Valley Girl is a fascinating landmark in the history of teen films. Writers and producers Andrew Lane and Wayne Crawford struck on the idea of redressing William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet for 1980s teenagers, the first in a line of movies that would include at least one straight adaptation (Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet) and several similar transformations (most notably, 1999's 10 Things I Hate About You). They turned to director Martha Coolidge to helm the picture, whose experience to that point was mostly in documentaries -- the one narrative feature film under her belt was a mixture of fiction and non-fiction about a date rape, examined from various perspectives. To star, Coolidge cast a young man going for the first time by the professional name Nicolas Cage, after finding his family name, Coppola, to be too much of a burden.
In the early 1980s, R-rated teen films were the norm: Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Revenge of the Nerds, and of course, The Breakfast Club. Valley Girl stands out somewhat for being one of the teen films to include a liberal amount of adult language and even nudity (mandated by the production company), despite its relatively sweet romance. Like Fast Times, Valley Girl feels like it bridges the gap between R-rated sex comedy movies like Porky's and PG-13 romances like Pretty in Pink. Cage, in full eccentric goofball mode, and Foreman, angelic and effervescent, have excellent puppy-love chemistry together, which provides a thin throughline for the movie. Coolidge cannily wraps this romance in a rocking 1980's soundtrack, including key, recurring needle drops for The Plimsouls' "A Million Miles Away" and Modern English's "I Melt With You," and lets the Valley/Hollywood settings provide a stylish backdrop (even the most resistant viewer will have to admit that the film is a glorious cultural time capsule).
Coolidge is not overly concerned with plot, with the story registering mostly in broad strokes, although one could make the case that certain dangling threads (namely, an early scene where Loryn is manipulated into betraying Julie by a jealous Tommy and clearly feels awful about it) would probably go unresolved in real life. The film's charm often lies in just watching the girls gossip with each other, whether they're checking out Randy's body on the beach or discussing "diet" tips while passing around a bag of potato chips. Foreman, Daily, Holicker, and Meyrink have an unforced chemistry even while delivering the exaggerated Valley lingo that makes up the movie's most famous lines (tripendicular!). Some of the film's subplots feel like unnecessary baggage -- namely a somewhat creepy side story where Suzi's mom Beth (Lee Purcell) tries to sleep with one of the high school boys (David Ensor) that Suzi has a crush on -- but the movie is breezy overall.
2018 marks Valley Girl's 35th anniversary, and while there is a musical remake on the shelf waiting for a release date (thanks to co-star Logan Paul's bad behavior), it's hard to pin down what exactly constitutes the film's legacy. The movie has a rough-around-the-edges, shaggy dog quality to it, and it's hard to imagine the cultural divide the film is predicated on meaning anything in the present day. Parents will likely balk at the nudity and language, and teens may not care much about the music, language, or style. On the other hand, that implacable charm also helps make Valley Girl a unique slice of pop culture history, one that never quite fits cleanly into a single box. Perhaps that's the point: it's a bunch of different influences, crashing together, like Julie and Tommy...different, but also meant to be.
The Video and Audio
Although the aforementioned trivia track centered on the 1980s has gone MIA, what was once a video commentary has likely been preserved in its rougher form, with the inclusion of the full interviews conducted way back when for the "Totally Tubular" featurette. These are broken up into the following sections: "The Girls" (47:51), "The Boys" (54:09), "The Parents" (42:59), "The Bands" (54:11), and "The Producers/Writers" (14:17). This is a wealth of material on the making of the movie that dedicated fans will no doubt enjoy digging through for choice soundbytes, even though some of it is probably carried over into the finished piece.
If that's not enough, Shout has also created some brand new extras. "Valley Girl in Conversation" (50:11) reunites director Martha Coolidge with actors E.G. Daily ("Loryn") and Heidi Holicker ("Stacey") for a look back at the making of the movie. This is a warm and candid chat with the three women, who speak about some of the challenges behind-the-scenes, including the nudity, and how personality bled into the characters. It may not be super essential given the volume of material on the disc, but it's still a nice new inclusion. There is also the fun "Greetings from the San Fernando Valley" (19:14), featuring Tommy Gelinas of the Valley Relics Museum hosting a little bittersweet chat on the history of the Valley and how that culture was incorporated into the movie. Holicker returns for the brief "Show and Tell" (4:47), where she shows a short handful of pieces from her personal collection. The highlight is a nice letter written by Coolidge to Holicker, which Coolidge reads on camera. Finally, the disc wraps up with the partially new "Storyboard-to-Film Comparisons" (11:30), which uses an introductory snippet from 2003 to lead into a digitally remastered series of split-screen storyboard/film footage comparisons.
The only absence -- both in 2003 and 2018 supplements -- is star Deborah Foreman. Foreman sat down for a new interview for the recent Vinegar Syndrome release of My Chauffeur (and even chatted Valley Girl for a Yahoo! video interview back in 2013), making her continued absence mysterious, and presumably not attributable to Shout! Factory or MGM.
Back when I reviewed Shout! Factory's edition of Mad Max, the appearance of MGM's archival material on their Blu-ray was tainted by an ugly, choppy, interlaced picture. I have recently seen the same complaint about Shout's release of a different MGM Blu-ray where older extras were ported over. I admit, I didn't watch the extras on Shout's Get Shorty Blu-ray a couple weeks ago because they were all ports, but if the extras on Valley Girl are anything to go by, the problem has been significantly mitigated. The featurettes do have a noticeably blocky look that probably isn't inherent to the footage, but the featurettes on Mad Max were very ugly, whereas Valley Girl's archival bonuses look largely fine -- your mileage may vary.