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.
A wealthy girl from the Valley forms an unlikely romance with a rocker from the wrong side of the tracks.
If you were a teenager in the 1980s, you might remember Valley Girl. Otherwise, the weirdo teen comedy with Deborah Foreman and a younger, more controlled Nicolas Cage has been largely lost to time, overwhelmed by the ubiquity of John Hughes’ oeuvre. Given all of that, it seems like the rarest of things – a movie for which a remake feels justified. And so we come to the joyous 80s camp of Valley Girl 2020, with a trendy ensemble of teen stars and a musical twist from writer Amy Talkington and director Rachel Lee Goldenberg.
The luminous star of Happy Death Day, Jessica Rothe, is the movie’s Julie – introduced by her present day self (Alicia Silverstone, in a neat teen movie wink) in a story told to her daughter. She’s a full-on “Val”, spending all of her time at the mall or with her prom-king-in-waiting boyfriend Mickey (Logan Paul). At a party, she meets Hollywood rocker Randy (Josh Whitehouse) and he whisks her away to a grungier, more complex world than her moneyed, idyllic neighbourhood.
This take on Valley Girl unfolds in a candy-coloured fantasy version of 1980s California – “that’s how I remember it, it’s what it felt like,” says Silverstone by way of justification. In this world, it’s perfectly normal to burst into a rendition of ‘We Got The Beat’ by The Go-Go’s at the mall, or war over a mash-up of ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ and Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ in an exercise class. The movie is refreshingly easy-going about its musical silliness in a way that will please fans of Ryan Murphy’s pleasantly unhinged high school series Glee.
Naturally, we’re meeting these characters just a month before prom and so politics is at fever pitch, with prom queen manoeuvring taking precedence over any sort of genuine self-exploration. When Julie begins to move away from Mickey and towards the more rough-hewn Randy – who has a lovely bond with a friend played by Scott Pilgrim star Mae Whitman – her snarky, ambitious classmate Karen (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Chloe Bennet) steps in. Talkington’s script smartly illustrates the social hierarchy that’s so important to the “Vals”, and equally shows how little that matters in Randy’s world.
Often, Valley Girl is a little on the nose in its storytelling, layering on the ludicrousness of the “Val” dialect and delivering a selection of slightly awkward jokes about mobile phones and the modern world. Fortunately, Goldenberg’s colourful, peppy tone and Rothe’s charismatic whirlwind of a performance is enough to overcome all of this. Even the YouTube star Logan Paul – whose 2018 scandal postponed the film’s release – is perfectly suited to the sort of obnoxious dudebro who asks a girl to prom by writing on his friends’ arses. Above all else, Valley Girl is a triumph of smart ensemble casting.
Much of the movie relies on the chemistry between Rothe and Whitehouse, which is there in spades. Their romance is believable and, crucially, you want them to be together. The plot beats are exactly the ones you expect to come in a teen romcom like this, but they’re conveyed with such flair – and enough of a knowing wink – that they land perfectly. There’s also a neat, surprising twist on the original’s Graduate-inspired ending, as well as a selection of neat, Hughes-esque title cards about the characters’ future.
Valley Girl is a blast of enjoyable camp that is, unlike its teenage protagonists, entirely sure of its own identity. It knows it’s broad, silly and cheesy, but it embraces that and turns its fantasy elements up to 11, with the assistance of Silverstone’s character’s rose-tinted recollections of this phase of her life. Talkington and Goldenberg’s smart, self-referential storytelling elevates the material to something that, with its magician’s sleeve of high school clichés, unfolds as a love letter to the golden age of the teen comedy.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.