You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be charmed by “Stargirl,” the feel-good, semi-musical film from Disney+. This story of a manic pixie dream girl hits its preteen target audience right in the bullseye, and it’s irresistible to anyone who loves goofy, offbeat romance movies.
Leo Borlock (Graham Verchere) is living an average life as an average student at Mica High School. Leo is one of those quiet types, content to do his homework, participate in the school’s marching band, and fly under the radar as much as possible. His life is turned upside down when the colorful and quirky new student Stargirl Caraway (Grace VanderWaal) rolls into town, and Leo is instantly smitten by her eccentric charm and cheerful disposition. The two form a special bond and friendship, learning life lessons along the way.
The feel-good story is mostly a succession of platitudes and clichés that are nonetheless applicable when it comes to the struggles of growing up and finding your true identity. All of the expected coming-of-age themes are touched upon, including that old reliable nugget, “always be yourself!” Stargirl is so weird! She plays the ukulele! She wears mis-matched patterns and corny neon socks! She stands out from the crowd! She may be wacky, but Stargirl also encourages those outsiders to be confident and kind, which is a great message in today’s world of school bullying.
The film is wholesome to a fault, and the irritating dialogue where teens try to be profound rings false. While the cookie-cutter story may not entirely feel contemporary, “Stargirl” is a film that’s at least sincere in its messaging.