The Films of 2020: Valley Girl (dir by Rachel Lee Goldenberg)


Valley Girl is a remake of the 1983 film of the same name.  The original Valley Girl was a sweet but occasionally edgy comedy that starred Deborah Foreman and, in one of his first starring roles, Nicolas Cage.  Foreman played a popular rich girl who fell in love with a quirky punk rocker (Cage, of course).  Full of interesting characters and very much attuned to what it’s like to be a teenager in love, the original Valley Girl was fun and funny but it also had a serious subtext and the film, as whole, holds up surprisingly well.

The remake of Valley Girl tells basically the same story.  Jessica Rothe plays Julie Richman.  Josh Whitehouse plays Randy.  They meet.  They fall in love.  They both have to deal with the fact that they’re from different parts of Los Angeles.  Their friends say that they don’t belong together.  The story still has potential but the remake falls flat.

A huge part of the problem is that the Valley Girl remake is a jukebox musical.  In the style of Rock of Ages, it features characters expressing themselves by singing songs from the 80s.  Like many jukebox musicals, Valley Girl picks the most obvious songs and then deploys them in the most literal way possible.  For instance, Julie’s jock boyfriend is named Mickey, just so the cheerleaders can perform Mickey during a pep rally.  When Randy and his punk friends show up for the first time, it’s time to sing Bad Reputation.  When it appears that his relationship with Julie is doomed, it’s time for Randy to offer up a rather wan version of Boys Don’t Cry.  When Julie and her friends go to the beach and start to talk about how they want have to fun …. well, can you guess what song they start singing?  The film does make good use of Kids In America but, for the most part, the song choices are too predictable and the cast performs them with a notable lack of enthusiasm.

As for the cast, Jessica Rothe has a few good moments and she at least bring some playful energy to her role.  Unfortunately, Josh Whitehouse is perhaps the least convincing punk rocker that I have ever seen.  There’s nothing quirky, angry, or dangerous about Whitehouse’s Randy.  Instead, he’s a nice young man who has some eccentric friends.  He’s the punk who you can take home to meet your parents.  He’s like the one jock who hangs out with the nerds and, as a result, everyone’s decided that he must be deeper than he actually is.

Speaking of jocks, Julie’s boyfriend — named Mickey, of course — is played by Logan Paul.  Yes, that Logan Paul.  Yes, he’s terrible in the role.  Josh Whitehouse may have not been a convincing punk rocker but Logan Paul gives a performance that’s so bad that he’s not even a convincing human being.  He comes across like an animatronic Disneyland character.  He should be in the Hall of Presidents, standing next to George Washington and stiffly nodding whenever Lincoln starts talking.  Logan Paul is a huge reason why the film doesn’t work.  He’s also a huge reason why Valley Girl sat on the shelf for about three years before finally being released, as Paul’s YouTube controversies led the studio to be weary about releasing a film featuring him.

I guess one reason why I got so annoyed with Valley Girl is that I wanted to like it.  Jessica Rothe was great in the Death Day films.  I love 80s music.  I wanted this to be a good film but it’s just not.  Like, sorry.

Film Review: Keanu (dir by Peter Atencio)


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“KEANU!”

Meow!

“ARE YOU OKAY, KEANU!?”

Meow!

Greetings, fellow lovers of movies and cats!  So, Jeff and I just saw the new comedy, Keanu.  It’s the first film to star the quickly-becoming legendary comedy team of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele and it’s full of the type of humor that made their Comedy Central show, Key & Peele, such a success.  Perhaps even more importantly, the film stars an amazingly adorable little kitten!

You’ve seen the trailer, right?  You know how, when Peele first holds up his new kitten, Key immediately starts laughing and says, “Oh my God, that’s the cutest cat I’ve ever seen in my life!?”  Well, he’s not lying.  While I don’t think any cat is cuter than that one that I live with, Keanu the Kitten is definitely the cutest cat that I’ve ever seen in a movie.

Add to that, this kitten can act!  When this kitten stares, you truly believe that he’s listening to the dialogue being exchanged.  When he runs through a gunfight while bullets fly around him, you truly believe that this kitten is running for his life and you breathe a sigh of relief when he survives.  When he meows, your heart melts with each squeaky sound.  This is one amazingly talented kitten!

And it’s not surprising the everyone in the film wants Keanu.  The 17th Street Blips (led by Method Man and created as the result of a merger between the Bloods and the Crips) not only want Keanu but they want to rename him New Jack as well.  Their rival (played by Luis Guzman) wants Keanu and plans to rename him Eglesias.  Two mysterious assassins — the much feared, very sadistic, and always silent Allentown Boys — want Keanu too.  Since they don’t speak, they never say what they want to name him but it would probably be something cool.

And what really makes the film work is that none of them have a reason for wanting Keanu beyond the fact that he is literally the cutest kitten in Los Angeles.  This film is full of dangerous and violent people but all of them love this cat.  Everyone wants Keanu.

Well, I should say that everyone wants Keanu except for Anna Faris, who plays herself.  All Anna Faris wants is a chance to do the latest designer drug, Holy Shit.  (“It’s like smoking crack with God!” Method Man explains.)  It’s probably a good thing that Anna Faris doesn’t want a cat because, as this movie reveals, she also has a potentially dangerous fascination with sharp swords and playing truth or dare.

Of course, Keanu technically belongs to Rell (Jordan Peele).  They say that cats chose their owners and Keanu definitely does that when he shows up outside of Rell’s house.  Rell has just been dumped by his girlfriend and existence has no meaning for him.  But once Keanu shows up, Rell again learns to embrace life.  He spends two weeks taking pictures of Keanu reenacting scenes from classic movies.  But when the 17th Street Blips break into his house, mistakenly thinking that Rell has a supply of Holy Shit, they take Keanu for themselves.

Rell and his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) team up to track down and retrieve Keanu from the Blips but there’s a problem.  Rell may brag about growing up in New York and Clarence may have stories about his childhood on the streets of Detroit but both of them are painfully out-of-place in the violent world of Blips and Anna Faris.  (Clarence is obsessed with George Michael while Rell “sounds like John Ritter all the time.”)  Fortunately, Rell and Clarence happen to look exactly like the Allentown Boys.  Method Man makes a deal with them.  If Rell and Clarence — who are now going by the names TekTonic and Sharktank — train the Blips then he will give them Keanu.

(Method Man’s character is actually named Cheddar.  Jeff just pointed out to me that Method Man previously played a character named Cheese on The Wire.)

While Rell struggles to fit in with the Blips, the nominally more straight-laced Clarence (who, unlike Rell, doesn’t even smoke weed) is soon having the time of his life.  It turns out that Clarence specializes in corporate team building and he’s excited to introduce these techniques to Blips.  (During one shootout, Clarence proudly announces, “They’re communicating!”)

Admittedly, Keanu is an uneven film.  It’s essentially a collection skits and some of them are funnier than others.  However, Key and Peele both bring so much commitment to bringing this insane story to life that they literally carry the audience over the occasional rough spot.  It may not be perfect but it’s a film that announces that, whether on TV or in the movies, Key & Peele are a comedic force to be reckoned with.

Plus, that kitten is so damn cute!

(And, in case you were wondering, Keanu Reeves does make an appearance of sorts.)

This film is 90 minutes of laughter and that’s certainly something that we all need right now!  See Keanu!

(Since you’ve probably already seen the trailer for Keanuhere it is, if you haven’t — let’s close this review with some exclusive audition footage.)