Even though I can’t recommend the musical reboot of the beloved 1983 teen romantic comedy “Valley Girl” because it’s basically terrible, a part of me wants you to see it for the cheesy camp silliness of it all.
Example. Deep into the film, we see the ensemble cast in various locales trading vocals on “Under Pressure,” the brilliant Queen/David Bowie classic with that immortal bass intro and those searing and intense lyrics: It’s the terror of knowing what this world is about, watching good friends screaming ‘Let me out,’ pray tomorrow gets me higher, pressure on people, people on streets…
And what are these teenagers doing as they sing “Under Pressure”? They’re GETTING READY FOR THE PROM.
Orion Classics presents a film directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg and written by Amy Talkington. Rated PG-13 (for teen partying, language, some suggestive material, and brief nudity). Running time: 103 minutes. Now available on demand.
Directed with a breezy style and bathed in bubblegum pink and other pop colors, with a screenplay by Amy Talkington, the 2020 version of “Valley Girl” is a musical set primarily as a flashback to the 1980s, with the characters lip-syncing to covers of period-piece pop hits such as Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” Animotion’s “Obsession,” The Cars’ “Magic” and yes, Modern English’s “Melt With You.” In each and every case, the bland and vanilla renditions of these tunes make you weep for the legacy of the originals.
“Valley Girl” opens in present day, with Alicia Silverstone as Julie, who picks up her inebriated teenage daughter (Camila Morrone), takes her home and says, “You know, when I was your age, I barfed all over Grandma’s favorite shag carpet. … I told her it was bad shellfish. But I actually, I downed half a bottle of Peppermint schnapps. Life was like a pop song, and we knew all the words.” (Note: Deborah Foreman, not Alicia Silverstone, starred in “Valley Girl.” Alicia Silverstone starred in another teen classic, “Clueless.” Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have Deborah Foreman playing the mom?)
Cue the flashback, with Jessica Rothe (“Happy Death Day”) as teenage 1980s Julie, and “We Got the Beat” on the soundtrack. (Note: “We Got the Beat” was the opening song not for “Valley Girl,” but for ANOTHER 1980s teen classic, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” I’m so confused.) As Julie tells her daughter, she and her friends almost never left the Sherman Oaks mall scene and were warned to never go over the hill to Hollywood, where the tough and dangerous punk kids hung out. Cut to the supposedly edgy punkers murdering “Bad Reputation” and looking and sounding for all the world like they’d lose a rumble with the cast of “High School Musical.”
Josh Whitehouse is the bad boy Randy, an aspiring rocker who has a total “Romeo and Juliet” connection with Julie, while the obnoxious YouTube star Logan Paul plays Julie’s narcissistic boyfriend Mickey. Rob Huebel and Judy Greer provide a few laughs as Julie’s dorky but well-meaning parents. (Julie’s dad to her mom: “We’re not investing in Macintosh, we’re going to go with Commodore.”)
Jessica Rothe and Josh Whitehouse are charming as the leads, though in the time-honored and dubious tradition of movies about high schoolers, the 32-year-old Rothe and the 30-year-old Whitehouse look more like teachers than students. This version of “Valley Girl” is harmless and frothy, and about as nutritious as a dinner of Sour Patch Kids with a glass of New Coke.