Disney+ sequel sings its heart out.
The new made-for-Disney+ movie “Hollywood Stargirl” is a sequel to the studio’s 2020 film “Stargirl.” Both films are made by husband and wife filmmakers Julia Hart and Jordan Horowitz, and both star Grace VanderWaal as the title character. That’s actually her nickname. Her real name is Susan Caraway, but we can just call her Stargirl.
It’s the kind of movie, which, despite a formula or two, manages to have its heart in the right place by caring about its heroine and the people she meets along the way. It’s not a corny film, but rather a sweet and considerable one. It makes me glad I forgot comedy bombs like “Because I Said So” or “Monster-In-Law.”
We see Stargirl relocating to LA with her mother (Judy Greer), who has just gotten a job as a costume designer for a new movie. She’s an aspiring musician who covers hit songs, and since she’s been moving from place to place, the only friend who sticks by her is her pet rat Cinnamon.
She meets a variety of characters along the way. Her neighbors are the aspiring filmmaking brothers Evan (Elijah Richardson) and Terrell (Tyrel Jackson Williams), who are the sons of their landlord (Nija Okoro), and the disgruntled former producer Mr. Mitchell (Judd Hirsch), who’s more well-meaning than intended. And then there’s the washed-out singer Roxanne Martel (Uma Thurman), who spends her days playing the piano at a local nightclub, where she sips her Shirley Temples in sorrow.
The story involves the brothers inviting Stargirl to sing and act in their movie. Actually, it’s a sizzle reel, which is basically a clip or a teaser for the whole movie. She’s never acted before, and they’ve never made a movie before, so there’s a first time for everything.
The disgruntled characters are also helpful to their project. Mr. Mitchell gives them his old camera, which they don’t really have the equipment to convert their work, so he suggests they sell it for easier equipment. And Roxanne suggests that Stargirl sings her own songs.
Of course, I had to predict the movie’s turning point, being that the main heroine keeps on moving, and she may have to move again. Of course, that scene would happen. I think it’s supposed to happen in these kinds of movies, but I still think it’s a tired formula. That’s why I can’t give it a full 4-star rating.
But other than that cliche, “Hollywood Stargirl” wins us over when it shows us how the girl can adapt to her new LA life, and how her new friends have the potential to become independent filmmakers. Or maybe they can push themselves to new limits, like Kevin Smith or Ryan Coogler. It all depends if they can get a producer to send them on their way to the top.
VanderWaal does a good job in the title role with her spirits, Richardson and Williams both have their hearts and motives, Greer has her sweet sides, and both Hirsch and Thurman both transcend with different moods at the greatest of ease. Hart directs these talents with their vulnerabilities, while her script with Horowitz shows sympathy for their characters, while overcoming a few cliches.
The better sequel out in theaters right now is “Top Gun: Maverick,” which is breaking box office records (but that’s not why I loved it). “Hollywood Stargirl” is not in theaters, but it is something for kids and their parents to see, because of its big dreams. You know what? If it’s a Disney film, then is it supposed to have its main heroine living happily ever after? It looks that way to me.
Streaming on Disney+ This Friday