Synopsis – Set to a new wave ’80s soundtrack, a pair of young lovers from different backgrounds defy their parents and friends to stay together. A musical adaptation of the 1983 film.
My Take – It is quite a known fact that that the basic concept of Romeo and Juliet has been the basis of many love stories around the world. Despite being remade and retooled in various languages and genres, the theme of two youngsters, from different social barring, becoming star crossed lovers, remains the same.
Back in 1983, audience flocked to see a new iteration of the familiar story from director Martha Coolidge, who mixed realistic teen problems and a new wave soundtrack, resulting in a film that endeared an entire generation. But most importantly, it gave us Nicolas Cage (in his first starring role), who managed to make an indelible impact as the besotted, faux-hawked Randy, who easily sweeps Deborah Foreman’s mini-skirt-sporting Julie off her feet.
Now more than three decades later, a new musical remake, which found itself delayed from its 2018 release date, owing to the YouTube controversies related to cast member Logan Paul, has finally released online, that too just a few weeks after the original 1983 version became available for streaming for the first time. While online comparisons have deemed the remake to be inferior to its predecessor, packed with 80’s nostalgia, great songs and a solid cast, personally, I felt this film did not disappoint.
Here, director Rachel Lee Goldenberg (A Deadly Adoption), while paying homage to the original, has created something exciting and new by making several changes to the earlier tone, aiming it at a younger audience, simplifying the tale of love as it works through cultural and social challenges, and expressing everything through soundtrack hits, candied cinematography, and broad performances.
It is clear, right from the first scene, that this is a film meant to generate a party atmosphere for sleepover audiences, by delivering a pleasingly fluffy piece of teen cheerfulness. The overall view of the film will depend on one’s feelings towards the original film and their thoughts on heavy-handed nostalgia and jukebox musicals in general.
The story follows Julie (Alicia Silverstone), a middle-aged mother, who in order to cheer up her daughter, Ruby (Camila Morrone), from a bad night of heartbreak, decides to tell her the story of her first love, which dates to the early 1980s. Back then, despite being a popular girl at Sherman Oaks High School, Julie (Jessica Rothe), who is dating the school hunk Mickey (Logan Paul), and spends rest of her time hanging around with her school mates, Stacey (Jessie Ennis), Karen (Chloe Bennet), and Loryn (Ashleigh Murray), finds herself unhappy with her current situation, and continues to dream of independence, a life that isn’t determined by who she marries.
A spark ignites in her routine life when she comes across Randy (Josh Whitehouse), a Sunset Strip punk rocker, who along with his Safety Recall band mates, Jack (Mae Whitman) and Sticky (Mario Revolori), challenges everything the Valley and Julie stand for.
While the two quickly fall in love, Julie’s new relationship finds herself in a complicated situation with her friends and parents (Judy Greer and Rob Huebel), yet she remains determined to break out of the safety of her world to follow her heart and discover what it really means to be a Valley Girl.
Ten minutes into the film, it’s clear the production isn’t going to pursue the low-budget allure of the 1983 version. While a jukebox musical reboot of an eighties rom-com, on paper seems like a joke, more than that, needless, I, however, found myself enjoying the simplistic nature of director Goldenberg’s film. While the original was a moving teen love story, this updated musical version is a bombastic series of pop videos played out against a sickly sweet assault on a variety of senses, which means every conversation suddenly evolve into wild neon-drenched chorus numbers that serve to tell the simple story we’ve seen countless times before.
The script, written by Amy Talkington, gives also each character ample space to expand their creative spirits and challenge their preconceived ideals. Though occasionally a little too cheesy at first, the writing slowly finds its groove as it moves forward. It’s a story that relishes in both Julie’s coming-of-age journey and the first love that gave her the freedom to reach for something more in life. The neon decade’s materialism steers this film, as everyone wants Julie to stick with Mickey because he offers her a valuable future.
Julie’s friends may be graduating high school, but are headed straight for their graduation degrees, a mindset decades out of date even 30 years ago. Thankfully the film doesn’t waste much time getting to the core experience by ordering up blinding period colors, light choreography, and assisted vocals as the actors give their best poses and brightest smiles to the camera, launching the film with a sugary offering of pop worship.
The lead pair expresses themselves through song, with the film providing a steady stream of period hits, which include “Under Pressure”, “Take on Me”, “We Got The Beat” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” just to name a few. They are backed by fun all-out dance sequences with choreography making it all so fun and fresh.
A lot of the credit here goes to Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day) who manages to shine as the high school-aged Julie, and shares an infectious chemistry with Josh Whitehouse, which will surely keep viewers invested from start to finish. Even the connection between Alicia Silverstone and her on-screen daughter Camila Morrone is sweet. The rest of the cast is as exceptional as well. Rob Huebel and Judy Greer kill every scene as Julie’s hip-to-be-square parents.
Ashleigh Murray and Jessie Ennis bring an abundance of personality to the table, but it is Chloe Bennet, in particular, who as the snide mean girl of the bunch, is delightfully wicked with a killer voice to boot. Logan Paul, a YouTube star known for his frat boy looks and numerous online controversies, is excellent in a role he was apparently born to play. Unfortunately, Randall Park, Mae Whitman and Mario Revolori are woefully underused.
Yes, the film is uneven in its story logic, but that doesn’t matter, as director Goldenberg’s understanding of tone and kitsch saves the film from being a one-note wonder and transform it into a demented hour and 45 minutes of pop songs and teenage emotions. It isn’t a great work of art, but in the world we live in, it’s the film we need right now. On the whole, ‘Valley Girl’ is a delightfully cheesy remake that glosses over its dim-witted plot with catchy musical numbers and a solid cast.
Directed – Rachel Lee Goldenberg
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 102 minutes