Is anyone else out there as tired as I am of Shelley Long's one-note screen persona? Is she trying to become the Clifton Webb of the '80s?
The spoiled uppercrust snob she has played in everything from her TV series "Cheers" to the movies "Irreconcilable Differences," "Outrageous Fortune" and "Hello Again" is starting to rub me the wrong way.
Her latest venture, however has a lot of other problems as well. "Troop Beverly Hills" is yet another shallow comedy that might have made a good 10-minute skit on "Saturday Night Live," but stretched out to feature length is booooring.
Once the premise is set up you can guess the rest. Long is a rich Beverly Hills wife whose husband is seeking a divorce not because there's another woman, but because his wife has become a Beverly Hills stereotype. (Although, soon enough, another woman figures in the plot.)
As part of her trying to change, Long decides to get closer to her daughter by taking on the Beverly Hills troop of the Wilderness Girls, a spoof of the Girl Scouts. But, of course, she knows nothing of wilderness skills, so instead of camping out she takes the girls to the Beverly Hills Hotel where they roast marshmallows in the fireplace, and instead of earning traditional patches she creates her own, for such worthy tasks as jewelry appraisal.
It's a thin premise to begin with, but if the film had gone for the throat it might have been an interesting biting satire. As it is, "Troop Beverly Hills" goes for sitcom-style humor, alternating with sloppy sentiment.
But there may have been an inherent problem here. The whole idea is that because these young girls are rich and spoiled, the Beverly Hills troop doesn't fit in with the other troops. But how can we root for these kids as underdogs when they have every advantage?
True, the parents are all portrayed as neglectful, except the one who doesn't really have any money (Edd Byrnes as a has-been actor). But it's a feeble attempt to inject a reason for us to care. It doesn't work.
In fact, hardly any of "Beverly Hills Troop" does work. There are some amusing moments, but a little of this goes a long way. And about two-thirds into the film, when the troop wins a cookie-selling contest, I thought it was over and was getting ready to leave. Imagine my disdain when it went on another 20 minutes.
And what's with all the guest-star cameos, by people like Pia Zadora and Annette Funicello & Frankie Avalon? They don't have jokes, just walk-ons? Further, there are lots of arcane (and far too overworked) in-jokes for movie buffs, including variations on the most famous lines of dialogue from "Apocalypse Now" ("I love the smell of cookies in the morning!") and "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" ("Patches? We don't need no stinking patches!").
"Troop Beverly Hills" is a textbook example of what's wrong with movie comedy these days. It's a TV show, with a few profanities and a lot of padding to disguise it as a movie. But we know better.
It is rated PG for profanity (someone here thinks a particular four-letter word is a punchline and it's used that way several times), some comic violence and a few vulgar jokes.