do we have to see a mystery show go supernatural? Stop writers. Literally no one asked to make both Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys have supernatural elements. It feels so weird and forced. I felt like the mystery of uncovering who killed the mother was a good place to start but then it got all sidetracked with the stupid mystery rock. Really dampened the storyline for me personally and the finale just felt weird. It felt like a bizarre combination of The Hardy Boys meets Stranger Things, which would be fine if this wasn’t The Hardy Boys. Out of all the episodes, I think the finale was the weakest one for me because it felt like they bailed on certain aspects of the show. The way they answered who killed the mom a bit rushed and the conclusion was felt a bit lackluster.
Speaking of Stranger Things, one of the things that does work with this show is the 80s setting it takes place in. People can say that maybe they got inspiration from Stranger Things but it works well and gives the show a retro vibe that the books always had going for them. It works for this adaptation quite well and works way better for the story. It’s whole identity isn’t the fact that it’s set in the 80s either which is refreshing because I feel that’s a huge reason why Stranger Things is as popular as it is. They can’t use cell phones or the wifi and have to think of unique ways of finding out answers which works and feels like something from the books so that made me happy. To get into a more positive note with this, I will say that the setting and the way they wrote the pieces of the puzzle coming together worked. The thing that really tainted the show was again the weird Sci-Fi element to it and some of the weird monotone dialogue at times. I know I found this negative but this adaptation wasn’t awful, it just has some problems from a writer stand point. Unlike Nancy Drew, the show doesn’t stray too far from the source material. This show surprisingly works really well . Sure, there are some changes but not enough to make it feel like something completely different. One of my biggest gripes with CW’s Nancy Drew is how dependent they are on the supernatural elements in order to give Nancy clues to whatever the mystery she’s investigating. At least with this show, the boys find classic ways of getting answers. Example: They find a piece of cloth left behind by the mysterious bad guy and have to find out where the cloth came from. This is an example as to how the boys got answers in the books. They did it on their own without much help. This show does have a bit of supernatural elements to it but it wasn’t enough to ruin the classic structure that the writers went with. I will give them major props for that. It’s something the writers of Nancy Drew obviously could not do.
Onto the characters, a majority of them are surprisingly pretty likeable and enjoyable to watch on screen. They include the classic characters from the books such as Chett, Callie, Biff and more. The scenes where the Hardy Boys team up with their friends feels right because they did so in the books and their interactions as a team was surprisingly refreshing to watch. They did gender swap Biff by making her a girl but that didn’t bother me as it brought more diversity to the group, which is something the books lacked. The only dynamic change is probably the age gap between Frank and Joe which I wasn’t really a huge fan of but they made it work decently in this adaption. Frank is 16 and Joe is about 12 meaning there is a 4 year age gap which is very different from the books. I’m not sure why they felt the need to do this but regardless, the actors had good onscreen chemistry and played well with each other. I was surprised because I lowkey thought both actors were going to be terrible but they were actually good with their acting and delivery of the characters. That being said, I would of preferred for Joe to stay closer to age as Frank because it is closer to the source material. Overall the actors in this weren’t awful, some stood out more than others, but they weren’t bad.
The show in general has it’s issues with a bizarre conclusion to the main mystery, some bland dialogue, and at times felt a bit lazily written but it manages to work. It manages to capture the charm and mystery that the books had which was enough and once again the era it’s set in really helps give it that retro vibe. The series had a great instrumental score with various instrumentals that seemed to be 80s or at least retro inspired so that was pretty nice in my opinion. The visuals were impressive and that was almost enough to make the show worthwhile. However, the addition to the supernatural aspect was just dumb and unnecessary. I don’t think the show needed that at all and it was working almost flawlessly until they decided to add that in. As for the overall tone of the show, it’s not as kiddish as we thought it was going to be. There are plenty of serious toned moments that make this show intense but doesn’t pull any cheesy tricks to appeal to young kids. Not sure what the target demographic was for this but it felt tonally similar to Locke & Key. The only difference was that show was based off a series of intense graphic novels and this is based off classic mystery novels so I don’t know what they were targeting here. Either way, I think the show is overall well done and despite it’s many flaws, was enough to keep me interested. Just set your expectations incredibly low and you’ll probably be able to look past it’s issues and questionable plot. That’s a huge win in my book.
All episodes of The Hardy Boys are now available to stream exclusively on Hulu