Released: 13th March
Seen: 26th April
In 2000, Jerry Spinelli released the novel Stargirl to critical acclaim. The book was a New York Times bestseller, won multiple awards and even had a sequel called Love, Stargirl. It even got adapted into a stage play and has led to the creation of groups known as Stargirl Societies, designed to encourage young people to be themselves. With all this acclaim and cultural impact, a film adaptation was somewhat inevitable and since Disney is a mega-corporation with a streaming service in search of original content it seems only logical that they would be the ones to take the ball and run with it… or, in this case, take the ball and casually walk down a footpath with it while whistling music by The Go-Go’s.
Stargirl is a combination of a love story and a story about how gosh darn swell it is to be yourself. We start by focussing on a boy named Leo (Graham Verchere) who is your typical high school boy with one weird little tie fixation brought on by his dead father. Yes, it’s a Disney film with a dead parent, pull out your bingo cards and then put them away again because “Dead Parent” is the centre square of Disney bingo. Anyway, he’s living his normal life at his normal school doing normal things when a girl who goes by the name Stargirl (Grace VanderWaal) turns up and shakes things up by being quirky and singing songs, occasionally with a ukelele. Her appearance makes the football team play better and Leo ends up falling for her. She shakes up his world and makes the small town seem a little less small.
If I could describe this movie in one word… I mean, for starters I’d probably just be doing this as a tweet instead of a lengthy review but the word would probably just be “Cute” because that’s what it runs on. It’s cute that Stargirl is this weird flower child who sings. It’s cute that Leo is obsessed with ties. Everything is just cute, even the conflict of the third act has a cuteness factor to it since the conflict is literally caused by an act of kindness by Stargirl that has unintended consequences cos she didn’t know everything about the people she was being kind to. Everything is cute, but also kind of disposable.
Disposable because while the story and message are genuinely well done, it’s so calm and quaint that you can really just have it on in the background and throw away everything except the message. There aren’t really any memorable set pieces or lines of dialogue or characters. That’s not to say anything is bad, everyone is doing their best and there’s a lot of very pretty shots that look like they were lifted straight out of a “Very Pretty Shot” handbook. Nothing here is bad, but nothing here is great or memorable beyond the key message of “Just be yourself”… which was probably done more memorably by Aladdin since in that movie they had Robin Williams make it a pun and here it’s just a general theme.
It almost feels like this film is lost in time, like it was made decades ago when pure innocent whimsy was the norm in kids movies. It’s just toothless, to the point that when they finally have the conflict that takes us to the final act it has to be something as stupid as “Well you gave him a bike that he rode and hurt himself so he can never ride bikes again!”. It comes out of nowhere and just feels forced because we need to give Stargirl a reason to try and blend in with everyone else otherwise we don’t have a finale. A finale that is not even that memorable, in case you’re wondering.
Stargirl is just fine. It’s fine, it’s nothing more than fine. It’s an hour and a half of comforting sounds and pretty pictures put together to create a film. It’s not bad, I can’t even claim it’s average, it hits that exact sweet spot of just fine without going above it. Watch it, don’t, within a day you won’t remember much of it either way.