Valley Girl, 2020.
Directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg
Starring Jessica Rothe, Josh Whitehouse, Logan Paul, Chloe Bennet, Mae Whitman, Jessie Ennis, Ashleigh Murray, Judy Greer, Allyn Rachel, Alicia Silverstone and Randall Park.
An age old tale of star-crossed lovers set against the backdrop of classic ’80s tunes, Valley Girl is the story of Julie Richman (Jessica Rothe) and her wrong-side-of-the-tracks boyfriend Randy (Josh Whitehouse), who warble their way through their teenage tryst.
This glossy remake of ’80’s Nic Cage charmer Valley Girl has a lot going for it, not least the irrepressibly watchable Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day, La La Land), and a sing-along soundtrack that’d fill the floor of even the most maudlin of wedding receptions. Sadly, somewhere along the way the tape has been chewed up and spat out as a rather uninspired and tangled up mess of greatest hits like Pitch Perfect, Glee, and Dazed and Confused, minus any of their indelible appeal.
The opening tracks of Valley Girl are great: who wouldn’t take pleasure in watching Alicia Silverstone, an actress synonymous with everything associated with the ’90s, waxing lyrical about how great the ’80s were, in a Princess Bride-style wraparound that frames the main story. It sets a tone which makes you believe that you’re about to watch a slice of nostalgia that’ll lovingly send up one of the most iconic decades, but it never delivers on this. Instead simply presenting us with a flashback narrative that features the occasional joke about how big home video-cameras were, or a gag about Luke Skywalker’s father.
Once the ’80s thread begins, we’re thrown into a wonderfully recreated world of leg warmers, personality reflecting hairstyles, and a line-up of ‘like the most totally popular kids in the Valley’. Almost all of whom are intentionally heightened caricatures, which provides a few giggles, before you realise that most aren’t going to develop beyond this, a la Booksmart‘s clever subversion, so they quickly become annoying.
That’s a criticism which cannot be levelled at Rothe, who once again proves that she has that special something which marks her out as one of the most charismatic actors out there. The story demands that she stands out from the crowd, but even outside of that plot necessity, she’s elevating the film to another level with her charm, self-deprecation, and comedic chops. Once the novelty of the songs wear off, which happens rather too quickly, she really is the only reason to see if Valley Girl has any bonus material left.
While we’re on the music, the soundtrack really is a peak megamix playlist of classic bangers that’d make a mobile wedding DJ foam at the mouth. We’re talking Now That’s What I Call ’80s bumper edition. However, the songs are shoehorned into the story with no subtlety whatsoever. Someone will exclaim “Hey Mickey!” to a character called Mickey, and guess what? It just feels lazy, especially when there are moments where Valley Girl gets it so right. Like the wonderful rendition of ‘Under Pressure’ during the finale, which is a lot more organic, and much more effective because of that.
Valley Girl wants to be the Radio Ga Ga Land take on the La La Land musical formula, and while there will be a less discerning audience out there for it, despite another impressive performance from Rothe, this bubble-gum pop romance loses its flavour a little too quickly.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter @mainstreammatt