Summer 1986 was when cable TV first came to Wheaton, IL. So the movies that we watched endlessly on cable that summer were the films out in theaters the previous summer...including one of 1985's big bombs, "The Legend of Billie Jean." It's a movie that many people seem to want to forget. According to Wikipedia, it's original VHS video release shortly after the film's brief theatrical run is the only home video release the film has ever had. It has yet to appear on DVD. However, through the magic of Netflix and their "view instantly" feature, Billie Jean can be experienced via the internet. It is definitely one of my guilty pleasures.
It stars Helen Slater (who has already made an appearance in my list of "guilty pleasures" thanks to her role as Supergirl) as a girl who ends up accidentally becoming the most wanted criminal in Corpus Christi, TX. It all starts when her brother, played by Christian Slater (no relation to Helen), gets in a fight with some local jerks which results in his prized scooter being trashed. When Billie Jean tries to collect the money for the repairs from the boy's father...well, he has other things on his mind when it comes to Bille Jean. Long story short, he gets accidentally shot and Billie Jean, her brother, and some friends take it on the lam. Eventually, Billie Jean ends up becoming a sort of celebrity criminal with the public gladly cheering her on.The story is really pretty silly. These "criminals" hang out in a distinct looking vehicle, in wide open spaces, yet nobody seems to be able to find them. The movie is just plain unbelievable, right down to both Slater's overdoing the Texas twang. The worst part of the movie is the character played by Yeardley Smith, the future voice of Lisa Simpson. She was 21 years old at the time of the film's release, but is playing a part that seems to have been written for an 11 year old.
So what makes the film likable? Well, for one, just like with "Supergirl," Ms. Slater is just irresistible to watch...especially for a 15 year old boy, as I was when I first saw the film. Adolescent hormones aside, and despite the accent issues, she really can draw you into a film. And of course, when you're a teenager, a film about a bunch of your peers taking matters into their own hands has a certain appeal. It's the same reason why a movie like "Home Alone" or the Our Gang shorts have such an appeal with younger kids. It's that built in desire to stick it to the man.
So Billie Jean, it's good to see you pop up on Netflix, it's about time. After all..."fair is fair." (That's a famous quote from the movie...see how I worked that in there...because...see it's...never mind).