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Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Girls Just Want to Have Fun
Starz! Anchor Bay
1985 / Color / 1:78 anamorphic widescreen / 88 min. / Street Date April 29, 2008 / 9.98
Starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Lee Montgomery, Helen Hunt, Shannen Doherty, Morgan Woodward, Ed Lauter, Jonathan Silverman, Holly Gagnier, Margaret Howell, Biff Yeager
Cinematography Thomas E. Ackerman
Production Design Jeffrey Staggs
Art Direction Christopher Amy
Film Editor Lorenzo DeStefano, David Rawlins
Original Music Thomas Newman
Written by Amy Spies
Produced by Chuck Russel
Directed by Alan Metter

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

I doubt that the young talent associated with Girls Just Want to Have Fun still place it high on their résumès, but fans of Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt may enjoy taking a peek at their salad days in this silly but harmless teen comedy filmed when Parker was twenty and Hunt was 22. The budding stars are supposed to be fifteen or sixteen and compensate by acting giggly and turning on the cutes. Mounted on a modest scale, the 1985 New World release probably staked its appeal on its title tune, borrowed from Cyndi Lauper. In keeping with that spirit, teen comedy crudities are enlisted only to boost the film beyond the undesirable PG rating, to a PG-13.


The new kid at a Catholic girls' school, Janey Glenn (Sarah Jessica Parker) becomes fast friends with the trendy Lynne Stone (Helen Hunt), who has rigged her school uniform with velcro so it can be reconfigured for a more desirable look for the bus ride home. Both girls go crazy about a dance contest on their favorite teen dancing show, but Janey's father, a retired military martinet (Ed Lauter), refuses to let her go. The two sneak out anyway, and Janey's great dancing gets her into the finals. She's paired with Jeff Malene (Lee Montgomery), a dreamboat with great dancing talent and a precocious little sister, Maggie (Shannen Doherty). Also causing trouble is Drew Boreman (Jonathan Silverman of Weekend at Bernie's) a nervy teenage entrepreneur who can't get a date. Already running risks by defying her father, Janey must contend with the spoiled rich girl Natalie Sands (Holly Gagnier). She wants to win the contest too, and isn't above evil schemes like attempting to steal Jeff, sabotaging Janey's hooky-playing, and entreating her rich father to blackmail Jeff into quitting: Mr. Sand (Morgan Woodward) owns the factory where Jeff's father works.

An exciting dance contest? Sneaking out of one's window by way of a Pollyanna tree, to see a cute boy who rides a motorbike but secretly loves to dance? Girls Just Want to Have Fun is custom-designed to appeal to girls between ten and fourteen. Its enthusiastic role-model heroines are supposed to be fifteen and sixteen but are impersonated by actresses between twenty and 24. The level of dramatics involved makes Bring it On seem like Shakespeare.

Janey lives in a housing project under a strict father. She only has her school uniform, but when the time comes to perform an appropriate costume appears for her out of nowhere. Lynne is well off and is always dressing in kooky clothes, much like Cyndi Lauper in the original song's music video. Lynne gets the fun provocative lines, like "Do you always do what your parents tell you?" The script touches base with Janey's responsibilities to her parents but allows plenty of leeway for 'wild and crazy' behavior. When the unredeemable Natalie plays dirty tricks, Janey and Lynne destroy her debutante coming-out party by inviting a bunch of weirdos that turn it into a messy but harmless riot of slapstick destruction. Harmless fun! Jeff's best friend Drew is a sexually frustrated cornball who comes up with various get-rich schemes and tries to play 'tune the radio' with a girl's breasts, etc.. Unlike, say, the imaginative Australian teenybopper musical Starstruck, nothing remotely fresh happens in Girls Just Want to Have Fun, so it must rely on the energy of its leads to stay afloat.

The girls pretty much come through on that score, investing their characters with the needed enthusiasm and emotional extremes. All of the main actors were child stars for at least a few years; Helen Hunt already had 35 film appearances to her credit. Shannon Doherty was fourteen when the picture was made, so technically still was a child actor. The level of professionalism helps a great deal. Janey's dance rehearsals with Jeff might excite an adolescent girl, but they never really get into Dirty Dancing territory. An occasional suggestive line sneaks in, as when Janey tries to ride Jeff's motorbike:

Janey: Is it safe?
Drew: It's the safest thing you'll ever have between your legs.
Janey: What?
Drew and Jeff together: Nothing!

Also, when the big dance showdown comes, Janey gets to look Jeff in the eyes and smile as she says, "Let's do it!" Even the ten year-olds picked up on the subtext of that line, no doubt. We older people can see that Sarah Jessica Parker already has her motor in gear for the future Sex in the City.

The so-called dancing in Girls Just Want to Have Fun's dance contest is unusual, to say the least. It consists of show-off poses, gymnastic moves, spins and martial arts-like floor exercises. When it comes time for a killer encore, Janey does cartwheels and tumbling runs. Janey and Jeff launch into or land out of the more demanding maneuvers, leaving pros to perform the real stunts. The exhuberant and infantile "I'm a star!" business will appeal mostly to hyperactive girls that can't wait to get on a stage, even if they have nothing to do when they get there but jump up and down. For instance, the story contrives to let non-competitor Lynne show up on stage at the end, just so she can 'be a star' too.

The music seems to consist of cover versions and knock-offs of songs like Shout! and Jump!, backed by Our Friend the Drum Machine. All the show lacks in that category is a chance for its intended audience to sing along, as was done so well in Starstruck.

The writers went on to concoct episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. Producer Chuck Russel (Russell?) started his career in more exploitative movies before writing the remake of The Blob and moving up to lucrative adventure movies like The Scorpion King. The real reason to give Girls Just Want to Have Fun a look is to enjoy Hunt and Parker as relative kids. At least, that's my excuse!

Starz! and Anchor Bay's DVD of Girls Just Want to Have Fun is a bright enhanced transfer of this competently filmed, modest teenybopper saga. The only extra is a trailer. In the disc cover graphic, the girls' feet make them look a bit like Playboy Bunnies. Or maybe they have potatoes growing out of their heads. The IMDB claims that Gina Gershon can be spotted as one of the dancers at the audition rally. That's the picnic-like extravaganza up front, where almost everyone dances better than our star, the eventual champion!

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Girls Just Want to Have Fun rates:
Movie: Good, especially if you're female and ten years old.
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: Trailer
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: May 8, 2008

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2008 Glenn Erickson

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