Solar Babies [retro review]

“Get out, you creature of filth!”

The Scoop: 1986 PG-13, and directed by Alan Johnson starring Jami Gertz, Jason Patric, and Peter DeLuise

Tagline: Who will rule the future?

Summary Capsule: Rollerskating twerps rebel against the system while enjoying the system’s well-paved skating surfaces.

Justin’s Rating: Solarbabies will make your dream come true… Solar, Solar, Solar, Babies, Babies, Babies, Solarbabies!

Justin’s Review: Over the past 15 years or so, I’ve bumped into Solarbabies on numerous occasions: on the video rental shelf, on the interwebs, in reviews, etc. But bumping is all we did; our relationship was never consummated until today. You don’t need me to tell you why, do you? Geez, that’s got to be the uncoolest name for a post-apocalyptic movie ever designed. I think “Solarbabies” and the image of sun spots in diapers leaps to mind, not cutting edge thrilling heroics. There must’ve been a team of superscientists, somewhere, who created this title in an effort to solve the hypothesis of, “Can we think up a movie name that will cause the most squirm-inducing embarrassment to any teenager who is forced to watch this by their parents?”

We had great scientists in the 80’s. Very driven, if not for the most pure reasons.

It’s the future, and since things have gone bad (alas, not the fun Michael Jackson-type Bad), everything’s a wasteland and there are deserts and corrugated metal shacks. Typical, if boring, end of the world routine. But there are also Solarbabies – orphans who rollerskate around the wilderness with foot-mounted headlights and bright neon safety helmets. Because when you say “apocalypse”, you think “rollerskate accessible”. The *shudder* Solarbabies spend their time playing roller-lacrosse and evading the Evil Nazi Forces who just can’t let pathetic orphans have a good time. Not when there are vital organs that could be used for medical testing, muahahahaetc. They consist of the usual mishmash of 80’s-sanctioned kid groupings: the single girl culled for mating with the leader and the leader only, the geek, the disability kid, the token minority, and the magic-using Native American who sings with all the colors of the wind.

In between their harsh regimen of playing in the dirt and doing aerobics on rollerskates to become upstanding citizens of the new Earth Protectorate (the EP is all eco-this and eco-that, and probably promotes all this rollerskate usage because of how often foot-mounted wheels are found in nature), the Solarbabies discover a magic glowy ball named Bodhi. Bodhi cures the kid’s deafness, causes it to rain indoors, and becomes the great MacGuffin that will save the world if the Evil Nazi Forces don’t gobble it down for its chewy center first.

So, really, if animated glowy balls and other people’s fascination for them are your thing, then you’ll probably never find more ball love than this film. Well, this and Heavy Metal. At least Bodhi doesn’t cause people’s faces to melt off (that I know of).

Bodhi does encourage the Solarbabies to make a break for it out of their comfy orphanage and into the surrounding wasteland. I think he wanted to see their skulls being picked clean by carrion birds, that wacky Bodhi. The Solarbabies evade capture by the evil government who’s too dumb to throw a handful of rocks into the road to jam up their wheels. Seriously. You ever been to a desert you could skate for more than a half-mile on without breaking your ankle? I don’t think I could cross a Costco parking lot on skates without serious injury, to be honest.

It’s really Mad Max meets The Goonies meets Tank Girl, which is an odd and bleak combination that I don’t want in my daily breakfast. Even some impressive special effects and a last-minute robot nemesis (Robobaby?) aren’t quite enough to take this out of the ordinary. Well, ordinary for the 80’s – cute aliens, mullets, synth soundtracks, evil-sounding enemy sports teams (“Scorpions”), precocious kids, and magical trinkets shouldn’t be giving you pause at this late stage in the game.

The only real positive virtue that Solarbabies boasts is its ability to provide a nice 80’s atmosphere if you were, like, setting up an 80’s-themed restaurant and needed a slice of eightiescana to play on some corner TV set. Which is a ringing endorsement, I’m sure.

"Dude, it's daytime for the love of GOD let me SLEEP!"

Intermission!

  • An alternate title for the film is Solarwarriors. MRFH can’t help but think that this might be a better name.
  • The movie was filmed on location in Spain, a country selected for its abundant desert landscape. Ironically, production was held up for several weeks due to rain.
  • Do owls like being kept awake during the day?
  • Jason Patric? Peter DeLuise? Wow. It’s an 80’s has-been reunion!
  • Rollerskates with headlights… That’s practical.
  • LITTLE BOYS SHOULD NEVER EVER EVER WEAR OFF-THE-SHOULDER FLASHDANCE-SWEATSHIRTS THAT’S JUST WRONG!
  • I like how in every post-apocalypse period, people seem to have no problem finding fascist, color-coordinating garb. I really think fashion designers are eagerly awaiting this day to make their move.
  • Evil coaches in the future love their puffy blouse-scarves.
  • That is one well-lit mine
  • A kid talking to his ball. Great.
  • Magic balls can cure deafness!
  • Considering that there’s a water shortage, these are some really clean kids.
  • “A decent life grid”? That’s great future-speak, there.
  • Water party!
  • The magic ball does psychotherapy
  • Slingshot: that’s one way to cross the gap. A stupid way.
  • He shot the owl! Aww…
  • Mmm… bugs on the face.
  • Is that Ursa from Superman II? YES IT IS!!!!
  • At the end of Solarbabies, despite the lack of water and not even knowing what rain is, everyone still knows how to swim and dive? (Thanks StarOpal!)

Groovy Quotes

Shandray: Gentlemen, this is Terminack. He’s a multi-capable masterpiece; he can squeeze the color from a ruby or deftly pluck the eye from a living bird, and he’s been programmed to enjoy what he does.

Gavial: Terra? I like the sweat.
Terra: Get out, you creature of filth!
Gavial: Hey, I just wanna talk. Maybe a little HANDS-ON PARLEY?

The Warden: Remember, behavior determines existence… Stick with us, learn to serve the Order, and you’ll achieve a decent life-grid.

Grock: It’s an odd name for a skateball team, don’t you think? “Solarbabies.” Too soft, not menacing enough. Why do you suppose they chose it?
The Warden: They don’t seem to need anything more menacing, do they? They always seem to win.

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