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TROOP BEVERLY HILLS. Directed by Jeff Kanew; written by Pamela Norris and Margaret Grieco Oberman; produced by Ava Ostern Fries for Weintraub. Starring Shelley Long, Craig T. Nelson and Betty Thomas. Rated PG.


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Beverly Hills is undoubtedly overused as a movie locale. And Troop Beverly Hills is one movie set there we could certainly have done without.

It's silly, but not funny, and nothing can overcome that deadly combination. Not even Shelley Long, with all her energy and the most outlandish collection of expensive clothes you can imagine.

Phyllis (Long) is a flighty, pampered, and, we are led to believe, totally self-centered Beverly Hills wife. She's also the mother of Hannah (Jenny Lewis, one of the movie's few bright spots), though, and thinks that becoming leader of the girl's scout troop would be a neat "mother-daughter bonding thing."

(Scouting enthusiasts needn't worry that the real Scouts will be defamed by this unfortunate movie; the organization is called "Wilderness Girls" in Troop Beverly Hills.)

As the movie progresses (probably not the best verb to use in this case), Phyllis miraculously emerges as a worldly-wise, super-nurturer who builds up her girls' fragile self-esteem and leads them to victory over their mean-spirited rivals in the annual jamboree. This outcome, while quite predicitable in such a simple-minded movie, is nonetheless totally unbelieveable.

The troop itself consists of a cute little group of Beverly Hills cliche children—daughters of film directors, exiled dictators, plastic surgeons, etc. The girls that play them actually do a creditable job. But the characters are so flat, so "one-joke," such poor little rich girls, that it's impossible to care about them.

The rest of the cast is equally one-dimensional. Troop Beverly Hills' scriptwriters seem to have attended the Police Academy school of character development. Thomas, as the diabolical leader of the regional Wilderness Girl organization, is embarrassing. Nelson is barely awake as Phyllis' husband.

And there's a curious parade of cameos by such objects of nostalgia as Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Ed (Kookie) Byrnes, etc.

Perhaps their presence would make Troop Beverly Hills an amusing video rental some six months from now. But even at bargain basement prices, you still might feel ripped-off.

April 12, 1989

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