The Daily Stream: Troop Beverly Hills Is A Comedic Defense For Eating Cookies Instead Of The Rich

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Movie: "Troop Beverly Hills"

Where You Can Stream It: PlutoTV

The Pitch: Beverly Hills housewife Phyllis Nefler (Shelley Long) has a black belt in shopping, and despite her big personality and even bigger hair, her fabulous existence isn't enough to keep her marriage with Fred "The Muffler Man" Nefler (Craig T. Nelson) a happy one. In an attempt to boost her self-esteem, help out her daughter Hannah (Jenny Lewis), and prove to her husband that she's more than just a shallow trophy wife, Phyllis signs up to be the troop leader for the Beverly Hills chapter of the Wilderness Girls. Given the silver spoons most of the troop were born with, Troop Beverly Hills isn't viewed as "Wilderness Girl" material by their rivals, with troop leader Velda Plendor (Betty Thomas) doing all she can to get the troop dissolved. Now, it's up to Phyllis and Troop Beverly Hills to prove that they are more than just spoiled rich girls, and actually have what it takes to be a true Wilderness Girl.

Why it's essential viewing

If there's one thing we love in American cinema, it's a good underdog story. Sometimes these films come in the form of a sports team of lovable losers or marginalized kids fighting against a world that wants to make their lives even harder. With their generational wealth and caviar taste, "Troop Beverly Hills" is absolutely an underdog story. 

It's made known pretty early that Troop Beverly Hills has seen a revolving door of troop leaders, with adult figureheads abandoning them when they can't accomplish the typical patch-earning goals of Wilderness Girls. Phyllis Nefler has been treated like nothing more than a vapid socialite for most of her adult life, completely ignoring the multitude of interpersonal and social skills she's developed along the way.

Of course, the more rugged and ruthless troops in the area judge Troop Beverly Hills harshly (which is still Los Angeles so like, calm down with your shaming of Troop Beverly Hills, CULVER CITY!), but rather than give up and accept the way the world views them, Phyllis takes it upon herself to challenge those perceptions. 

Feminist films and feminist characters are often reserved for those that buck gender norms or fall into the category of "strong female characters," but "Troop Beverly Hills" is about women thriving without ever having to sacrifice who they are to make it to the top. It is just as feminist to be a leader dripping in couture as it is to lead an army with a shaved head. Being a strong, independent woman can look a variety of ways, and "Troop Beverly Hills" is one of the few examples of finding the power in priss.

Shelley Long is comedic gold

I feel the same way about Shelley Long as I do about Anna Faris, in that both women are wildly underrated comedy greats. Long won an Emmy for her performance as Diane Chambers on the hit sitcom "Cheers," but I firmly believe that "Troop Beverly Hills" is her magnum opus. A character like Phyllis Nefler could so easily turn into a one-note stereotype, but Long's performance turns her into a relatable mom just trying to make things work. Every one-liner is delivered with absolute perfection, and she (sometimes literally) throws herself into physical comedy moments that would make Carol Burnett proud. The delivery of her "scary campfire story" about the time a hairstylist gave her a perm without her consent should be studied in acting classes.

It's truly shocking to me that Jeff Kanew, the man who directed the most horrifically aged film in history, "Revenge of the Nerds," sat in the director's chair for "Troop Beverly Hills," which is a testament to the brilliance of Pamela Norris and Margaret Grieco Oberman's hilarious script. "Troop Beverly Hills" paved the way for films like "Clueless" and "Legally Blonde," both considered modern classics of teen cinema. Unfortunately, a less-than-stellar box office performance relegated "Troop Beverly Hills" to becoming a cult hit down the line, but the fandom is mighty.

The ensembles are perfection – cast and fashion

Casts of children are often hit or miss, but all of the young talent in "Troop Beverly Hills" are some of the best in the business. Lead by Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley and ... Jenny Lewis fame), the troop members played by Emily Schulman, Ami Foster, Aquilina Soriano, Heather Hopper, Tasha Scott, and young Kellie Martin, Tori Spelling, and Carla Gugino are all perfect. Each girl has a bold personality all her own, but are all dealing with their own unique struggles as kids trying to fit in. "Troop Beverly Hills" is Phyllis Nefler's movie, but moments like the musical stylings of "Cookie Time" let the girls all shine.

The unspoken star of "Troop Beverly Hills" is the un-freaking-believable costume design of Theadora Van Runkle. Every item of clothing Phyllis wears throughout the film, whether it be pajamas with a metallic robe or a fundraising gala gown, is sheer artistry. Phyllis Nefler is the 1980s version of Carrie Bradshaw of "Sex and the City" fame, unafraid to wear a bold style if it means making a statement. I will spend the rest of my life trying to find an evening gown adorned with an avant-garde sequin appliqué of a bird to live my greatest Phyllis Nefler fantasy.

Beverly Hills, what a thrill, indeed.