“Valley Girl” Movie Review


      Who knew anyone was clamoring for a remake of the 1983 cult teen flick “Valley Girl”, but within the fodder that is today’s offerings on VOD, I suppose the overall sentiment is why not?  In truth, this new version was shot three years ago and expected to be released in 2018, likely attempting to ride the coat tails of 2016’s awards darling “La La Land”, while also taking full advantage of the new wave of 80s nostalgia brought forth by Netflix’s “Stranger Things”.  In a departure from the source material, director Rachel Lee Goldenberg working from a script by Amy Talkington, adapts the original story into a “Mamma Mia” style musical that sees the characters busting out into full on musical dance numbers throughout.  The 80s soundtrack backing the film becomes somewhat ruined when the covers of these classic tunes fail to measure up.

     As a sort of framing device, an older Julie Richman (Deborah Foreman’s character in the original played here by Alicia Silverstone) is now a mother in the present day who has just rescued her daughter from a party.  But instead of berating her, she puts on a couple of old albums and begins telling the story of her own teen years, which were not as innocent as her daughter may have thought.  This instantly cues the music as a teenage Julie (Jessica Rothe) is smack dab in the middle of her senior year, galavanting in the mall with her friends while buying Madonna inspired outfits, eating Hot Dogs on a Stick, and infusing their conversations with words like “rad”.

     She also is dating the most desirable boy in school, a rich jock named Mickey (Logan Paul), who is as sickening and arrogant as you would think.  But after an introduction to the fact these kids, who reside in the San Fernando valley, are forbidden by their parents to venture over the hill and into Hollywood where all the weirdos apparently live, we meet Randy (Josh Whitehouse), a punk rocking band member who subsists within the grimy confines of a run down apartment and barely has two nickels to rub together.  Of course fate ultimately brings Randy and Julie together when a chance meeting at the beach leads to he and his bandmates crashing a party at Mickey’s parent’s house.

     None of these relationships, whether it be the supposed spark between Randy and Julie, the faux convenience between Mickey and Julie, or the tag along girl friends Karen (Chloe Bennet), Stacey (Jessie Ennis), or Loryn (Ashleigh Murray), are even minutely believable.  In fact, the entire vibe feels more like the parody films that were semi popular in the early 2000s.  Movies like “Disaster Movie”, “Epic Movie”, and “Meet the Spartans” come more to mind than any of the teen classics this film is trying to emulate.  All of which is made even worse by the cornball lines and cheesy set pieces populated by lame characters like Julie’s parents, Steve (Rob Huebel) and Diana (Judy Greer), who might as well be card board standees with a voice box spewing 80s cliches and silly lines about how cool their new video camera is.  It’s meant to be another blast from the past, but the entire things lacks any heart or soul.

     And the whole musical thing simply doesn’t work.  I’ve always thought many in the genre were awkward, particularly when one character is singing and the other has to non verbally react and show emotion that never seems to match the passion of the person belting out the lyrics.  Here, the filmmakers will have the girls sitting on the beach talking about boys when one of them suddenly says “you know, girls just wanna have fun!”, which is then followed by the entire beach erupting into a chorus and dance routine performing the classic Cyndi Lauper tune.  This happens at least a half dozen times in the film with every occurrence coming off as hollow and forced. 

     If there is a silver lining in all of this, it’s Jessica Rothe, who manages some semblance of admirable star power where you can actually envision her flourishing as a more thoughtfully drawn character.  The same; however, cannot be said for Josh Whitehouse, mostly because his performance is inevitably measured against Nicolas Cage’s in the same role, resulting in him being completely overshadowed by the strangely appealing presence the former provided at a point where he was just beginning his long and illustrious career.  As far YouTube sensation Logan Paul, you’re basically getting a sort of riff on the Johnny character in “The Karate Kid” and as far as I’m concerned the less we see of him the better.  The entire film lacks the magic and appeal necessary to elevate a musical to the standard necessary for it to succeed.  If you really want to hear songs from the 80s, your best bet is tap the playlist you likely have on your iPhone, put in your Air Pods, and dance the night away.  “Valley Girl” is just a cheap imitation mix tape.  GRADE: C-