Sunday, December 20, 2009

TROOP BEVERLY HILLS (1989)

I know, right? In my defense, this was a Christmas present from someone to whom I gave dental floss, pralines, and a postapocalyptic film about library science. She is lucky that I really like her because wars have begun over less serious matters. Plus this avers that it is now a cult film of some stripe. And it would be funny if a young TROOP BEVERLY HILLS fan stumbled upon this blog and began a lifelong love of THE WICKER MAN. OMG they both have SINGING!

You can probably guess from the title what the plot is like, so I won't go into details. I'm not going to make fun of it, either, because (like TWILIGHT) it was obviously not made with the hope of pleasing me. Instead, I will isolate some elements that will make this worth your reading.

I'm sure this is a pretty typical eighties screwball comedy in lots of ways, but the visuals and cinematography especially remind me of why I'm not a huge fan of the genre. Any shot in this film features actors in the middle of the frame, shot from straight ahead. Ariel shots, verboten. Trucking shots, no. It's very sitcom-y, which makes sense given the material, but it annoys me to the max. Do you think little girls are going to get confused and cry if you zoom occasionally, director Jeff Kanew?

Shelley Long is a solid actress. If you don't believe me, watch THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE in three different states, as I have done. She has good timing and is quite personable. Betty Thomas is also quite good (and it is sad she has gone from this to directing PRIVATE PARTS to sadly directing ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS 2). Surprisingly for this kind of film, the lead actors keep things afloat even when the script starts to falter. The movie is festooned with child actors, even though it clearly would have been better to have autistic adults in these roles, but you have to expect that at the outset, so it seems unfair to complain.

The DVD cover is an even greater enemy to Shelley Long than her agent. The orange hair and deranged smile are the ingredients of nightmares. Joker-esque as it is, it offers a window into an alternative reading of the film. Her character is supposed to be the hero, yet she smokes and drinks and breaks Straight Edge pretty constantly, plus pushes kids to push trans fat cookies onto fat people. Meanwhile, Thomas's character, the heavy, is evil because she wants girl scouts to learn survival skills. Troop Backwards World is more like it!

I could have lived without the tacked-on Kmart afterlogue. The movie ends with the Troop triumphant and the evil meanie storming away, vowing to secede. In a just world, there would be a Troop Beverly Hills 2 that would depict the Civil War of the multiethnic Troop Beverly Hills versus the Germanic, rebel-yelling Veldafederacy. Hell, they just made a TRON sequel, maybe it will happen! They can even get Betty Thomas back, given how her career is going. Or just mix the two and make TRON BEVERLY HILLS. Why not?

2 comments:

Mona said...

When I was in girl scouts, my friends *loved* this movie, especially the scary story scene. It was awesome when we were 10-year old girl scouts at sleep-overs, but I don't think I should watch it now:)

April said...

Wait, wait.

Post-apocalyptic library science? That isn't what I think it is, eh?

I love inflicting Tomes & Talismans on people. Sooo much fun.