by Mike Corrigan

Julie's a popular high school girl from the San Fernando Valley who likes shopping, hanging out at the mall, "normal parties," and boys. Randy's an introspective rocker from Hollywood who's into rock clubs, thrift store duds, cruising Sunset Boulevard, and girls. Will these two seemingly incompatible lovebirds be able to set aside their differences -- and weather the disapproval of friends -- long enough to make their romance work?

Who cares, right?

On the surface, Valley Girl seems little more than dopey fun -- with enough irritating teen mall rat behavior to, like, totally gag you for sure. Yet beneath its blow-dried, pastel veneer, it's something more.

Martha Coolidge's direction drops this slice of 1983 into the realm of thoughtful -- and funny -- teen melodrama. But the real ace in the hole is the sharp ensemble cast. Nicolas Cage (in his first lead role) as Randy and Deborah Foreman as Julie are terrific as the So Cal Romeo and Juliet (Cage in particular has never been so cool or likeable). Cameron Dye is hilariously awkward as Randy's scheming, girl-hustling sidekick and Michael Bowen is a riot as Julie's jilted meathead ex-boyfriend, Tommy ("Who else is there? What other Val dude can touch me?"). Also good are Julie's slightly dippy but well-meaning love generation parents (Colleen Camp and Frederick Forrest) who, unlike the mindless, detached authoritarians of so many '80s teen movies, actually relate to and respect their daughter. It's not all bubble gum and good times, either. Coolidge injects Valley Girl with healthy dose of reality, grit and pathos for balance. Thrills may be cheap, but love comes with a price.

The soundtrack is a new wave buffet (Modern English, Sparks, Men at Work, Josie Cotton, etc.) with an L.A. band, the Plimsouls, countering -- in cameos, no less -- with a much welcomed rock punch.

Out of print for years, Valley Girl has become almost extinct on video store shelves. Three cheers, then, for MGM's decision finally to release this DVD version. Presented both in wide screen and pan-and-scan formats, the film has never looked better on video. The special features run the gamut from the vital (a rare Plimsouls music video) to the vacuous (pop-up "Val-Speak" translations). And can someone please direct me to the promised theatrical trailer? Still, for the curious and the nostalgic, this is a must-rent. For fans and connoisseurs of '80s teen flicks, it's a must-have.

Publication date: 08/21/03

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