Welcome to our first guest review in the Jennifer Connelly Memorial Crush-a-Thon. Today we turn to Nolahn, who has been reviewing “the movies no one else will touch” at his blog, The Bargain Bin Review, since 2007. Beyond the world of blogging, Nolahn has also had a weekly feature in a Utica, NY newspaper and hosted a local Sunday night movie program on TV. As for his crush, hope old Paul Reiser won’t get jealous…it’s Helen Hunt in “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”
FRIENDS, DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU FELL IN LOVE?
I know I do! It was the mid-‘80s, long before the Bargain Bin Review (www.bargainbinreview.com) when I was just a Wee Little Nolahn. We’d just come back from the video store – a major event! – but I’d lost the battle of What To Watch to my sisters, who absolutely insisted we watch their movie first.
GUH! Stupid girl-movie, with all it’s dancing and music and happy love stuff and nary a giant radioactive monster in sight — BORING! I sat on the floor, sulking, playing with my He-Man figures and trying to ignore the audio assault of stupid girl-movie noise on my ears.
Like a trauma victim, I’d managed to block out most of the movie.
But then, at the end of the movie, the most amazing thing happened: All the characters are dancing and happy and BORING… when suddenly, SHE made her entrance. Riding on a CHARIOT! Clad head to toe in fine gold like ancient Roman royalty! She steered her steed-drawn chariot right into the middle of the action, interrupting the onslaught of visual pop vomit like some kind of righteous warrior goddess!
Like a man seeing the sunrise for the first time, I couldn’t look away. I believe I grew my first three chest hairs that day.
And who was that woma—no, that GOLDEN GODDESS? None other than Academy Award winner Helen Hunt.
And that film?
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun”
*** (1984, 87 minutes, Rated PG)
Solid Gold was a very popular music program that ran from 1980 to 1988. More than just an ‘80s version of American Bandstand, for a full hour every week, the hosts of Solid Gold would count down the top ten hits of the week. Sometimes there’d be a music video (a rarity – this is a pre-MTV era we’re talking about here), sometimes there’d be some kind of goofy comedy skit, and there’s almost always be a “live” performance. But for the most part, songs were danced to by the shiny, scantly-clad Solid Gold Dancers.
As I said, Solid Gold was a very popular show.
The Solid Gold substitute in “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” is the Chicago-based Dance TV. Everyone LOVES Dance TV, and if this film is to be believed, society grinds to a halt while the live show airs. And there may not be any bigger fan of Dance TV than Jane (Sarah Jessica Parker), a shy Army Brat who’s the new kid in a Chicago-based all-girl private school.
Jane is a bit awkward and shy but she loves dancing and gymnastics, and that’s enough for tuff girl Lynn Stone (Helen Hunt) to befriend her. Having modified her schoolgirl uniform with a reversible skirt and removable sleeves, Lynn offhandedly explains, “Velcro. Next to the Walkman and Tab, it’s the coolest invention of the 20th century.” And just like that, I’m crushing on Helen Hunt all over again.
Jane and Lynn learn that Dance TV is holding open auditions for a new dance couple to join the show – with seven couples competing on live TV! – and not even Jane’s strict Colonel Dad (Ed Lauter) will keep her from sneaking out to audition. And Jane and Lynn aren’t the only ones: it takes very little encouragement from kid sis Shannen Doherty and wacky sidekick Jonathan Silverman for blue-collar bohunk Jeff (some guy) to enter. Also entering the competition is rich b**** Natalie – we know she’s trouble by the way she wields the remote control to her closet.
At the auditions, strangers are randomly paired up for incredibly choreographed dance routines. Natalie, bitter over a parking lot dispute, pays off a dancer to sabotage Lynn’s audition and earns my eternal rage for denying me the chance to see Helen Hunt dance. Jane does about a zillion backflips and Jeff Footlooses all over the stage, so of course they make the finals and are paired up together.
We get many scenes of family-friendly teenage shenanigans: sneaking out of the house to rehearse, hanging out at the mall, talking about kissing, that kind of thing. Natalie tries to stir up trouble and get in Jeff’s pants. Jane, Lynn and Lil Shannen Doherty get revenge by inviting all of the town’s punk rockers to Natalie’s big money party. Being punk rockers, they crash the party by literally crashing through the windows of the ballroom, storming the stage and playing punk music. Which is kind of too bad, cuz Natalie’s father had booked a lounge act called The Grateful Dudes.
As for the sports movie aspects, “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” hits all the usual moments. Will Jane and Jeff put their differences aside and not only learn from each other but fall in love? Will Natalie get between them? Will Jeff ever tell anyone that Natalie’s dad threatened to lay off Jeff’s dad if he doesn’t throw the competition? Will Jane be able to overcome an elaborate home security system and gridlock traffic to make it to the studio on time? And will Jane’s dad be backstage initially to ground her but soon to nod in quiet approval?
(Answers: Yes, no, yes, yes and yes)
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” isn’t exactly blazing new territory, particularly in the dance choreography. Okay, it’s not “Showgirls” bad, but this is a film where “synchronized backflips = victory.” It’s a relentlessly light and poppy film, but that’s okay. After all, the film just wants to have fun.