by Charles Kirkland, Jr.
The Season 11 America’s Got Talent winner, Grace VanderWaal returns to the screen in the sequel to her 2020 movie Stargirl with Disney’s, Hollywood Stargirl.
When she gets a job as a fashion designer for a movie, Ana Caraway (Judy Greer) and her daughter, Stargirl (Grace VanderWaal) pack up and move to another new city. This time it is Hollywood. Only slightly dejected at leaving Mica and moving to a new city, Stargirl quickly finds new friends by singing her music and ultimately being herself. Before she knows it, she is starring in a movie, meets one of her musical heroes, and maybe a new love.
Hollywood Stargirl is written by Julia Hart and Jordan Horowitz based upon the novel by Jerry Spinelli and is a sequel to the Disney+ movie Stargirl released in 2020. This new movie stars VanderWaal and Greer with Al Madrigal, Elijah Richardson, Tyrel Jackson Williams, Judd Hirsch, and Uma Thurman. This sequel is directed also by Julia Hart who directed the first movie as well.
This movie much like the last one is a showcase for the talents of VanderWaal. She strums the ukulele and sings which is how she won America’s Got Talent as a twelve-year-old. It is really hard to tell whether she is actually acting or whether she is just being who she is and this is great casting. But even if she is not acting, VanderWaal comes across as perfect for this movie. She is a wispy and raspy-voiced ingenue that makes everyone better including her curmudgeonly downstairs neighbor, Mr. Mitchell (Judd Hirsch), and the reclusive singer Roxanne Martel (Uma Thurman) who Stargirl and her mom idolize. From the moment Stargirl sings Brian Wilson’s “Love and Mercy” acapella, she cements herself as something unpredictable and quirkily different. She is a refreshing delight to watch even despite some very interesting costume choices. Now 18, the question is what is next for VanderWaal?
The script for Hollywood Stargirl is very predictable and a little more than basic but the acting talent is better than its predecessor. It is fun to watch Uma Thurman brood and snark and even more fun to see her grow throughout the film. And Judd Hirsch is just a lovable guy even when he is trying not to be.
Much like the last film, Hollywood is a romantic drama aimed at the teen/YA audience. But being a Disney film, it doesn’t stray into the dopey rebelliousness that defines most movies in the genre. In fact, it bucks convention in that its title character doesn’t even own a phone (gasp!). Disney still doesn’t invest too much in the nuclear family but so the relationship between mother and daughter is well composed. The movie has a lot of music in it but is not a musical. As far as sequels go, this is one of those times that the second film is better than the first.
Rated PG for mild language, Hollywood Stargirl is actually a really cute family night film where everyone can sit around and enjoy a decently entertaining cotton candy film. It’s sweet and saccharine while you are eating it but is barely memorable when it is over.
Hollywood Stargirl premieres on Disney+ on June 3.