A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Troop Beverly Hills, a fish-out-of-water comedy released in 1989, like its heroine Phyllis Nefler is not aging gracefully. Phyllis, would-be leader of the Wilderness Girls of Beverly Hills (an unflattering parody of the Girl Scouts), smokes incessantly, drinks wine at any hour of the day or night, and initially is clueless about the needs of the troop of young girls put in her care. It's all in a quest for laughs, and there definitely are some of those, but the gleeful put-downs of people with money are so exaggerated that any sense of reality is lost within moments of the opening credits. Stereotypes include: selfish, amoral, shallow people with money; a hard-edged female scout leader; a gay designer; a hip-hopping young African-American; a Latina housekeeper; and a dimwitted businessman. Occasional swearing and sexual remarks ("damn," "hell," "s--t," "bitches," "slut," "boob job," "boffing"), and there is mild sexual innuendo in several scenes. The action is all farcical: pratfalls, a shaky bridge, an encounter with a snake, a short ghost story. Product placement is exhaustive; expensive brands and places fill the screen with images of affluence.
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What's the story?
Rich and superficial matron Phyllis Nefler (Shelley Long) is looking for her next "passion" when she discovers that TROOP BEVERLY HILLS, the neighborhood arm of the national Wilderness Girls, needs a new leader. Knowing nothing about scouting, even less about the outdoors, and devoted only to shopping, social climbing, and dressing up, Phyllis is sure she's just right for the job. Not only is she bored, but her marriage to muffler magnate (Craig T. Nelson) is falling apart. And she so wants quality time with her daughter Hannah. Unfortunately for Phyllis and her charges, the self-proclaimed Los Angeles leader of the Wilderness Girls is Velda Plendor (Betty Thomas). Jealous, possessive, and highly competitive, Velda makes a mockery of Phyllis' feeble attempts at scouting. In an odyssey of "fish-out-of-water" situations, Phyllis and company fail at everything but jewelry appraisal, wine evaluation, and divorce court. That is, until the cookie sale, where Phyllis shines. The building competitiveness reaches a climax at the Scout Jamboree. Will Phyllis, the undaunted dilettante, be able to make true Wilderness Girls of her troop members, or are they doomed to live out the shallow, empty lives of their wealthy families? Will Phyllis find that she's actually good at something? Will her disappointed husband find her lovable once again?
Is it any good?
There's not a real moment in this silly, shallow movie, teeming with stereotypes. But if you can get past that, and the fact that the leading lady drinks, smokes like a chimney, and is a "child-parent" at best, the movie has some moments of broad, funny comic moments. The outrageous costumes by Theadora Van Runkle are classics of bad taste, eccentricity, and preposterousness. In a word, they're a hoot. Ms. Van Runkle's creations alone may make this movie worth watching. And, though everything is predictable, obvious, and over the top, there are laughs. Kids will root for the barely functional, well-heeled housewife and the spoiled, poor little rich girls she brings to the "scouting" party.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movie stereotypes. Who and what are stereotyped in this film?
Made in 1989, this movie shows some behavior that would probably not be included in a film made today. List some of that behavior, and talk about how the movie might be different.
Talk about the costumes. How did they contribute to the tone of this film? Notice costumes in other movies you watch. How do they help tell the movie's story and enrich your understanding of the characters?
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