Helen Hunt, a familiar face in these parts, is quite the veteran of b-movies, with three Trancers films to her credit. More recently, she endured the run of a sitcom with Paul Reiser, starred in a blockbuster disaster flick, and won Best Actress at the Academy Awards for portraying a woman of thirty-five who falls in love with a sixty-five year old Jack Nicholson.
In the Eighties, one could compensate
for any lack of acting ability,
provided one had enough hair.
Sarah Jessica Parker, who once played the Squarest of Pegs, rubbed elbows with aliens in Flight of the Navigator, and brought new meaning to the word "flighty" in L.A. Story, now eats men alive as Manhattan's sexiest journalist in HBO's Sex and the City. How Matthew Broderick lucked into marrying this woman is one of life's greatest mysteries.
Shannen Doherty was the bitch queen of teen prime-time drama and suffered death at the hands of Winona Ryder before floundering in a rash of trash flicks and TV movies, after which she redeemed herself by appearing in Kevin Smith's Mallrats. Some folks just can't get past her asymmetrical facial features, but her current status as one of the girls of WB means she must be doing something right.
What these disparate talents have in common, as you've likely guessed by now, is the 1985 "dance classic" movie Girls Just Want to Have Fun. For those of you fortunate enough not to have memories of the 1980's, the film's title comes from the first hit song of pop star Cyndi Lauper. But that's about where the relationship ends; it's not as if Lauper appears in the film, nor does the song have much of a plot to appropriate. Moreover, the song as used in the movie isn't even Lauper's version. As an unofficial site for the film quips, the soundtrack is composed of "songs you know by artists you don't know." Girls came just at the time that Footloose's soundtrack, full of pop hits performed by the original artists, was one of the best-selling albums on Billboard's charts, so this was probably one of the last movies to use this type of cheap, faux-hit music. Producers would soon figure out that they could pay for needle-drop rights to actual pop songs and then make their money back on soundtrack albums.
Imagine the urban legend that would
start if this picture got out!
The film itself is a bit like watching the Muppet Babies sequence from The Muppets Take Manhattan. All of the faces are familiar, but look! How cute and ridiculous they are! That the movie takes place in the Eighties, surely the most amusing decade of the Twentieth century (especially when it comes to teen fashion), is but icing on this most cheesy of cakes. First from our trio of actresses to appear is Janey Glenn (Parker), who hiccups her way through her introductory speech at her new Catholic girls' school in Chicago -- the latest in a long line for this Army brat, although "the uniforms are always the same -- even on Guam."
When she mentions her love of dancing and her desire to be on Dance TV (a version of Soul Train for white kids which is, whuddayaknow, taped right there in Chicago), she endears herself to Lynne (Hunt), who functions as the wacky, rebellious catalyst figure for Janey's pent-up passions. No, not those kinds of passions! Lynne talks Janey into entering the big Dance TV contest, during which a pair of new Dance TV regulars will be chosen. She also shows Janey her inimitable babysitting style, which involves placing the baby in the center of a pizza, but this detail is less crucial to the plot.
Siegfried and Roy take the stage!
Meanwhile, a similar scene is playing out across town, between two teenaged boys. As Jeff (Lee Montgomery, something of a teen screen fixture the 70s and 80s) and his pal Drew (a squeaky-voiced Jonathan Silverman!) shoot hoops in Jeff's driveway, Drew unveils his plan to enter Jeff into the contest and make money selling bootleg Dance TV merchandise. You'll want to watch closely here folks, because Shannen Doherty makes her entrance as Jeff's sister Maggie, who has a hopeless crush on Drew. Why? We don't know. Girls Just Want to Have Fun is full of little mysteries.
Janey feels that her life is turning around. Inspired by Lynne's encouraging words, she enthuses to her parents, "I have a best friend for the first time!" Janey honey, your best friend is Helen Hunt. You've been screwed. Of course, later in life Parker will start hanging out with Kim Cattrall, so we suppose all these things are relative. So inspired is Janey that she actually attends the first round of the Dance TV competition and is selected as a finalist! And the hunky Jeff is selected as her partner! Oh, God! We're so happy for her!
"Darn, I've already seen this episode of ALF!"
Uh, we mean... Lynne is so happy for her. Lynne herself was rubbed out of the competition by an inconsiderate dance partner who stomped her leg -- an "accident" which, it is later discovered, was engineered by the evil Natalie Sands, rich bitch and aspiring Dance TV regular. Lynne also had two other strikes against her, mainly that she was wearing a big stuffed grasshopper on her hat, and she doesn't have Janey's ability to replace herself with a trained dancer in long shots.
Naturally, Jeff and Janey will go on to win the Dance TV spot, but only after their different backgrounds tear them apart, and then they realize they love each other, etc. and so on. Girls Just Want to Have Fun proudly declares itself an 80's movie by also including a scene where the terrible trio of Hunt, Parker and Doherty arrange for Natalie's very upscale coming out party to be crashed by fugitives from Billy Idol's backup band. And what 80's movie would be complete without the working-class dad who's sensitive to how much his son's dreams mean to him? Sometimes we just sit around feeling happy about the fact that there are now ten years separating us from that decade.
"Gotta let it out! Teen Steam!"
If, unlike us, you have some twisted fascination with the ten years that brought us leg warmers and President Reagan, you can probably bump our rating up a lamp; with the exception of Michael Jackson's fashion and musical antics, Girls is crammed full of all the things that made the '80's unique: big hair, New Wave and punk rockers, and ALF! No, wait, that last one we made up. There's no ALF in this movie. Even if you're fairly neutral towards the 80's, you might get some sort of entertainment here, because at least it's got a beat you can dance to -- even if the lead actors can't.
No disrespect to Matt, but c'mon! He hasn't been hip since Ferris, and that was a long time ago. Still, it must instill hope in the hearts of other lovable schmucks like himself. Broderick was also engaged to Helen Hunt at one point, a fact that will either inspire still more hope or befuddle you even further, depending on the kind of person you are. Still, look who Hunt eventually settled on. Go back!
Unlike "Convoy," which was made into a movie by no less a cinematic luminary than Sam Peckinpah. Go back!