37 years after Nicolas Cage grabbed Deborah Foreman’s hand and, like, ran out of the Valley High gym to the sounds of Josie Cotton’s “He Could Be The One”, MGM takes us back to the world of Randy and Julie with a spit-polished, musical remake of the cult favorite Valley Girl. As crisp and clean as any of Disney’s High School Musical entries (with expertly choreographed dance numbers to match), director Rachel Lee Goldenberg’s 2020 update is a totally bubbly, super-bright tribute to the original film, but that’s where the gnarly-ness ends. Too cutesy for nostalgic adults and too esoteric for today’s target tween audience, this Valley Girl proves (yet again) that sometimes it’s best to just leave things alone.
Happy Death Day’s Jessica Rothe stars as Julie Richman, the Valley girl with the wandering eye for life on the other side of the Hollywood Hills. Meanwhile, her grody boyfriend Mickey (the deplorable Logan Paul, whose involvement delayed the film’s release for two years) is the consummate douche—so much so that he makes The Wedding Singer’s Glenn Gulia seem like a halfway-decent fella. When Julie bumps into Hollywood punk Randy (Josh Whitehouse) at the beach one day (to the tune of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”), sparks fly, and the swoony teen love story blossoms.
From there on out, there’s not much that you haven’t seen a hundred times before: Julie’s parents just don’t understand, Randy’s friends just don’t understand, and, you guessed it, Julie’s friends just don’t understand, either. Sure, these oil-’n-water kids are facing tough odds, but with the power of love (and 80s music) on their sides, anything is possible, right?
While Martha Coolidge’s 1983 original followed the same plot, it succeeded (where this one doesn’t), because it wasn’t cheese-ified by goofy musical numbers and also managed to maintain at least a little bit of an edge. It was believable that Cage actually had a bit of punk in him, and the low-budget rawness of the film only added to that authenticity. Here, Whitehouse is costumed in expertly de-sleeved flannel shirts and way-too-shiny combat boots as he sings a pop-punk version of Madonna’s “Crazy for You”. As if.
Rothe, looking like she just dropped out of a 1987 Noxema ad, has more than enough energy and charisma to carry the film, and Goldenberg (who directed the brilliant 2015 Lifetime satire A Deadly Adoption) certainly throws her all into it, too, but still can’t keep the film from feeling like a super-sanitized and superficial bubble gum-pop sugar rush.
Where fans of the original will find enjoyment is in a trio of quick cameos featuring the 1983 film’s stars (Deborah Foreman shows up as a prom dress salesperson, E.G. Daily plays Mickey’s mom, and Heidi Holicker frumps out as a teacher at the prom finale), and, yes, the music—even coming from the mouths of Millennial babies—is still the best music ever. Even though 80s nostalgia was done far better in 2011’s Take Me Home Tonight, it’s never a totally bad time when popped collars, scrunchies, and Hot Dog on a Stick are involved. Valley Girl won’t exactly make you want to gag yourself with a spoon, but it’s certainly not the bitchin’ ride it could’ve been (and was already). Fer sure.