11th May2020

‘Valley Girl (2020)’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Jessica Rothe, Josh Whitehouse, Chloe Bennet, Peyton List, Jessie Ennis, Mae Whitman, Mario Revolori, Rob Huebel, Judy Greer | Written by Amy Talkington | Directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg

1983’s Valley Girl was one of a myriad of teen movies that decade that mixed wish-fulfilment and star-crossed lovers to riff on the old Romeo and Juliet premise. And whilst the film featured a career-defining role from Nicolas Cage as one half of the lovers at the centre of the film, the movie has – in the years since – seemingly fallen out of favour with both those that lived through that decade of cinema and those who look back on those films with a fondness, be it an ironic fondness or not.

Originally slated for release in 2018, this Valley Girl was set to follow hot on the heels of the remake of Adventures in Babysitting, another remake of an 80s favourite. A few faux pas on the part of controversial YouTuber Logan Paul – here cast as the jock douchebag boyfriend of Julie (Rothe) – meant that the film has been, some 2 years later, unceremoniously dumped to VOD. Where, if I’m honest, the film will probably fare better with fans of Paul and 80s remakes in general as I doubt many of either fandoms would have paid to see this in cinemas.

Thankfully, especially in comparison with the Babysitting remake, writer Amy Talkington and director Rachel Lee Goldenberg get a lot of things right with this remake. Undoubtedly the greatest thing is making this entire movie more of a musical than traditional feature. And the way they go about setting it up, with Julie recalling the story of her youth to her daughter, claiming “that’s how I remember it”, is a stroke of genius – turning the hokey teen movie stereotypes into much more of a fantastical film, perfectly setting up the use of a myriad of [mainly classic 80s] songs, both pop and punk, on the soundtrack WITHOUT veering into High School Musical cheese territory… Even if some musical purists might be offended by some of the mashups presented within the films 102 minute runtime.

Unfortunately where this remake falls apart is in the casting. Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day) is perfectly fine as Julie, the star-crossed Juliet of this film, ably supported by a cast of valley girls: Karen (Chloe Bennet), Courtney (Peyton List) and Stacey (Jessie Ennis). However – and to be honest it was never going to happen – this films punk “weirdo” Randy (Josh Whitehouse) cannot measure up to the out-there edgy performance of Nicolas Cage; in fact Whitehouse comes across too clean cut to be punk. Though once again Mae Whitman, as she did in the Scott Pilgrim movie, steals almost every scene she’s in as Randy’s friend and punk bandmate.

It seems fitting that this remake IS a musical given just how iconic the soundtrack to Martha Coolidge’s original Valley Girl was. After all legend has it Coolidge spent most of her films budget on the music – a mix of new wave synth pop and bands no one, at the time, had heard of – and that Valley Girl redefined the teen movie going forward, leading to all the classic music-led scenes you see to this day in your favourite teen movies of the decade. Here the music is used as both a shorthand to define the films stereotypes and character tropes; and as a cultural reference to the feelings and emotions of the time, building an emotional connection with the audience – both old and young – who look back on the 80s with a warm nostalgic feeling. It’s that goodwill, to a decade long past, which will keep audiences watching over and above any performances or story. That and the cameo(s) from those involved in the original 1983 film – including it’s star, Deborah Foreman!

A decent remake that not only pays homage to 1983’s original but also the 80s as a whole, Valley Girl is a charming, inoffensive teen movie that will appeal to those the grew up on them back in the day and their kids who will no doubt be forced to watch alongside mum and dad! Plus, this might be the first time in teen movie history that we get the REAL ending to the teen love story… break-ups, marriages, kids, careers and all.

Valley Girl is available on VOD now from Orion Classics (a nice touch there too!)

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