Friday, May 1, 2009

Troop Beverly Hills (Jeff Kanew, 1989)

Legend has it, that I can watch anything, and I do mean anything. Seriously, put it in front of me and I will look at it. However, this viewing prowess was surprisingly not needed as I bravely entered the kooky realm of Troop Beverly Hills (a.k.a. Die Wilde von Beverly Hills), an unfairly maligned slice of cookie-accented enchantment about a ragtag troop of Wilderness Girls from Beverly Hills, a chichi city in Los Angeles County. The act of sitting through this delightfully nutritious crumpet disguised as filmed entertainment was one of the most pleasant experiences I have ever had. How so? Well, doing its part to advance secular values at every turn and a staunch promoter of individuality and moderate Philistinism, the film uses the tyrannical netherworld that is your average outdoor jamboree to shed light on the scourge that is Groupthink. You see, unlike the crap excuses for movies being made today (you know, the kind that only seem interested in demonizing the people of Eastern Europe, glorifying rape, and promoting apathy), this exercise in undiluted fabulousness instills its audience with a positive message that doesn't make them want to rape or act apathetic in public. No, this film makes its watchers want to go forth and do utilitarian things of a nonspecific nature. Educational to an almost egregious level of learnedness, the Jeff Kanew (Revenge of the Nerds) directed opus is, like I said, about a troop of Wilderness Girls from Beverly Hills. Yet, it's about so much more. These well-off girls and their overly pampered troop leader may represent the most mollycoddled segment of Earth society, but they also prove that disenfranchisement does not discriminate. In charge of demonstrating this wonky point is the flaky Phyliss Nefler (Shelley Long), the leader of the much ridiculed troop.

On the surface, she may seem shallow and materialistic, but the amount of selflessness the stylish Phyliss displays in this film was quite extraordinary. I mean, she takes care of her troop obligations while in the middle divorce proceedings with her husband (Craig T. Nelson), makes sure her daughter Hannah (an adorable Jenny Lewis) is coping with the split, and repeatedly clashes with the fascistic leader of the Culver City Red Feathers, Velda (Betty Thomas).

I don't know about you, but I'd say the fashion adventurous Phyliss is the least selfish person in that particular zip code. Sure, her troop has never sold a single a cookie or earned a single patch, but as Phyliss' maid Rosa (Shelley Morrison) would say, "We don't need no stinking patches."

Utilizing a truckload of can-do spirit, the showy bunch make up there own patches. Really, who needs a fire starting patch, when you can earn a sushi appreciation patch or a gardening with glamour patch? And selling cookies is a breeze when peddled at a fashion fund-raiser celebrating khaki where an ultra-chic Pia Zadora shows up "smashingly sheathed" in the what Phyliss calls "the wilderness look."

A brightly garbed force of nature, Shelley Long is a comedic whirlwind in Troop Beverly Hills. Funny to the point of hilarity and sexy to the point of something that is similar to the word "sexy," the former television barmaid rightly jettisoned those self-satisfied pricks in Boston in order to create one of the most electrifying characters ever to grace the screen that movies are a shown on. Sporting an impish mane of red hair and one visually astounding outfit after another, Shelley attacks the film's clever dialogue (a rich cornucopia of puns and wordplay) with an unembellished ferocity.

Even though she peppers her sentences with a smattering of French, I loved the way Miss Long spoke English in this film; in that, I could understand everything she said from start to finish. She's doesn't mumble and every word is pronounced with an understandable flair. It's no simple task, but Shelley has somehow turned a clothing-obsessed shopaholic, who equates getting a perm as a suitable premise for a campfire horror story, into a sympathetic heroine worthy of a compassionate gaze.

Demure and luminous simultaneously, Shelley confronts fascism, teaches us that too many accessories can clutter an outfit, and says "shit" three times in the presence of youngish children (two of them being Carla Gugino and Kellie Martin). Not bad for a film that a has her dancing the Freddy twice and participating a staged musical number about cookies.

Oh, and the animated opening credits were off the fishing hook in terms of new wave and 1950's inspired coolness.



  1. when we were kids, my sister must have watched this movie about a 100 times. we only had one TV and VCR in those days and we had to share. which means i must have seen it from start to finish around 50 times.

    Thanks for the flash back!

  2. I've read that watching Troop Beverly Hills over 50 times is a surefire way to insure that your child grows up to be a well-balanced adult.

  3. Hmmmm, I was hoping to brainwash my soon to be born son with excessive viewings of ROCK 'N' ROLL HIGH SCHOOL and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA to ensure the makings of a well balanced adult...

  4. Even though well-balanced adults are a tad overrated in today's sanity-obsessed world, exposure to the anarchistic Riff Randell and green eye fetishist Lo Pan at an early age will never be a bad thing.

  5. I will concur, Troop Beverly Hills, while totally stupid, is quite hilarious.

  6. Can you imagine Hollywood making this movie in Obama's America of today? LOL

    Why Occupy Wall Street would be occupying the set every day.

    The 1% shown as caring individuals helping each other and pulling together for a good cause? And a 99%'r as a "bad guy" !! Not in TODAY's America.

    The humor, styles, and excess of the 1980s, and still they had troubles.

    Great movie.