2020, PG-13, 104 mins.
Jessica Rothe as Julie Richman / Josh Whitehouse as Randy / Ashleigh Murray as Loryn / Chloe Bennet as Karen / Peyton List as Courtney / Mae Whitman / Jessie Ennis as Stacey / Logan Paul as Mickey / Allyn Rachel as Raechel DonahueDirected by Rachel Goldenberg / Written by Amy Talkington
I think that I've made it abundantly clear over the years that I typical loathe most remakes of any kind. It's as creatively lazy as it gets for the medium.
That's not to say
that I haven't appreciated some remakes.
In my mind, a good re-imagining of a past movie has to pay some
level of respectful homage to what has come before while carving out its
own unique tone and vibe that makes the material somehow feel fresh and
new. Otherwise, what's really
This brings us to
VALLEY GIRL, which is, yes, a remake of the 1983 cult favorite of the same
name, directed by Martha Coolidge and staring Deborah Foreman and a then
very young and quite unknown Nicholas Cage.
Partially inspired by Shakespeare's ROMEO & JULIET as well as
the Frank and Moon Unit Zappa Song "Valley Girl", Coolidge's
original dealt with a popular preppie from San Fernando Valley that hooks
up with a punk hoodlum, and the ensuring opposites-attracts sparks that
ignited as a result. VALLEY
GIRL redux essentially copies and pastes that storyline wholesale, but
makes some welcome changes in terms of direction and execution to allow
for it to stand on its own two feet.
I never really felt like I had any interest in a remake of VALLEY
GIRL, but this re-tooled iteration is pretty damn infectiously delightful,
stemming from the fact that it preserves its antecedent's 1980's era through
being a neon hued pop and rock jukebox musical.
Plus, it's directed with unending enthusiasm by Rachel Goldenberg
and features HAPPY DEATH DAY's
fantastic Jessica Rothe in yet another effervescent performance.
It's a tad
jarring, though, to see VALLEY GIRL not open in Reagan-era California, but
instead the modern day. Ruby (Camilla Morrone) has just gone through a particularly
awful night of being stood up by her crush, which leads to her calling her
mother to pick her up. And,
as added deeply meta icing on this remake cake, the mother Julia is played
by Alicia Silverstone herself, uncredited in the film.
You may, of course, recall that Silverstone appeared as a Valley
Girl queen herself in 1995's CLUELESS, and seeing her play a mother to a
contemporary teen will inspire many nostalgic smiles in viewers.
Anyhoo', when Julia brings her teary eyed daughter home she tries
to ease her intense heartache with a story of her own adolescence, and
before you can say "TOTALLY!" Julia serves the role of
storyteller to Ruby with a tale of her own romance woes way back in the
It's at this
precise point in VALLEY GIRL that it segues from present to past at an
unspecified period of the early 80's, during which time we hook up with
Julia as a young popular girl at Oaks High School (she's played in teenage
form by Rothe). Julia seems
like she proverbially has it all: She's endlessly attractive and is
worshipped at her school, not to mention that she's dating the equally
popular Alpha male jock of the school in Mickey (played by YouTube's Logan
Paul...more on him in a bit). During
one day at the beach with her BFFs in Stacey (Jessie Ennis), Karen (Chloe
Bennet) and Loryn (Ashleigh Murray), Julia has a chance encounter with
Randy (Josh Whitehouse), who's a tough taking punk from Hollywood that
seems like polar opposite ends of the culture divide.
Predictably, both begin to fall in love, which greatly irks their
respective friends, with all of them despising what the other group
represents. Still, Julia
decides to dump Mickey and against her friend's best wishes, she opts to
hook up with the across the tracks bad boy in Randy, a choice that not
only doesn't sit well with them, but also with Julia's parents (Judy Grier
and Rob Huebel), seeing as they fear punk rock as a damning influence on
their good and pure daughter.
As far as
cinematic makeovers go, VALLEY GIRL has an awful lot going for it.
