Troop Beverly Hills (1989)
October 15, 2023 12:56 AM - Subscribe

A soon to be divorced Beverly Hills socialite is determined to prove to her husband and herself that she can finish what she starts out to do, by becoming a den mother to a troop of Beverly Hills Girl Scouts.

With her marriage breaking up, Beverly Hills housewife Phyllis Nefler (Shelley Long) boosts her self-esteem by leading a local troop of Wilderness Girls. Although Phyllis' version of roughing it is spending the night at the Beverly Hills Hotel, that suits her privileged troop members just fine. Unfortunately, when Phyllis falls afoul of a rival leader, the girls are threatened with having their group dissolved -- unless they can prove their wilderness skills at the annual jamboree.

Kathy Huffhines: "troop Beverly Hills" is based on the real experiences of its producer Ava Fries, but it doesn't pay the kidn of detailed attention to the Beverly Hills girls Fries must have known to make the movie work. It's all formula - good-natured and escapist enough for a family Easter outing, but without the genuine wit or heart of a "down and Out in Beverly Hills."

Rita Kempley: Pity the poor little Beverlies: Children from lower income groups laugh at their Giorgio boutique backpacks. Then Velda strips the girls of the badges they've earned for facials and pricing jewelry. She further derides them for holding their camp-out at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where they tell horror stories about bad haircuts.

Aided by her daughter's Red Feather troop, the hairy-chested Velda plans to destroy the Beverlies. "I love the smell of cookies in the morning," says Velda upon invading the Beverlies' territory in a contest to sell the most boxes. But with pluck and vast amounts of cash, the girls rally the community, selling $4,000 worth of cookies at a fashion show. Cameos by Dr. Joyce Brothers and Pia Zadora are featured.

Finally the rivalry peaks at a Wilderness Girls Jamboree, where the children's survival skills are tested. Tricked by the Red Feathers, the brave Beverlies must walk across a creek on a log the size of a sequoia. Whew, that was a close one. Then they run from a skunk and squeal at a snake. The fun just never stops.

Barbara Shulgasser: Poor Shelley Long - one of the freshest, most appealing, attractive and clever comic actresses around and nary a film to put her in.

Nary a film that is, worthy of her talents. "Troop Beverly Hills," a largely inoffensive piece of fluff, offers a few good laughs. But one understands that it is Long's efforts that leave you smiliing rather than the script's cleverness or director Jeff Kanew's way with a comic moment.

Oddly, that the film itself is so second-rate only adds stature to Long as an actress. Sit-com level comedy abounds yet she rises above it ("Cheers" notwithstanding").

posted by Carillon (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's not like, the exacting critique of capitalism or privilege that it could be or whatever. But it's fun enough, and a story about fellowship and the importance of community. I was surprised at how negative the critical reception seemed to be.
posted by Carillon at 12:59 AM on October 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

I genuinely loved this movie as a child, and still watch it periodically. (I have it on DVD, so as not to be subject to the vagaries of streaming availability when my heart feels it is cookie time.) My mother always found Shelley Long grating, so I think my love of this movie was difficult for her.

The Wilderness Girls had some really solid comedic performances from its child actors. I assume my early love for this movie was just my prescient knowledge that Jenny Lewis was going to have a hell of a career in music. (Link to this weekend's episode of Austin City Limits, featuring Lewis and MUNA; her solo stuff is great but also check out her earlier work with Rilo Kiley and The Postal Service, amongst others.) I don't think Lewis has fond memories of her time as a child actor, but she did have some fun with references to this film in her She's Not Me video.

I am willing to grant that this is not great cinema, but it is a good time. Here's a more recent and appreciative video review from around the 30th anniversary.

If nothing else, the opening credits and costuming deserve merit badges.
posted by the primroses were over at 7:39 AM on October 15, 2023 [3 favorites]

My Brownie troop loved this movie. We did actually get a badge that required us to go shopping for clothes and the whole time we were planning it we were like "it's going to be just like Troop Beverly Hills!!"
posted by potrzebie at 8:23 AM on October 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

Oh my goodness, I LOVED this movie as a kid! Yes, it's silly as all get out, but the kids are a delight, the spy devices are hilarious, and Shelley Long is a delight!
posted by epj at 11:39 AM on October 16, 2023

Those opening credits were, of course, animated by John Kricfalusi and Spumco in their pre-Ren & Stimpy years.
posted by MetaFilter World Peace at 3:49 PM on October 17, 2023

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