Review by Sean Boelman
The first Stargirl was an underwhelming adaptation of a young adult book, with too many cringe-worthy moments to recommend it. While it’s unlikely that many were clamoring for a sequel, Hollywood Stargirl is one of the most pleasant surprises of the year, an improvement over its predecessor in almost every imaginable way.
The film picks up after the last movie, when Stargirl has moved to California with her mom where she meets new friends and discovers a life of music and full of dreams. It’s a fairly standard “[character] Goes to [destination]” type of sequel where we watch the character see the sights of the city and become enamored with all it has to offer.
Admittedly, the film explores many of the same themes that any movie set in the City of Angels approaches, but it does it in a way that is so wholesome and lovable that it’s hard not to appreciate it. It’s a reminder of the power that optimism and following your dreams can have, which is something we always need as a society.
The character development in this entry is significantly better than it was in the first. Whereas Stargirl was essentially a Manic Pixie Dream Girl in the first movie, serving to inspire the male protagonist, she is the protagonist here. She gets a much more interesting arc here that feels fully developed and independent.
Even though the story may be a bit generic, this really feels like the natural progression for the character. We finally get to see her in action as the dreamer that she is, rather than just a person who is more outspokenly optimistic than everyone else around her. It’s a very different path for the character that still stays true to the character’s essence.
As with the first film, this really takes advantage of Grace VanderWaal’s singing talents with a soundtrack composed of some great jukebox hits. It’s a movie that is unabashedly nostalgic for a certain era, but not in a way that feels overly retro. And this creates an overall wholesome, lovely feel.
The supporting characters here are also much more memorable. The friends that Stargirl makes along the way are charming and lovable, albeit a bit on the archetypal side. And Uma Thurman’s mentor character in this film is pitch-perfect for her, allowing the storied actress to give what is her best performance in almost two decades.
Hollywood Stargirl is one of the best new Disney+ movies in recent memory, taking a concept that wasn’t rife with potential and making something intriguing out of it. It may not be unconventional, but it’s charming beyond belief, and sometimes that’s all that’s required.
Hollywood Stargirl streams on Disney+ beginning June 3.