May 8, 2020 Valley Girl (Movie Review)
First loves don’t always last, but they change everything! Jessica Rothe and Josh Whitehouse take a tripindicular chance on romance in Valley Girl, a musical remake of the 1983 classic, which arrives on Digital on May 8, 2020, thanks to Orion Classics.
Julie (Rothe: La La Land 2016, Happy Death Day 2017) is the Claire Standish to Randy’s (Whitehouse: Poldark series, The Knight Before Christmas 2019) John Bender. A good girl from the Valley, she enjoys school, her friends, and spending every possible minute at the mall. A punk from the ‘wrong side’ of town—or, in this case, over the hill—Randy hangs out with the weirdos in Hollywood and he’s, gasp, in a band. They are two very different people from two very different worlds, but when fate brings them together—it’s electric!
But this Romeo and Juliet story is not so simple: Julie is currently dating a “Jock douchebag” named Mickey (Logan Paul: The Space Between Us 2017, Airplane Mode 2019), who refuses to let go. Additionally, her three best friends—Karen (Chloe Bennet: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series, Abominable 2019), Stacey (Jessie Ennis: Hits 2014, Better Call Saul series), and Loryn (Ashleigh Murray: Riverdale series, Katy Keene series) —aren’t exactly supportive, and they’re quick to read Julie the riot act when she eyes Randy. Possibly the largest hurdle for the young, would-be couple, however, are Julie’s parents, Diana (Judy Greer: 13 Going on 30 2004, Ant-Man 2015) and Steve (Rob Huebel: The Descendants 2011, Children’s Hospital series).
With all of these obstacles to overcome, can the young couple create a life just like a Pop song and go on to be the basis of the awesomest love story ever told? Clocking in at 102 minutes, Valley Girl was directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg (A Deadly Adoption TV movie 2015, The Mindy Project series) and written by Amy Talkington (The Night of the White Pants 2006, Little Fires Everywhere mini-series). A musical remake of the 1983 classic starring Nicolas Cage and Deborah Foreman, written by Andrew Lane and Wayne Crawford, Valley Girl also features the acting talents of Mae Whitman (One Fine Day 1996, The Perks of Being a Wallflower 2012), Mario Revolori (Please Stand By 2017, Off the Menu 2018), and many, many more.
A Musical-slash-Romcom, Valley Girl is an intriguing blend of genres that is intended to satisfy the whole family. With a romantic angle geared toward young teens, and comedic quips and song selections geared toward those who actually experienced the ‘80s, there’s a little something here for almost everyone. In this, the remake feels somewhat like a melding of 1986’s Pretty In Pink and the popular TV series Glee, with some moments that share similar notes with 1987’s beach dance-a-thon Back to the Beach. As far as the main characters in this love story, they come across as a blend of The Breakfast Club’s Claire and John, and a far less tragic Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen.
To set up the story within the story, Valley Girl utilizes a perfectly-crafted framing device (think 1987’s The Princess Bride) that stars everyone’s favorite crush, Alicia Silverstone (Clueless 1995, Batman & Robin 1997), and Camila Morrone (Death Wish 2018, Mickey and the Bear 2019), as mother and daughter. It’s a creative means of getting meta, and Silverstone gives a fun performance as the elder Julie, relating her teenage adventures to her mesmerized daughter, who humorously admits that some of this tale is “cringey.”
This paves the way for the rest of the cast to step out onto the stage and do their thing, and they do it exceedingly well! In the leading roles, both Rothe and Whitehouse shine. Rothe portrays the likable Valley Girl who, despite seeming to already have it all, has aspirations of forging her own path. Her lovely singing voice aids the talented actress in her delivery, one that allows viewers to easily relate to the good girl who sees beyond the grungy facade of the figurative bad boy. As that boy, Whitehouse gives a passionate performance that is equally alluring. While his voice is grittier and less refined than Rothe’s, he does a good job with the material and provides two of the best covers in the entire film—a Punk Rock take on Madonna’s “Crazy For You,” as well as a heartwarming delivery of Modern English’s “I Melt With You.” Yes, his fake tattoos are ridiculous, but that’s certainly no fault of the actor’s, and he delivers a powerful portrayal here, one that should make Nick Cage proud.
Of their friend groups, the clear stand-outs are Ennis’ Stacey and Whitman’s Jack. Ennis portrays the too sweet, too smart bestie who goes on to the Ivy League for college, while Whitman delivers a performance as the gruff but likeable Jack, Randy’s roomie and bassist of their Punk band, Safety Recall. Certainly Whitman has a bit more material to work with, and Jack gets to express herself much more bluntly, which allows for an acting performance that is always intriguing to watch. Ennis, on the other hand, provides the moments of true friendship, with no strings attached, to show teens what their peer relationships should look like. Meanwhile, when it comes to comedy, Greer and Huebel deliver as Julie’s zany parents.
As with nearly any remake, particularly ‘80s classics, fans were already beginning to voice their disgust before the film was even close to being released. So, is this remake an atrocity? Well, that is going to depend heavily on whether you have seen the 1983 original and loved it, as well as your age. To be real, die-hard fans that grew up with the original are going to accept no imitation and that’s just how it goes.
For the rest of us, Valley Girl does not succeed in properly capturing the spirit of the ‘80s—it is merely a film set in an amorphous year within the early part of the decade, utilizing some of the greatest hit songs of the era as its soundtrack. While there are a few jokes that definitely require a background in all things ‘80s, do not expect to be inspired to break out your legwarmers and spandex. For teens, however, Valley Girl is simply the story of a girl and a boy with the chips stacked against them, a couple who, along with their friends, will sing and dance in the California sunshine and entertain you for the film’s runtime—often while wearing silly clothes.
In short, Valley Girl is the 2020 fantasy of what the ‘80s were: stylized to always be colorful, but still fun and chic for our modern age. But to nitpick the authenticity of the genre references or fashions would demean this production, one that tells a story that is wonderfully framed and an enjoyable watch. Flipping the script and placing the power in the hands of the female lead, all while heavily promoting female empowerment, this is a film that injects our modern views into a vintage romance.
Sure, it’s not rocket science and it has literally been done before, but if you have an open mind and a love of bad boys (and groundbreaking girls), then Valley Girl can certainly put a smile on your face. For this, Cryptic Rock gives the 2020 remake 3.5 of 5 stars.