The ‘Valley Girl’ Remake Just Can’t Resist Being a Sugar-Saturated Jukebox Musical

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CREDIT: Orion Classics

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Josh Whitehouse, Chloe Bennet, Jessie Ennis, Ashleigh Murray, Logan Paul, Mae Whitman, Alicia Silverstone, Camila Morrone, Judy Greer, Rob Huebel

Director: Rachel Lee Goldenberg

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for A Row of Bare Butts Utilized for a Promposal

Release Date: May 8, 2020 (On Demand)

Valley Girl the remake updates a low-key rom-com 80s charmer and turns it into a cotton candy-nostalgia-lensed jukebox musical. The song-and-dance numbers are often buoyant, but I’m more interested in the weirdness lurking around the edges. That said, the synth-heavy, new wave-dominated pop music of this particular decade is more off-kilter than other eras’ popular tunes and plenty of people find it irresistible. So when our lead Valley Girl Julie Richman (Jessica Rothe) intones, “Life was like a pop song, and we knew all the words,” you might think to yourself, “You mean something like ‘We Got the Beat’ by iconic L.A. girl group the Go-Go’s?” And sure enough, everybody on screen promptly starts singing that anthem of musical possession. Or maybe, if you’re like me, during the part when Men Without Hats’ indefatigable “The Safety Dance” pipes up, you realize that it’s a perfect tune for a wedding reception, especially the version in which they spell out the title. The mind bounces around with highly personal ideas when thoroughly familiar songs keep tirelessly piping through the speakers.

When the original Valley Girl came out in 1983, the stereotype of ditzy, superficial, upspeaking teenage female San Fernando Valley residents was already firmly ensconced in American culture. Frank Zappa and his daughter Moon had just released their song “Valley Girl” the year before, after all. So while O.G. VG was self-aware of its setting, it was also still living through its era and thus it wisely took a snapshot instead of a whole panorama. But 2020 VG‘s appetite might be bigger than its tummy. It plays just about everything a little too straight and obvious. The Romeo and Juliet template of two lovers from opposite sides of town is very much intact, as Julie falls for punk rocker Randy (Josh Whitehouse). The modern-day framing device of a grown-up Julie (Alicia Silverstone) telling the story to her own teenage daughter (Camila Morrone) only underscores the predictability. Also a bummer: the casting of YouTuber Logan Paul, who has a reputation for controversial videos that actually prompted the film to be delayed from its original 2018 release date. Although, it’s worth noting that if you’re worried you might be turned off by his presence here, it helps to know that as Julie’s current boyfriend Mickey, he is supposed to come off as a massive tool.

After watching Valley Girl, I started to develop another interpretation after I looked over director Rachel Lee Goldenberg’s filmography, which mainly consists of titles released by notorious mockbuster distributor The Asylum as well as A Deadly Adoption, the bizarrely straightforward Lifetime original movie starring Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig. Maybe playing it straight with no comment is just Goldenberg’s sensibility. If you asked her why she cast twentysomethings and thirtysomethings as teenagers, I can imagine her answering, “Isn’t that just how you’re supposed to do things in Hollywood?” (Rothe does at least have a young face, although she has a very grown-up aura.)

Look, when a movie like this one has lines like “Everyone would probably have a total cow if I left” and “Technically speaking, punk is dead,” you kind of start to realize that it’s making fun of itself. And if you’re still worried about a fatal lack of a sense of humor, at least hang around for the moments with Rob Huebel and Judy Greer as Julie’s parents. The two of them (three if you count Huebel’s mustache) are fully alive as the most wonderful exaggerations of pushy parents who have mapped out their kid’s future. Valley Girl, huh? More like “Valley Parents Just Don’t Understand.”

Valley Girl is Recommended If You Like: Jukebox musicals, I Love the ’80s, Beach Blanket Bingo

Grade: 3 out of 5 Ronald Reagan Masks

‘Abominable’ Follows the Tropes of the Weirdly Thriving Yeti Adventure Mini-Genre

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CREDIT: Universal Studios and Pearl Studio

Starring: Chloe Bennet, Albert Tsai, Tenzing Norgay Trainor, Eddie Izzard, Sarah Paulson, Tsai Chin, Michelle Wong

Director: Jill Culton

Running Time: 97 Minutes

Rating: PG for Danger on Rooftops and Mountains

Release Date: September 27, 2019

Yetis and bigfoots are having quite the cinematic moment. As are lovingly shot, delicious-looking Chinese dumplings. Abominable probably isn’t the pinnacle of either of these trends, but it is a demonstration of their bountiful charms. By this point in the mini-genre, you know the basic plot outline: a giant mythological creature bumps into an intrepid human, who must then protect the hairy fellow from agents of government, science, and/or media, who have their own exploitative agendas in mind. In this case, the harried and ambitious Yi (Chloe Bennett) discovers a goofy yeti making a ruckus on her Shanghai apartment, and then she and her friends Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai) suddenly find themselves on a mission to safely escort the beast, whom they dub “Everest,” to his home on Mount Everest. But really, everyone just wants to get back and chow down on Yi’s grandma’s pork buns, Peng and Everest especially.

Meanwhile, some rich dude (Eddie Izzard) and a zoologist (Sarah Paulson) are on Everest’s tail for less scrupulous reasons. Chances are pretty high that the two of them will either get their comeuppance or see the light or some combination of the two. Hearts are warmed, la la la, credits roll, goofy callback to some joke from earlier before the curtains close. If this formula comforts you, you know who you are. For those craving something at least a little different, we get Everest’s special powers, like teleportation and his ability to summon giant blueberries that splat berry juice all over everyone. It’s good to know that sticky messes still have their place in kids-targeted entertainment.

Abominable is Recommended If You Like: Smallfoot, Missing Link, Bao

Grade: 3 out of 5 Pork Buns