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Film / Troop Beverly Hills

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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-ish "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 glamour".

All of this earns her the ire of Wilderness Girls district leader Velda Plendor, who takes the "wilderness" aspect very seriously and sees Phyllis as a threat 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:
    • 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 inferior.
    • Velda herself is pretty much the main Alpha Bitch of the entire organization even though she's a grown woman.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The film's opening sequence was animated by Spumco, John K's independent animation studio. It also features a theme song by The Beach Boys, "Make It Big".
  • Anticipatory Breath Spray: The officer who demonstrates CPR on Phyllis.
    Phyllis: Oh, how thoughtful.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: Uses of the word "bitches" and "shit".
  • Becoming the Mask: Annie, who does a Heel–Face Turn from being The Mole into a genuine friend of the troop.
  • Bland-Name Product: The Wilderness Girls is a common fiction stand in for the Girl Scouts.
  • Blatant Lies: Phyllis denies spying on her husband.
    Hannah Neffler: You fell off the garden wall when you were spying on Dad.
    Phyllis Neffler: I was not "spying on Dad", I was checking on my azaleas. [she relents] I was spying on Dad.
  • Blunt "Yes": When Chica's mom is thanking Phyllis for the birthday party she held for her daughter she also bemoans how stupid she and her husband were. Phyllis agrees with her on that part.
  • Boomerang Comeback
    Mrs. Temple: (to Annie) Does she strike you as being minus a few buttons?
    Velda: Oh, I'll tell you about the buttons, you senile old bag.
    Mrs. Temple: I may be old, and I may be senile. The only thing that's "bagged" around here is you. You're fired!
  • Brutal Honesty: Following their disastrous "fashion show", Phyllis invites her charges to share thoughts and feelings about whatever comes to mind. Lily answers point blank: "This troop sucks!" None of the other girls argue about that.
  • The Cameo: By a bunch of Real Life people who lived in Beverly Hills at the time.
  • Chick Magnet: The super-handsome cop who shows up to teach the girls first aid, if their response to his asking for a volunteer is any indication....
    • Cutely enough, when the girls all yell "ME!", he points at Phyllis without missing a beat: "You."
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Velda was none to happy that she was found, treated, and brought to the finish by TBH after being abandoned by the Red Feathers following a sprained/broken ankle.
    Phyllis: I knew I could count on you girls to do the right thing.
    Velda: Oh, stop, or I'll bust out crying. I knew I could count on you losers to do the wimpy thing.
    Phyllis: (shoves Velda's head down) You need your rest.
  • Cruella to Animals: Velda actually kills a wild skunk, and then wears it as a coonskin hat, for indirectly making her troop lose the first competition.
    Velda: (holding the skunk up by the scruff) You're gonna pay for this. Oh yes you are.
  • Custom Uniform: Phyllis' troop leader uniform definitely stands out comparing to the other troop leaders, as she has it altered by a high-end designer because she hated the original uniform.
  • Cutting the Knot: Discussed. Vicki, Claire's mom, asks why the parents of Troop Beverly Hills don't just buy all the cookies so the girls can make it to the jamboree. Phyllis explains it misses the point in that it's more important that the girls gain a feeling of pride from accomplishing their goal by selling the cookies themselves and to get to know their community better by being involved with them.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Velda gets one for Phyllis.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: In a move of desperation, the Red Feathers cut down a bridge across a ravine in an attempt to stop Phyllis's troop from winning the final race. This leads to a Despair Event Horizon until Hannah notices a nearby log that might be wide enough for them to cross and possibly re-fasten the bridge.
    Phyllis: What really frosts my cookies is that we have tried so hard, and we have come so far, and NOW WE HAVE TO STOP!
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory: The "Red Feathers" finish first, but since they abandoned Velda, they are disqualified for finishing without their adult leader. Beverly Hills finishes second (with Velda in tow), and is declared the winner.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Fred sees Phyllis' dedication to the scout troop, and realizes she isn't so "flighty" after all.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Velda.
  • Doomed New Clothes: Bringing a mink coat to wear while out on camping? Hope it doesn't rain...
  • The '80s: Near end of it — in fact, since the 1989 poster is already there, 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.
  • A Father to His Men: Well, Phyllis is A Mother To Her Girls and becomes a Parental Substitute to some of them while inspiring all of them to feel good about themselves.
  • Faux Horrific: Phyllis' story about getting an awful perm.
  • Forgotten Birthday: Chica’s parents take a last minute trip to Monaco leaving her alone on her birthday, so Phyllis’ maid Rosa makes her a Mexican food dish decorated with candles and the household sings “Happy Birthday” to her.
  • Frothy Mugs of Water: Done deliberately and played for laughs in the scene where Phyllis is apparently "drunk" on Evian water.
  • Girl Scouts Are Evil: Not all of them; just the Red Feathers.
  • Good Parents:
    • Phyllis and Fred are devoted to Hannah's well being and, despite a couple of hiccups from their divorce, are completely loving.