Firstly, Goldenberg understands and honors the appeal of Coolidge's
original narrative (even though we've seen permutations of this tale told
over and over again in countless teen centric romcoms).
This new version maintains the essence of the premise of two
mismatched, but destined to be together lovers from different sides of
L.A. and instead of just lazily regurgitating the 1983 film, Goldenberg
envisions her retelling as a fun and fancy free musical, absolutely jam
packed with classics of the decade (and, uh huh, some of the song choices
are anachronistic, but who cares?). This
new VALLEY GIRL also doesn't try to re-appropriate the tone of the older
version. It's more of a
bubbly, colorful, and inviting party film as reminisced by an older woman
in Silverstone's Julia looking back with misty eyed fondness.
The framing device might initially come off as tired and contrived,
but as a person relatively the same age as Silverstone that grew up in the
80s, I found the star's inclusion here as a nice touch that affectionately
winks in acknowledgement at the audience.
Now, not every
song and dance number here is an unqualified toe tapping winner, but a
majority of them are done with an abundance of limitless and infectious
sass. I especially liked the
opening sequence introducing us to Julie and her besties, set in a mall of
yesteryear to The Go-Go's "We Got the Beat."
We're then given an on-the-nose, but still boisterous rendition of
"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" while on the beach, not to mention a
catchy version of "Bad Reputation" as we meet Randy and his
fellow headbangers. One of my
favorite moments involves an aerobics workout punctuated by everything
from Hall & Oates to Madonna, as well as a terrifically rendered
sequence set at a roller rink that had the 45-year-old critic in me
thinking back to his own days at similar hangouts.
Hell, the makers even managed to call out one of the original tunes
from the '83 film in "I Melt With You" for good appeasing
measure. And Goldenberg
infuses these scenes with a blast of pastel colors, a lovingly garish
stylistic sensibility that echoes the past in question, and no-nonsense
energy that makes the picture expeditiously flow from one scene to the
Leading this hero
worship of rock, pop, and big haired 80s extremes is the lovely presence
of Rothe, who was the best thing going in the two HAPPY DEATH DAY films
and is easily one of the key selling points of this remake.
Harbinger of one the warmest smiles of the silver screen that would
make Rachel McAdams blush with envy, Rothe is such a cauldron of spunk and
bright eyed appeal throughout that she makes even the more pedestrian
scenes of the film go down that much easier.
She's also well matched with Whitehouse, who gives his role the
required brooding hunkiness while also relaying a soft and vulnerable
layer to Randy's ultra tough guy facade.
Perhaps the largest casting elephant in the room is Logan Paul, whose
deplorable antics in one of his incredibly controversial and tasteless
YouTube videos (just Google search his name and "suicide forest"
and you'll immediately understand the bad publicity) single handedly led
to VALLEY GIRL being shelved from its original release in 2018 until a
very unceremonious VOD push now during our current Covid-19 pandemic.
I will say this: Paul is quite good in the film playing...a self
Not all of VALLEY GIRL is a squeaky clean and smooth good ride. Many of the cast are distractingly too old to play teens, Rothe in particular (she's in her thirties), and I'm not sure whether this was a conscious effort on the makers' part here to slyly reference the laughably age inappropriate casting in other musicals like GREASE or just...well...turning a blind eye to the advancing years of their own cast and throwing caution to the wind. Beyond that, VALLEY GIRL 2.0 makes some attempts to inject some themes about female empowerment throughout its story that aren't as profoundly expanded upon as they should have been. Lastly, Goldenberg's VALLEY GIRL seems a bit more aggressively made and marketed with a young adult audience in mind, which may have die hards of Coolidge's film turned off. Yet, by the end of my VOD screening I never felt that this was an intellectually lethargic piece of desecration of the original. As mentioned, I'm not sure that myself or the world around me truly needed a VALLEY GIRL remake, but I'm kind of glad it I saw this one. It's as cheerfully and agreeably innocuous as many of the songs that it references throughout, and as a piece of blatant nostalgia bait, the film is pretty rad.