Given the popularity of La La Land and the power of '80s nostalgia, a musical version of Nic Cage's 1980s classic should have worked -- but it disappointingly doesn't. On paper, it looks good. The New Wave soundtrack is awesome: From Missing Persons to Adam Ant to Roxy Music to The Cure, the compilation of rad music in Valley Girl is a wonder in itself. Singer/actor/choreographer Mandy Moore put the dance numbers together (as she did for La La Land). And notable "valley girl" (although, to be clear, she was a Beverly Hills ditz in the '90s) Alicia Silverstone plays Julie as an adult. She recounts her story to her teen daughter (Camilla Morrone), a device that lets the filmmakers drop the original's more cringey '80s elements. Rothe, another La La Land alum, is on the rise after her comedic horror hit Happy Death Day. And Whitestone is a musican/actor who feels like the second coming of Heath Ledger in his 10 Things I Hate About You debut. Welcome updates to the original include one of Julie's besties being Black (as original film director Martha Coolidge had intended, before being nixed by studio execs), and Randy's pal is now a lesbian. When this version was initially cast and filmed, co-star Logan Paul was the YouTube personality among teens. Topping it all off, Randy's band is actually hit makers American Authors. What could go wrong?
Everything, it would seem. First, while it's true that the cast has some singing capability, as many an eliminated American Idol contestant can attest: Song choice is everything. Music that would otherwise get your spirit soaring instead sinks when you hear the cast's painfully off-note pipes (Rothe and Whitehouse's version of a-ha's "Take on Me" is an ear-bleeder). The dance numbers aren't all that; you'd be hard pressed to recall any of the moves. Rothe lacks authenticity. Whitehouse lacks brood. And upon seeing Paul, teens will likely have a visceral reaction: In the last couple of years, he's become one of the most controversial and divisive personalities in kid culture. What's more, Valley Girl's story is thin. In reflecting back on an era, the film misses the point. The 1983 film identified two youth cultures that were emerging in Los Angeles: the "Daddy's money," bubble-headed, easy street, suburban mall kittens who created a light-tongued lingo, and the angry, rage-filled, scrappy, destructive moshers who antagonized authority. Ultimately, millennial director Rachel Lee Goldberg covers the '80s the same way an aspiring singer covers a classic song: Even if she hits all the correct notes, she lacks a true connection to the material. Still, for parents, Silverstone is a welcome presence. Her scenes create the environment for this to be a fun mother-daughter movie: Maybe you can even crib her moves and open up to your kid about your teen experiences (perhaps, like Julie, "forgetting" some of the moments that -- ahem -- don't hold up). And, despite Valley Girl's shortcomings, the goofiness of it all does bring smiles.