    • Vicki clearly tries to take an active interest in Claire's place in Troop Beverly Hills, proposing the parents buy the cookies themselves and later scheduling an autograph session for her AND Claire so the two can sell cookies together.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: Phyllis and her girls make use of their own talents and skills to sell those cookies.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Annie.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Velda's spying on Troop Beverly Hills and all the information she gathered on why they should be disbanded just convinced Mrs. Temple that Phyllis is a devoted troop leader and is actively supporting the group the way a real Wilderness Girl would do. Also overlaps with the Laser-Guided Karma described downward.
  • Hypocritical Humor: "The parents in this neighborhood are so self-involved... oh shit, I Broke a Nail!"
  • Idle Rich: Phyllis (the page image) and most of the girls in her troop are idle to varying degrees, but work to overcome it.
  • Indecisive Parody: Roger Ebert's review paints it as such with regards to Beverly Hills sensibilities. It could be seen as an Affectionate Parody, though.
  • I Resemble That Remark!:
    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.
  • It Came from Beverly Hills: Much of the film takes place there, and the members of the eponymous troop live there.
  • 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.
    • This also ends up backfiring on the Red Feathers as they end up getting disqualified for crossing the finish line without all of their members.
  • Merit Badges for Everything: Shown in a montage. Phyllis does come up with many merit badges for her troop to earn, such as "grooming" and "community service", but they're 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".
  • The Mole: Annie starts as one, but her sympathies shift to the side she's "spying" on when it becomes clear to her that Velda's dislike for Phyllis is rooted in spiteful, petty competitiveness.
  • The Neidermeyer: Velda.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Lily's parents, Dictator Bong-Bong and Karina, are obvious stand-ins for Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos.
    • Jasmine's dad could be one of several big-name boxers of The '80s, looking most like Sugar Ray Leonard.
  • Obi-Wan Moment: Velda tries to fire Annie from Phyllis' troop before the final competition, but she continues to guide the troop by radio.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When even Phyllis doesn't want to go shopping, you know something's wrong.
  • Parental Abandonment: Chica in particular is a victim of this. Her parents are almost always off on trips, missing a badge ceremony, and even her birthday. Later in the film, her parents express regret about this to Phyllis.
  • 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.
  • Plucky Girl: In spades.
  • Pretty in Mink: Phyllis wears a white mink coat to her troop's first outing. It does get dirtied by rain and mud.note  Later that night she wears a sheer pink nightgown with pink fox trimming the sleeves.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Despite their relatively well-off backgrounds, this trope (especially the variant of the "three-game arc") is the backbone of the eponymous troop's journey.
  • 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.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Velda's superior is this trope through and through, in stark contrast to Velda herself.
  • Red/Green Contrast: The scheming but hardworking Culver City Red Feathers, against the more civil community-minded — if somewhat spoiled — Beverly Hills girls with their green hats and accents. In the "grooming" part of the Merit Badges for Everything montage, TBH makes use of both colors.
  • Road-Sign Reversal: The Red Feathers pull this one at the jamboree. Due to the above mentioned skunk, this still wasn't enough to win the competition.
  • Scout-Out: Naturally, Wilderness Girls are this to the Girl Scouts of the USA. Oddly enough, the movie does have Boy Scouts.
  • Serious Business: Fashion! Cookies! SHOPPING!
    • Velda takes the entire concept of the Wilderness Girls far too seriously in terms of carrying out their rules to the letter and not the spirit. During her Villainous Breakdown after Troop Beverly Hills have won the jamboree, she screams she's the only "Real" Wilderness Girl.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Annie swaps out her frumpy clothes for a fancy mini dress at one of Phyllis' parties.note 
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shrinking Violet: Annie is so timid that Velda is able to get her to do anything, at least until Annie gets fed up. Then she turns more extroverted.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: An inversion of the common trope. The rich girls are the underdogs, while the middle-class ones are the militant snobs.
  • Smelly Skunk: In one scene, during the Jamboree, the Red Feathers trick Troop Beverly Hills during the competition by misdirecting them into a snake-infested swamp. Luckily, a skunk scares them into running through a shortcut
  • Smug Snake: Velda thinks she can always get her way, and will use her manipulating skills at the drop of a hat.
  • 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).
  • Stage Mom: Averted with Vicki. Clair may be a child star, but Vicki avoids being overbearing and manipulative in regards to Clair's acting career and allows Clair to be part of Wilderness Girls out of Clair's wishes to experience a part of being a normal kid. The two even arrange a dual autograph session so they can sell cookies as a duo, and they clearly enjoy spending time together.
  • The Starscream: Velda to Mrs. Temple, who continually orders her to stop trying to get Troop Beverly Hills disbanded.
  • Start My Own: Velda's angry rant at the end.
  • The Stinger: Velda working at K-Mart at the end. See Ironic Echo.
    Velda: Attention K-Mart shoppers. Blue light special, aisle 13. *beeeep* Cookies.
  • "Stop Having Fun" Guy: Velda sees the Wilderness Girls and everything they do as a competition that she intends to win at all costs. And if not her, her daughter.
  • 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.
  • 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 Girls 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".
    Phyllis: (On instructor's asking her to lie down) The last time I did this, I got more than a patch for it...