I’m on vacation this week, but as promised you are getting a double-shot of Throwback Thursday. Thirty years ago, this week, these two films were released, one only slightly more memorable than the other. Their plots were weak and melodramatic. But each film bestowed some wonderful gifts on the world of this pre-teen. I would watch them every time HBO aired them, and probably would still watch at least one of them today. For your summer enjoyment, may I present (rather quickly because I’m off-duty) Explorers and The Legend of Billie Jean.
First off, let’s take a look at Explorers. This is a youth-driven sci-fi film about a young boy who has very vivid dreams about circuitry. He, along with two friends, use the knowledge from his dreams to build a spaceship and, well, start exploring. They wind up in space, make friends with a couple of aliens, and have themselves a good time. It turns out that their alien friends are also kids; though these two kids did the equivalent of stealing dad’s car. It seems the aliens have seen transmissions of old Earth movies, and based on their inherent violence have deemed humans off-limits. But those rebellious alien kids let curiosity get the best of them, much like the movie’s three human stars.
Plot-wise, Explorers is a little weak. I can remember seeing this in the theater and actually feeling bored. I wasn’t sure what emotions it was attempting to evoke from me. I grant this one cult-classic status, however, for two great big reasons: Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix. Explorers was the big-screen debut for each actor. And, while I don’t always enjoy is roles of choice, there’s no arguing Hawke’s talent. Phoenix, may he rest in peace, will always hold a special place in my heart. Explorers is worth a watch simply for witnessing the start of two fascinating careers.
Then, there was The Legend of Billie Jean. In this film, we see two Texas siblings get taken advantage of by local bullies. Billie Jean is sexually harassed at every turn and her brother is beaten when he tries to recover his stolen scooter. Billie Jean goes to talk to the father of the bully to recoup enough money to have the scooter repaired. First, the sleezy man propositions her. When she declines, he attempts to rape her. Thankfully, her brother manages to break that up, though accidentally shoots the man in the arm in the process. The pair become fugitives and somehow–here’s where things get wonky–they become heroes to teenagers everywhere. Let’s all cut off our hair like Joan of Arc as a sign of rebellion?
This movie starts off with potential and then takes a nose dive into ridiculous rather quickly. However, The Legend of Billie Jean gave us numerous gifts such as the Pat Benatar song Invincible, the Billy Idol song Rebel Yell, and the big-screen debut of Christian Slater. He looks like such a baby in this movie!
Enjoy your discovery, or re-discovery, of these gems. Stay tuned, for next week we’re going on a European Vacation!