For our next film in this series of Back to School reviews, we take a look at 1985’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun!
And you know what?
It’s true — we do just want to have fun!
The fun in Girls Just Want To Have Fun is pretty much defined by dancing, which is okay with me because I love to dance. However, Girls Just Want To Have Fun had the misfortune to be made in the mid-80s. I have lost track of many 80s films that I’ve watched but I’m still always shocked at how undanceable most 80s music truly was. This film, of course, does contain a cover version of the famous song by Cyndi Lauper and that’s actually a pretty good 80s song. However, the rest of the music (and, by that, I mean the music that everyone in the movie is actually dancing to) is incredibly bland in the way that only music from the decade of We Built This City could be.
As for the film itself, it takes place in Chicago. Janey Glenn (Sarah Jessica Parker) is the newest student at the local Catholic girls school. Janey’s overprotective father (Ed Lauter) is in the army and Janey has lived all over the world. Despite that, Janey is not at all worldly. In fact, when she tries to introduce herself to her classmates, all she can get out is that she’s a gymnast and she loves to dance. (When we actually see Janey dancing or doing any sort of gymnastics, Sarah Jessica Parker’s hair always seems to fall in her face, which is certainly one way to hide a stunt double.)
Janey makes one friend at the school. Lynn (Helen Hunt, looking like a teenager but already sounding like a hung over 40 year-old) is about as wild as a girl can be in 1980s PG-rated film. That’s to say, she wears a leather skirt when she’s not in school and, when she babysits, she orders pizza and then allows the baby to sit on it. (Ewwwwwww! There’s a reason why babies wear diapers….) Lynne and Janey are automatically BFFs because they both love Dance TV!
That’s right — it’s DTV! I wonder what that’s supposed to be based on…
It turns out that DTV is having a contest to pick two new dancers! Disobeying her strict father, Janey sneaks out of the house and joins Lynn in auditioning! Lynn’s partner turns out to be so spastic that Lynn doesn’t make the semi-finals. Later, Lynn discovers that her partner was bribed by rich bitch Natalie Sands (Holly Gagnier). I’m not sure why Natalie felt the need to do that since Lynn wasn’t that impressive to begin with. She’s about as good a dancer as you would expect Helen Hunt to be.
However, Janey does make it to the semi-finals, where she’s partnered with Jeff. Jeff is tough and blue-collar and, at first, it doesn’t seem like he and Janey will get along. So, of course, they end up falling in love and, of course, Natalie’s father tries to force Jeff out of the contest by threatening to put his father out of work. Jeff, incidentally, is played by Lee Montgomery. Years before appearing in Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Montgomery played the little kid who gets crushed by a chimney at the end of Burnt Offerings. Burnt Offerings is a really crappy film but I watch it every time that it comes on TCM just so I can see that chimney crush Lee Montgomery. That said, Montgomery actually does a pretty good job of Jeff. You never quite buy him as a rebel without a cause but he still seems like an authentic and likable teenager. Jeff and Janey are a cute couple and that’s all that really matters.
Just as Janey has a best friend, Jeff also has a best friend. Drew Boreman (Jonathan Silverman) talks too much, tries to sell t-shirts from the trunk of his car, and there’s also a scene were he grabs a random girl’s breasts and makes a comment about using her nipples to tune a radio. Drew is annoying and, once you get over the fact that she’s being played by a young Helen Hunt, so is Lynn. Watching the movie, you kind of want to tell both of them to just calm down for a few minutes.
But you know who is not annoying? Jeff’s younger sister, Maggie, who is played by none other than a very young Shannen Doherty. Maggie was my favorite character because she alone seemed to understand how stupid everyone else in the film was. And she was willing to call them out on it.
ANYWAY — Girls Just Want To Have Fun is one of those movies where next to nothing actually happens. There is an extended sequence where our heroes destroy Natalie’s snooty party with the help of a bunch of punks and female body builders but otherwise, it’s remarkable how little actually happens. That said, some of the dancing is good (even if most of the music is totally bland in the way that only 80s music can be) and it’s interesting to see Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt when they were young. Sarah Jessica Parker actually gives a surprisingly likable performance here, even if it is often way too obvious that a body double is doing the majority of her dancing. That said, you really can’t get any further away from Carrie Bradshaw than Janey Glenn.
Girls Just Want To Have Fun is a time capsule of the decade in which it was made and that is definitely the main reason to watch it. Until time machines are a reality and we can experience the past firsthand, we’ll just have to keep getting our information from movies like this one.