Valley Girl (2020)

There’s a fine line between “carrying a movie” and “being completely wasted by a movie that you totally outclass,” and Jessica Rothe toes that line this entire musical as it bounces between bearable and dire. Rothe, like in Happy Death Day (parts 1 and 2), is a true star, inhabiting her Valley girl persona but also suggesting something richer and more tender to her character. She’s not an amazing singer, but it doesn’t much matter because nobody here is.

The rest of the cast is a roller coaster. Half of it is really solid actors who are charming if occasionally misused (Alicia Silverstone, Mae Whitman, Chloe Bennet, Judy Greer, Rob Huebel, etc.), and half of it is a bunch of zeros who leave no impression. Most frustrating is Josh Whitehouse as the costar who has little of what the role demands (looks, presence, pipes, chemistry). Most vile is Logan Paul, a wet sack of crap as the d-bag boyfriend. At least he fits the casting!

(Logan Paul kissing Jessica Rothe… get behind me, Satan!)

The film is a remake of a cult-adored Nic Cage musical from 1983, which I have not seen. While that movie was contemporary — both its music and its setting set right around the release of the film — this Valley Girl has a framing story. An uncredited Alicia Silverstone plays an older version of Rothe telling a story to her daughter, which also adds an element of unreliable narrator to the story.

I reserve the right to revisit this review of the film once I ever see the original. I suppose it’s unlikely that it would make me appreciate this film more, though it might make me even more appreciative of everything that Rothe brings to the table.

The central story, once we escape the framing device, is a run-of-the-mill across-the-tracks romance story. I say that flippantly, but it’s one of my favorite story templates. It allows for something that plays upon class tension and gender roles without being too didactic on the material.

At least the production is colorful and light, avoiding the dreariest outcomes for the film. The biggest selling point of the film is the fun ’80s details, most especially the outrageous outfits and hairstyles.

The music is surprisingly low-energy, with weirdly empty production and high school-level choreography. It also has some horrific anachronism jokes. But the outfits and 80s colors are a blast.

Whenever Rothe is onscreen, which is most of the movie, the movie works well enough, so I can’t say I hated it overall, but it’s a resounding “meh.”

(Fun fact: Rothe, who plays a high schooler, was 33 when this movie came out.)

Is It Good?

Not Very Good (3/8)

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