Film Review: Valley Girl (2020)

valley girl indexValley Girl was hyped up by The AV Club for about a month before it finally became available to stream online, but then rather surprisingly on Friday they posted a distinctly mixed review. Before then I’d been pretty excited to watch it as I’m a ridiculously huge fan of musicals and really liked the cast (which includes Alicia Silverstone, Judy Greer, Rob Huebel and Mae Whitman ) but it lowered my expectations and I expected something only slightly above average – yet unfortunately I didn’t even get that.

A remake of a teen comedy that launched the career of Nicolas Cage, this is a jukebox musical, which is of course the worst type of all musicals (ie plausibly vaguely fun but still a bit of a disappointment that they couldn’t be arsed to write new songs, the lazy shits), it’s narrated by Alicia Silverstone who explains “Life was like a pop song and we knew all the words” to her sarcastic and moody daughter, before we launch in to a cover of “We Got The Beat”, which I’d never heard before, so um, it kind of felt like a new song at least.

That first number is an energetically choreographed number, a little soulless but just about watchable nonetheless, and that sums up the majority of the songs, all of which feel over produced and lacking in passion. As for the story, well it’s your typical star crossed lovers nonsense, as Jules (Jessica Rothe) is a valley girl who hangs out with her incredibly vapid friends while Randy (Josh Whitehouse) is a punk (albeit one who declares that punk is dead) who’s in a band with fellow “freaks” Mae Whitman and Mario Revolori, but can Jules and Randy really ever be together? Especially when both of their groups of friends disapprove? Or are they just too different? The answer won’t fucking surprise you in the slightest, that’s for sure.

All of this bland trite nonsense could have been redeemed if the songs had been fun, and to give the film some credit a couple are, but most of the time it runs through a number of popular but average eighties songs and does nothing interesting with them. Yeah, the odd poppy number is slowed down to supposedly make it seem like it has more depth than it really does (with the same applying to the characters singing it), and there’s a fairly likeable medley which starts with “I just Can’t Get Enough” and then adds a couple of others songs including “Tainted Love”, and eh, it’s okay but nothing more than that. The only decent track is a cast sing-a-long to Under Pressure, which comes late in the movie and made me wonder why the film couldn’t have been more inventive like that all along.

There are a few positives, incredibly annoying youtuber Logan Paul plays Jules’ original and soon to be ex-boyfriend and he’s one of the highlights, and yeah, I’m amazed too but he’s meant to be hated and boy is Paul able to pull that off. Meanwhile Rob Heubel and Judy Greer are Jules’ parents and as you might have guessed considering their comedic talents they get the majority of the funniest lines as they provide the film’s only slight slither of satire as the movie mocks their ways, and because their characters are so much fun it’s a shame the film isn’t about them rather than their dumb kid.

That’s a little bit harsh I suppose as Jules is a likeable enough romantic lead, Randy broods a bit too much and the bit where they split up before getting back together is a pain in the arse but at least doesn’t go on for too long, and there’s the occasional funny moment or scene, with a couple of laughs coming from a fancy dress party Randy and Jules attend and which sees various character’s dressed up as Smurfette, Princess Diana, and Elliot and ET. But most of the time it’s bland o’clock, and doesn’t even come close to twenty past quite good.

All of which is a shame as there’s a lot of potential here, if they’d chosen some less well known eighties songs and played around with the performances, made the script sharper and funnier, and increased the satire of the eighties, then it might have been a truly fun movie. But it isn’t, it’s just very, very average, and only vaguely watchable if you really love musicals, but even casual fans of the genre will probably wonder why anyone would bother.

★★1/2

Alex Finch.
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