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Troop Beverly Hills is a 1989 film starring Shelley Long as Phyllis Neffler, a ditzy but good-hearted Beverly Hills socialite with a marriage on the rocks, her husband seeking divorce over her profligate spending habits and inability to follow through with anything.Phyllis' most recent project is to take over as troop leader of the Girl Scout-esque "Wilderness Girls" of the Beverly Hills chapter, which is a paltry eight-girl ensemble including Phyllis' own daughter Hannah and other girls of wealthy Beverly Hills backgrounds. Her contributions include taking the troop out "roughing it" in a hotel suite rather than a campground (to avoid all the bugs and a lack of electrical outlets), taking the traditional uniform to a fashion designer for improvements, and awarding her charges patches for skills such as "jewelery appraisal" and "Gardening with glamor".All of this earns her the ire of Wilderness Girls district leader Velda Plendor, who takes the "wilderness" aspect veryseriously and sees Phyllis as an affront to everything the group stands for. Velda pulls out all the stops to get Phyllis discredited and fired, but even in situations her money can't buy her out of, Phyllis perseveres through a little ingenuity and sheer pluck. It all leads to a showdown at the annual jamboree, where Troop Beverly Hills will compete against Velda's Culver City Red Feathers, trekking through actual wilderness in a race to the finish where the winners will be the Wilderness Girls' poster troop for the year...
This film provides examples of:
Alpha Bitch: Interestingly played with, in that it is Cleo Plendor, Velda's daughter and the poster child of Velda's idea of the Wilderness Girls, who treats the daughters of socialites, celebrities, and dictators as trash.
Velda herself is pretty much the main Alpha Bitch of the entire organization even though she's a grown woman.
Divorce Is Temporary: Fred sees Phyllis's dedication to the scout troop, and realizes she is not so "flighty" after all.
Initially Phyllis felt that way, having a change of heart about the divorce, until Fred told her he was seeking joint custody of Hannah.
The Eighties: Tail end of it — in fact, the competition is to be the poster troop of 1990.
Expy: The parents of the other girls in the titular troop include a retired boxer, two out-of-work actors and an exiled dictator. You can probably make some guesses as to exactly whom each one represents.
Fred: You'll be less neurotic with your parents happily divorced rather than unhappily married. Phyllis: Thank you, Phil Donahue. Fred: I saw it on Oprah!
Ironic Echo / Humiliation Conga: Velda threatens Annie over her having to go back working at K-Mart if she doesn't cooperate. Then Velda is forced to work there after she gets fired from the Wilderness Girls, including saying the very line she threatened Annie with.
Laser-Guided Karma: The drive to win at all costs which Velda instilled in her daughter and the Red Feathers comes back to bite her when they abandon her in the woods after getting injured because she was slowing them down.
Merit Badges For Everything: Phyllis does come up with many merit badges for her troop to earn, such as "gardening with glamor" and "jewelry appraisal," but they are actually stripped of them for being "illicit" and having "nothing to do with wilderness ways as [Velda] knows them or anyone else in their right mind knows them".
Parental Abandonment: Cheeka in particular is a victim of this. Her parents are almost always off on trips, missing a badge ceremony, and even her birthday.
Parental Neglect: Averted on Phyllis and Fred's account regarding Hannah, whose only real problem is that she doesn't want her parents splitting up when she knows they still love each other. Phyllis somehow manages to be a mother figure to the girls in the Troop while still devoting enough attention to Hannah.
Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Played with. Velda loathes Phyllis and Troop Beverly Hills because she doesn't believe they can be actual Wilderness Girls because of how vain, spoiled, and overall stereotypically "girly" they are, which also makes them an insult to the organization in general. Of course, Phyllis proves her wrong when the Troop shows they can be both girly and "actual" Wilderness Girls.
Sore Loser: Velda takes the Red Feathers' disqualification from the race (they crossed the finish line first without a troop leader), Troop Beverly Hills being the actual winners (even though they did stop to help her) and her own termination from the Wilderness Girls very, very badly (see also: Villainous Breakdown).
Straw Feminist: Velda. Seems to despise every dang thing that could be remotely considered "feminine".
Ungrateful Bastard: Velda continues to mock Phyllis and the girls even when they have the decency to help her after injuring herself. Of course, this just adds fuel to Velda's continuing hatred towards Troop Beverly Hills and the reminder that her own daughter abandoned her to win.
Unintentional Period Piece: And how! Though they may have deliberately exaggerated. But it is still a showcase of late 80s fashions and trends.
Vanity Is Feminine: Generally used in a "positive" sense, such as Annie's Heel-Face Turn being accompanied by a new, more flattering wardrobe. Phyllis and her girls are vain and sympathetic, while Velda is masculine and has her unattractiveness made fun of.
Although this becomes subverted when Velda is seen wearing an actual, albeit frumpy, dress to the dinner party Phyllis hosted to present the check from the cookie money. So it's not that Velda is totally lacking in femininity, it's just that she feels vanity and such other qualities don't belong in Wilderness Girl territory.
Villainous Breakdown: Velda's sanity is sorely tested during the big race. When she loses the race and her own team is disqualified from it, she ravingly makes it clear to everyone that she is a Sore Loser and throws insults at the councilwomen for recognizing Troop Beverly Hills. This gets her fired from the Wilderness Girls, which breaks her down even further (see Start My Own above).
Worst Aid: Phyllis grabs the first aid instructor when he uses her to demonstrate mouth-to-mouth. Textbook straight play of "romantic CPR".