A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 52 – Solarbabies

Solarbabies – April 21st, 2010 (Why, oh why did we not save this for Earth Day tomorrow? Oh well. We’ve got a good one planned.)

Tonight when I got home from work, Andy looked for a movie to watch. First, he suggested Living in Oblivion, but I vetoed that because I really need my brain working at full capacity for that one. Then he called out “How about Solarbabies?” and I said “That’s evil! Sure!” Why the hell do I like this movie? I honestly don’t know. It’s horrible in so many ways. It’s about a dystopian future in which there’s no water and kids live in orphanages where they’re “indoctrinated to serve the system” and compete with each other in a game that’s sort of like a cross between lacrosse and roller derby. The main characters are a group of misfit kids who find a mysterious glowing ball that can make it rain. One of the other kids in the orphanage steals it and takes off into the desert and the misfits (the Solarbabies – that’s their team name) take off after him. There’s a definite environmentalism message (the government is the Eco-Protectorate and the police are the E-Police and it’s sort of like Moon Zero Two except everything has “eco” in front of it instead of “moon” and yeah, hard to deny the clobber-you-over-the-head message here) and overall the movie takes itself far too seriously for something that depends on a glowing rubber ball for major plot development and stars Jason Patric and Jami Gertz.

And yet. Even though the music practically orders you to frolic and cavort with it, and even though it’s got poor Adrian Pasdar as the Mysterious Native, Darstar (he has an owl! he draws mystical symbols in the sand!), and even though the special effects are laughable at best, and even though there are some wince-worthy stereotypes of all kinds, and even though it’s hard not to make fun of it mercilessly, even though the movie is total and complete cheese, I love it. I must have loved dystopias even as a kid, because I know I first saw this either on the Movie Loft (one of the local network affiliates’ Sunday afternoon movie block) or on USA’s Up All Night, and I suspect it was the former because it doesn’t have enough boobs for the latter, and I was young when I watched Movie Loft movies.

I feel like all I’m doing is talking about the movie’s faults and well, that doesn’t really explain why I like it. And I’m hard-pressed to explain it. It’s a total cheesefest. But there’s something about it that makes me grin and maybe it’s nostalgia and maybe it’s my thing for dystopias, no matter how ridiculously presented, and maybe there’s just something oddly endearing about this bizarre little bit of 1980s enviro-fluff. I can’t be sure. I’m not about to say everyone should go out and find a copy of this, because really, it’s not a great movie. The acting’s not great, but it’s not horrible. The writing’s not great, but it’s not horrible. The sets and all and the worldbuilding? Actually not too bad, if a wee bit derivative. But then too, there’s something amusing about it. The people who made it didn’t mean for it to be amusing, but it is. So if you do go out and find this movie, find it because you enjoy a good cheesy 80s movie, or roller skating, or saw The Lost Boys and wanted to see more Jason Patric and Jami Gertz together in something without vampires. Don’t watch it seriously. Prepare to mock it and you’ll be fine.

April 21, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Solarbabies

April 21, 2010

Solarbabies

Amanda and I are fans of MST3K. You might have gathered that already. As such we have a fondness for bad movies. And make no mistake: this movie could easily have been featured on MST. It’s a weird mix of Mad Max, Dune and E.T. It takes place in a post apocalyptic wasteland where there is no water and the human population is under the sway of an evil Protectorate that regulates all water rationing. Our heroes are a rag-tag team of rollerball players from an orphanage on the edge of the wastes called the Solarbabies. When one of their number (the plucky deaf child mascot of the team) finds a magic glowing bowling ball that can make it rain indoors it is a sure sign that the Protectorate’s days are numbered.

So the Solarbabies (and the enigmatic Darstar) leave the orphanage and head out into the wastes where they will visit a tribe of native Americans (I think that’s what they’re supposed to be at least) who live in tents in the waste, then Tiretown (which is basically Bartertown from Beyond Thunderdome, but without Tina Turner) and then a secret underground sietch where the Fremen have been gathering water out of sight of the Harkonen patrols. The actual action of the movie is predictable and pretty quick. Indeed what little tension they manage to build throughout the film is not quite enough to make the very truncated climax work. Yes, all the bad guys get their comeuppance and good triumphs in the end, but it happens so fast. If you leave the room for a bathroom break you could miss the whole end of the movie.

What puzzles me about this film is that is clearly has a pretty significant budget. It has special effects that were pretty impressive for the time. It has a large number of futuristic sets and props. It has stunts and action sequences. But I don’t believe it was ever in theaters. Maybe it was, very briefly, but I associate it much more with late night cable TV and little independent video stores from the days before Blockbuster in the early eighties. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was one of the first movies to make more money in the secondary market than it made in the cinema.

I have to dedicate some space in my review to the music in this movie. Whereas the acting, plot and special effects are simply cheesy it is the soundtrack that almost makes the movie unwatchable. It’s a wholly inappropriate mix of bombastic synthesizer and cutsie tootlie-tooing that makes me wince and want to turn away. Every time there is lighthearted scene of the Solarbabies cavorting (and there seem to be quite a lot of those considering the post-apocalyptic setting) the music has this bouncy cheery melody to it that just grates on me. I can’t stand it.

Still. If you’re a fan of pure cheese, and can stomach the awful, AWFUL soundtrack, then you could do worse than watch this fun little movie. I just think it would be better in the company of Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot.

April 21, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | 2 Comments