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Wayback Wednesday: Troop Beverly Hills (1989)

This is the only type of CAMPing I’m interested in. 

This may come as a shock to you, but I was never in the Boy Scouts. I KNOW. Me, a boy who went straight from the suburbs to the city, and then back to the suburbs knows nothing about the outdoors or how to survive there. Truly, it’s amazing. I’ll give you a second now to get back on your chair because I can only assume you fell off it in surprise. What can I say? Hiking, building fires, and knot-tying have never been my skills nor have they been my interests. Now, if the scouts had gone shopping, jewel appraising, and for pedicures like the girls in Troop Beverly Hills (1989), maybe I would have been more interested in joining up. Of course, I would insist on having a leader as ridiculously fabulous as Phyllis Nefler because, DUH.

Credit: / Columbia Pictures

Troop Beverly Hills follows Phyllis Nefler, a wealthy Beverly Hills socialite who is going through a messy divorce from her husband, Freddy. To prove to Freddy and to herself that she can finish what she starts, Phyllis becomes the den mother for her daughter Hannah’s troop of Wilderness Girls. Though her skills are mostly limited to shopping and party-planning, Phyllis connects with the girls and together they learn the values of friendship, teamwork, and being true to yourself.

Do you know what I low-key miss? Movies that start with cartoon-y animation that plays during the opening credits. Think of the beginning of movies like, City Slickers (1991) or Grease (1978). By the way, check out my review for that movie, here. Sure, they’re often shoddily-animated and most people fast forward through them, but there’s something cute and silly about that animation that lets you know you’re in for an equally cute and silly movie. If there are two words to describe Troop Beverly Hills, they are most definitely “cute” and “silly.” From the minute this movie got started I was hooked. As a hard-core lover of all things campy, fabulous, and just downright wacky, there’s no way I could possibly resist this delightful comedy. Troop Beverly Hills is positively dripping with unbridled charm and lightheartedness, the traits that helped so many comedies of the 1980s become the treasured classics they are today. Like the best, most beloved comedies, Troop Beverly Hills more than holds up. Despite being over 30 years old, nothing about this movie feels dated or cringey. Okay, we’ll maybe some of the costumes and references do, but certainly not the heart and the humour that make Troop Beverly Hills such a joy to watch. I could easily see this as being one of those movies that you excitedly watch at a sleepover every single time you have your friends stay the night.

Recently I’ve reviewed a handful of movies that take FOREVER to set up their main premise. What’s worse is that once they do, things become increasingly convoluted. Maybe 2021 should look back to 1989 because within the first 10 minutes, the plot, characters, and stakes of Troop Beverly Hills are all clearly outlined, leaving more time for you to just kick back and enjoy the movie for the fluffy comedy it is. Honestly, Troop Beverly Hills is less of a movie with a real story and more so a collection of montages and satirical scenes strung together. And it’s fantastic! If you’re looking for a simple and fun movie to laugh with that will fill your heart with joy, than this is the movie for you. I thoroughly enjoyed Troop Beverly Hills. There was never a moment where I rolled my eyes in exasperation or wanted to shut it off. If anything, I was left wishing for a few extra scenes just so I could get more of Phyllis and her utter fabulousness. And her fucking amazing costumes. The level of brilliant fashion and costume design in Troop Beverly Hills is so unreal. Fashion and personality-wise, Phyllis is really like the good twin version of Cruella De Vil. Every few minutes I kept going, “okay, this blouse with these culottes is my favourite outfit. No, wait, this bedazzled jacket with a raven on it is. NO, THIS TWO-TONED PASTEL COCKTAIL DRESS IS!”

It cannot be stated enough how much the entire cast of Troop Beverly Hills completely and fully understands the kind of movie they’re in. Everyone nails the satirical take on the Beverly Hills elite and commits to the bonkers, over the top characters they play. The troop of young girls themselves are all exceptional and I think what makes them such standouts is that they’re actually written as characters, not just as punchlines. Unlike that movie The Boss (2016) remember that? Each girl is unique and interesting, and you actually grow to care for each one. Kudos to the movie for creating non-annoying children characters!

Of course, the undisputed star of Troop Beverly Hills is Shelley Long as Phyllis. Long delivers comedy gold. She absolutely embodies that eccentric character with a heart of gold who although slightly ditzy, is really much more than meets the eye. She has a firm grasp on this character and mines Phyllis for all the material she possibly can. From physical comedy, to witty one-liners, to endearing heartfelt speeches, Long is a treat to watch. The chilling seriousness of which she delivers the line, “He PERMED me!” is genius. I like that Phyllis earnestly wants to help the girls and be a role model for them. Being their den mother wasn’t her sentence, nor is she trying to get anything out of them. Like Elle Woods or Cher Horowitz, Phyllis should be a “bad” character because of her apparent vapidity and materialistic ways, but just like those two iconic characters, she proves to everyone that she’s a good hearted person who cares about others and just wants to help. She’s great. Like Elle and Cher, it’s impossible not to adore Phyllis.

Troop Beverly Hills is definitely no masterpiece but it’s certainly more deserving than the outrageously low 14 per cent it has on Rotten Tomatoes. Maybe I’m just someone who appreciates the campy and the fabulous more than the average reviewer, but this movie is entertaining, sweet, charming, and an utter delight. If you like movies such as Legally Blonde (2001) – check out my review, here – or Clueless (1995), then you’ll love Troop Beverly Hills. Open some wine (or champagne), get some good ol’ campfire snacks and gather all your friends who appreciate camp and silly glamour and have a great time with this charming movie. Hmm, do you think it’s too late for me to earn my jewelry appraisal patch?

Have you seen Troop Beverly Hills?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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