The story of a spoiled, rich society woman, skilled in the wilds of Beverly Hills, learned a whole other set of skills in the wilds of…the Southern California wilderness.
That story is actually the movie Troop Beverly Hills, and it turned thirty this week!
As I’m sitting down to write this piece, rooted in my own personal nostalgia, I’m also planning my future as a Retroist writer. I could say that I plan my future on Retroist every week, when I explore the past and choose a topic to write about. One thing I’ll be working on as a Retroist writer from here on is an “expertise.” That means choosing a topic I am well-versed in, and expanding upon it to create a whole series of articles around that particular expertise. It is a future I’m excited about.
This is meant as a bridge toward that, something I love and cherish, but have tried to build an expertise, but with very little information to go on aside from plot summaries and a Wikipedia entry.
Enough of that, let’s get to the good stuff!
It’s Cookie Time!: What is Troop Beverly Hills About?
Troop Beverly Hills is about the aforementioned Phyllis Nefler (played to high society snobbery perfection by Shelley Long – think of her as the Diane Chambers of Beverly Hills), a rich housewife who is going through a separation from her husband, Freddy “The Muffler Man” Nefler (played by Craig T. Nelson, in a role nothing like his then-current role on Coach).
In an attempt to “see something through” while spending time with her daughter Hannah (played by Jenny Lewis before she accused someone in Reno of touching her breast), Phyllis applies to be a troop leader for the local Wilderness Girls chapter in Beverly Hills. That chapter had been in decline – never earning patches, not selling cookies, and going through Troop Leaders like bottles of Evian on a hot day (my interpretation, not an actual line in the movie), and enrollment down to eight participants. Based on Phyllis’s application, she is the perfect troop leader. Freddy thinks she doesn’t stand a chance, but Phyllis (for once) is determined to make it as a troop leader.
There’s cookies to be sold, patches to be earned, the wilds to be conquered, and something called a Jamboree. Oh, and there’s this one troop leader with clout, toughness, and the most decorated troop in existence antagonizing Phyllis and her girls along the way.
Can Troop Beverly Hills prove they’re more than just experts at shopping and being rich girls?
Oh, and it is blessed with this awesome opening credits scene, complete with score by Beach Boys Making a Comeback Music!
My Troop Beverly Hills Story
I watched plenty of movies growing up, into my adult life, and now into my thirties – some movies have been good and memorable, some bad and memorable for the wrong reasons, and some bad and memorable for all the right reasons. A few years back, I referred Magic Mike a movie you only watch for the dancing. A few weeks ago, I referred to A Chorus Line as a movie you only watch because you know the music (and love watching dancing). I watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 offerings because bad and memorable as escapist lore is so easy to get tangled up in. And as for The Room, well, I’ve seen that four times because the shock factor is ridiculously high.
All the times I’ve watched Troop Beverly Hills, it was because 1980s childhood life is awesome. And I’ve held out hope that I took could survive in the wilds of The Great Outdoors the way Phyllis Nefler found she was able to.
Until that time I thought I wouldn’t survive river tubing. At that point, I figured that at almost 34 years old, it was time to pack up any dim hope I may have had.
Related: Allison Conquers The Not-So-Lazy River – The story of my first (and only) total outdoor experience. Also known as the time I almost died.
I first saw Troop Beverly Hills not in the late 1980s like my contemporaries likely did, but in 1998 (yes, the late 1990s) when I randomly spotted it on The Disney Channel on a Sunday afternoon. The channel had become a regular part of our cable package by that time (I believe that happened in 1997). I was fifteen at that time, so I really needed a good reason to watch The Disney Channel. Apparently, this was that reason. The story of a spoiled, rich Beverly Hills housewife leading a troop of equally spoiled preteen girls as members of a Girl Scouts of America-like organization fascinated me. At fifteen and in the “Cool Phase” of my teenage life, this movie should have been the opposite of appealing. But really, I loved it.
When I took my video store job in my early 20s, I would put this movie on every Saturday afternoon when my shift started, and then throw a more current videocassette (yes, in 2003, we still had those for rental) after this one was over. I’d put it on so many times between 2003 and 2004, I should have been tired of it the way I was by December 26th, when we finally stopped watching The Nightmare Before Christmas in non-stop Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas marathons between October 1st and December 26th. Throw into that mix The Lizzie McGuire Movie (choke) and What A Girl Wants (good Lord), and yeah, you totally get why I needed the escapism of Troop Beverly Hills on Saturday afternoons.
By the summer of 2004, I knew this movie belonged in my collection, and I made that happen. I still have my cookie-printed DVD to this very day, nestled among my other DVDs and Blu-Rays.
Troop Beverly Hills Turns 30
The movie turned 30 on March 24, 2019, and was celebrated with a reunion of some of the film’s stars on Entertainment Tonight last week.
I love this so much, it made me smile!
Tasha Scott singing “Cookie Time” thirty years later will NEVER get old!
And in 2016, 22 Vision uploaded a “Where Are They Now” video in the tradition of their other great reunions and “Where Are They Now” stories.
For a film that was such a box office flop and did nothing to further Shelley Long’s post-Cheers film career (you know, the one she left Cheers to accomplish), it has become a celebrated film among nostalgic 30 and 40-something women, the young girls the film targeted 30 years ago.
Definitely a thrill!
She can be found at allisonveneziowrites.com.You can follow her blog on Facebook (facebook.com/allisonswrittenwords), Instagram @allisonswrittenwords, and on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.
(Her fiancee is supportive of the whole Chris Hemsworth and Kenny Loggins love thing.)