The teen-oriented films of John Hughes, Amy Heckerling’s Fast Times At Ridgemont High and even more outlandish fare such as Savage Steve Holland’s Better Off Dead all take a few liberties when it comes to the social realism of teen years and school culture. The reason they proved to be resounding critical and commercial hits is they all possessed intelligence and a lot of heart, their robust humour and angsty pathos carrying kernels of truth and sensitivity about growing pains and the best years of our lives. What they didn’t do is recycle melodramatic stereotypes with passable acting and a horrendous musical interruption every 10 minutes. Valley Girl, a brand new remake of Martha Coolidge’s 1983 hit starring Nicolas Cage & Deborah Foreman, commits all of those sins and more in a horribly misjudged attempt to capture the spirit of coming of age in the 80s.
Ruby Richman (Camila Morrone) is a young lady in the midst of a rather sorry night, having just broken up with her boyfriend. Cutting her best pose of forlornness, she awaits pickup from her mother Julie (Alicia Silvertone), an ebullient ‘cool mum’ who proceeds to drive her home, sit her down (after some preliminary teenage moaning) and regale her with tales of how her own adolescence was full of identity crises, true love, heartbreak and, apparently, relentless butchering of iconic 1980s pop classics.
We’re back in the Eighties, and Julie is in her senior year of high school in Encino, Los Angeles. As the titular ‘valley girl’, her and her best friends comprise a clique of popular rich kids who all talk in that daft version of California English (‘rad’, ‘totally’, ‘gnarly’ and ‘like’ in between every other word). They wear the best clothes, they’re all gorgeous, all in line for the best colleges Et cetera. Julie is dating the most popular jock in school, Mickey (everybody’s favourite insufferable cock, Logan Paul) and spends most of her time attending parties and gossiping with her friends, feeling alienated from her cardboard-cutout wealthy douchebag parents, and showing uncharacteristic flashes of intelligence and introspection. Also, her and everyone else in the film randomly burst into song, and you can rest assured that it is never good. Being what is termed a ‘jukebox musical’, the film consists of the cast delivering horrendous, atonal renditions of new wave classics. ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ by The Cure, ‘Kids In America’ by Kim Wilde, ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ by Cyndi Lauper and Toni Basil’s ‘Mickey’ are just a few of the tunes that get thoroughly and unfairly rogered by the films various coteries of knobheads.
During a beach party one afternoon, Julie crosses paths with Randy (Josh Whitehouse), a rebellious and dysfunctional young man from Hollywood. Randy is a member of a punk band, and he and his best friend Jack (Mae Whiteman) love nothing more than thrashing out tunes, getting shitfaced, taking the piss out of the rich kids and generally trying not to cut themselves on that edge. Their eyes meet, and after some flirting and more crappy singing, they decide to go steady. Characterisation, arcs and altogether coherent narrative appear to be things that director Rachel Lee Goldenberg seemed content to leave thin here.
Their respective friends start to become jealous and hypercritical, it puts pressure on their relationship, there’s more singing, by-the-numbers, hurt boo-boo ‘he’s just not right for you’; you can tell where all of this is going, right? And yes, you better believe that Randy and Mickey (Logan Paul, just to reiterate, appears for some reason) engage in a bout of fisticuffs. The film plays like a bunch of 90s kids who loved 80s movies doing an intoxicated, formulaic impromptu play where predictability is the theme de jour. Hughes and a couple of other contemporaries pulled off these kinds of stories wonderfully, and I couldn’t help but spend the entire picture feeling that what came out in the 80s should be left in the 80s, aesthetic warts and all. This film just doesn’t have the honesty or integrity of those earlier works.
There’s not much else I can say about this one. The musical covers are lousy and anti-ear, the acting isn’t convincing, relationships between characters rise and fall out of nowhere, and it isn’t funny, exciting or endearing. Even if you have some level of morbid curiosity as to how some of your favourite earworms are tackled, I would still advise against sitting through it. Go and watch the original instead, it’s a goofy film but at least it has some palpable heart and entertainment value. If you and any of your friends are having one of those Zoom movie parties or whatever, any unanimous decision to stick this on is your cue to go outside and play hopscotch. You’ll have a nicer time.