Ross Carpenter (Elvis Presley) lives on a boat that is hired out to Hawaiian holidaymakers for fishing. It's today that he is taking a middle aged couple out to sea for marlin, and while he helps the husband reel in a large fish he has caught he has to fend off the advances of the wife; it's not that Ross doesn't like girls, he does, he loves them, but he doesn't want to be tied down. That and he doesn't fancy cuckolding someone who is paying his wages. However, when he returns to the docks he meets the boat owners and they have bad news: being old, they have to move away to a drier climate for their health and now the boat - and Ross's livelihood - are for sale.
Supposedly more people have seen Girls! Girls! Girls! on television than any other Elvis Presley movie, so it's a pity it represented such a settling in of the formula that would serve him for the rest of his big screen career. The film takes no chances, and although he is not playing for comedy, Presley winds up being conservative and safe, the opposite of his image of the fifties: this is Elvis the family entertainer. His Ross might start out being difficult and grumpy, but it only takes the love of a good woman to melt that icy heart and get him to loosen up.
Well, that and the presence of two little Chinese girls. Before we get to that, we must be introduced to the love triangle which takes the form of lounge singer Robin Gantner (Stella Stevens, who was much aversed to doing this film) and a girl Ross meets at the nightclub called Laurel Dodge (Laurel Goodwin making her screen debut). Laurel is keeping a secret from Ross even though they get on fairly well, and it's a secret that will ensure that there is a happy ending for them both, as if there were any doubt that he would not be paired with Robin at the end, who is almost as surly as he is.
So Ross has problems piling up, what with his boat, the vessel he and his late father built with their bare hands, being sold off and him having to find another job in the hopes he will be able to buy the boat himself. Two jobs, actually, as he not only does he work as a tuna fisherman by day, but by night he sings in the nightclub, giving the excuse for Presley to perform even more songs. There's only one of these recognisable beyond the die hard fans, and that's Return to Sender, but most of them are either forgettable or not worth hearing in the first place.
Those little Chinese girls, for example, were two members of novelty act the Tiu Sisters, and Elvis joins them in a sickly sweet and cutesy song and dance routine - he is supposed to be the King of Rock and Roll, goddammit! It's no wonder people stopped taking him seriously. Elsewhere, there are signs that despite its title Girls! Girls! Girls! had ambitions to being dramatic, with Ross obviously wishing for independence, both financial and otherwise, due to the amount of handouts he received growing up, and he misses his father too judging by the amount of times he mentions him. On the other hand, there's Presley singing The Walls Have Ears while Laurel's apartment neighbours make a racket that has pictures shaking on the walls and plaster falling from the ceiling. Not great, then, but fine enough for Elvis addicts, and there is something curiously moreish about his films.