For those hoping 2016’s “La La Land” was going to usher in a new era of Hollywood musicals, it hasn’t really panned out. The critically acclaimed, feel-good Oscar-winner was a fresh breeze from a bygone era, but there haven’t been a slew of movies following its lead. The new film “Valley Girl” does, but not in a way that will change the movie landscape. Still, it’s a light and breezy musical with a fun nostalgic tinge. I kinda liked it.
“Valley Girl” comes from director Rachel Lee Goldenberg working from a screenplay by Amy Talkington. Their film sits down in the heart of the 1980’s, the time of Guess jeans, leg warmers, and MTV (when it actually played music). It takes place in Southern California where a San Fernando Valley girl and a Hollywood punker cross zip codes to be together despite the steady objections from their vastly different sets of friends.
The film stars 32-year-old Jessica Rothe who is still convincing playing a high school senior. Rothe is the real strength of the picture, delightful and full of charm and energy. She plays Julie, every bit a valley girl who loves shopping, fashion, and is fluent in all forms of Valleyspeak. She lives a comfortable, pampered life with her wealthy friends who are seemingly impervious to life outside of the Valley. Yet there are signs that Julie isn’t the snobby elitist some of her pals tend to be.
Just over the hills in Hollywood lies an entirely different world. That’s where Randy (Josh Whitehouse) lives, an aspiring punk rocker who is the antithesis of everything from the Valley. He fits the movie stereotype of every parent’s nightmare – he’s loud, rowdy, and has tons of family baggage. Oh, and there’s that whole punk rock thing which you know must mean he’s bad news.
The two opposites cross paths and there is an instant spark. Julie’s friends (Chloe Bennet, Mae Whitman, and Ashleigh Murray respectively) warn her that Randy is trouble and she should stick with her obnoxious bro-boyfriend Mickey (fittingly played by Logan Paul) who happens to be the toast of their high school. How someone so glaringly repellent and insufferable can be adored by students, teachers and parents is beyond me. Meanwhile Randy’s punk band members tell him he doesn’t belong with a rich, well-to-do valley girl and she’s sure to break his heart.
As it all plays out we get an assortment of 80’s pop inspired musical numbers. Almost inevitably we get the girlfriends singing Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. And there’s a sweet duet of A-Ha’s “Take on Me”. We also get some punk versions of “You Might Think” by The Cars, and Madonna’s “Crazy For You”. Strangely, the music numbers are more fun than actually good. They’ll have you singing along with a smile on your face, but you won’t be rushing out to buy the soundtrack.
As a culture-clashing romance, “Valley Girl” is pretty predictable. None of the characters step out of their molds to offer much we haven’t seen before. But the cast is game, especially Rothe who had a small role in “La La Land” singing in one of the film’s best numbers. Here she shows the same charisma, while adding a dash of innocence and naïveté, which brings empathy to a character you can’t help but like.
The film opens with the line “Life was like a pop song, and we knew all the words.” It then goes on to show that no one really knows all the words and we should be learning new verses everyday. It’s one of the movie’s several themes splashed in aquas and pinks. I haven’t seen the movie it’s based on, a 1983 cult hit perhaps known best as Nicolas Cage’s first big screen role (sorta). But this one provides a nice little diversion in a time when a lot of us are looking for one.
VERDICT – 3 STARS