Anchor Bay // 1985 // 87 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Katie Herrell (Retired) // April 29th, 2008
"Getting into trouble is easy but getting out of it is all the fun!"
It pains me to write this but the only way to watch Girls Just Want to Have Fun today is nostalgically or ironically, and even then there's a serious cringe factor.
Janey (Sarah Jessica Parker) goes to Catholic school, is the daughter of a high-ranking military official...and she loves to dance. Lynne (Helen Hunt) is the bad girl, latchkey kid who befriends and corrupts Janey, encouraging her to participate in a dance contest to be on Dance T.V.. The rest is boy meets girl, boy dances with girl, boy falls in love with girl drama.
The 1980s gave birth to three everlasting dance movies: Flashdance circa 1983, Girls Just Want to Have Fun circa 1985, and Dirty Dancing circa 1987. Aside from the memorable casts, it is impossible to fully separate one of these movies from the other.
The dramatic/romantic dance sequence Janey and her hunk of a partner Jeff Malene (Lee Montgomery) practice in a picturesque, deserted park is reminiscent of the waterlogged rehearsal of Dirty Dancing or the isolated, leg warmer-wearing sequence that Flashdance glamorized.
And the stern major dad who makes goodie two-shoes Janey's life so terribly square is reminiscent of Baby's overbearing father. In fact, since I watched Girls Just Want to Have Fun after the other two movies, I could find nothing original about this film, aside from the wholly inappropriate scene where SJP stands around in her underwear talking to her little brother who is dressed in fatigues.
In fact I'm not sure what prompted a re-release of this film; it looks like the last DVD version was released in 2001. Besides a Pepto pink cover and some pretty poor Photoshop work (SJP looks like a bobble-head doll on the DVD cover as I'm pretty sure the hair, her face, and the body are from three separate stills, maybe even three separate people), there's no added value to this DVD. There are no special features aside from an extremely choppy trailer. And really, I've never understood why someone would want to watch a trailer for a movie they have already or are just about to watch.
Then there's the Dance T.V. contest, which is headache-inducing. These scenes are shot from the perception of an audience member. There's bad lighting catching dust particles, which, when you're an actual audience member, creates a sort of hazy aura around the performers that is almost mystical. But as a movie viewer the effect is of a small, hazy fire simmering in the background causing unnatural shadows.
I'm sure this haziness was in an effort to disguise the body doubles that swooped in and out of each flipping dance scene. But it's pretty obvious when the skinny minny SJP is replaced by a dancing diva with a powerful behind and more buoyant curls. Also the fact that you never see the star dancers' faces except in extreme close-ups is an indication of a little switcheroo. Then there's the horrible fake rocks that line the back of the stage and create atmosphere, but really just hide the extra leg warmers.
It's sad to dis a classic, and I really wonder if I was 10 years younger if I could appreciate this film more. I can say that the acting is respectable, although I don't know if you could watch this film and say definitively that SJP, Helen and Shannen Doherty, who plays Jeff sister, Maggie, would go on to have the successful careers they have. Certainly they have a presence, but I don't know if that presence is a result of my reconciling their "adult" careers with their adolescent roles.
The best part about Girls Just Want to Have Fun is, of course, the soundtrack. Deborah Galli performs the hit song that is pretty much synonymous with Cyndi Lauper. Plus there's "Shout" and "Dancing in the Street." But I wouldn't watch this movie for the songs. On YouTube there are several grainy versions of Lauper's music video and they've garnered millions of hits. The videos are just as nostalgic as the film, and YouTube is free.
There is an awesome sequence of scenes where Janey and Lynne head out to sabotage a rival's big party, inviting all the unsavory punks they can find. There's some fabulous hair and attire, plus a couple look-alike celebrity sightings, such as Madonna. Then the whole crew crashes quite literally through a swanky window at a swanky country club and throws down a party that leaves the rival's father with pie on his face and blue hair. It's an inspiring, classic punk uprising.
It's impossible to appreciate how far movie-making has come without watching the movies that came before. And it's impossible to appreciate how truly outlandish and yet conforming the '80s mode of dress was without taking a little trip down memory lane. This movie fulfills both of those tasks.
Guilty. Lock them up for another decade.
Review content copyright © 2008 Katie Herrell; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13