Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 96 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Helen Slater (SUPERGIRL, CITY SLICKERS, RUTHLESS PEOPLE), Christian Slater (GLEAMING THE CUBE, TRUE ROMANCE), Richard Bradford (THE UNTOUCHABLES, MISSING), Peter Coyote (E.T., SOUTHERN COMFORT, SLAYGROUND), Keith Gordon (JAWS 2, CHRISTINE, DRESSED TO KILL), Dean Stockwell (BLUE VELVET; PARIS, TEXAS), Yeardley Smith (THE SIMPSONS, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE). Music by The Divinyls, Pat Benatar, Billy Idol, Wendy O. Williams, & Craig Safan (the composer of CHEERS and THE LAST STARFIGHTER).
Tag-line: "The last thing she ever expected was to become a hero."
Best one-liner: "Hey, get your hand off that!" –"What, your sister? Or your fagmobile?"
Feeling like sort of a cross between LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: THE FABULOUS STAINS and BONNIE AND CLYDE, it may surprise some to learn that THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN is actually an adaptation of THE LEGEND OF MICHAEL KOHLHAAS, an 1811 novel based on historical events that took place in Saxony in the 1530's. It's a series of injustices that might seem trivial to a member of the ruling class (stolen horses or a trashed scooter), but which make all the difference in the world to someone eking out a poverty-laden existence (be it in a fiefdom or a trailer park). However, in adapting this story for mainstream 80's audiences, a lot gets lost in translation, and our suspension of disbelief undergoes some serious wear and tear. But it doesn't matter- pump up the power on that Pat Benatar, arch your burgeoning Slater eyebrows, and sing it loud- "FAIR IS FAIR!" The casting is perfect: Helen 'SUPERGIRL' Slater is striking, fiery, and determined.
Part Joan of Arc, part Travis Bickle, she riles up the masses with a genuine charisma and righteous indignation that make this movie so damned watchable.
Bleached blond Christian Slater (no relation) reveals, even at the tender age of 15, some of the smart-alecky greatness that was to come.
Nicholson pal Richard Bradford is fantastic as a Stacy Keach-style skeeze who seems beyond the law:
Look at that curled lip, that sleazy stache, the gutter 'tude.
Peter Coyote embodies the beleaguered, good-hearted cop who's won over by the kids' plight:
Coyote: getting too old for this shit?
and Dean Stockwell (BLUE VELVET) is an a-hole politico whose rebellious wolfman-lovin' son (Keith Gordon) gets thrown into the mix. Yeardley Smith (Lisa from THE SIMPSONS) is a lovable hayseed, and we even get a bit part from quintessential Texas gal Caroline Williams ('Stretch' from TEXAS CHAINSAW 2). There's some ridiculous homoerotic mistreatment at the hands of some Golan/Globus-worthy jag-offs (in cut-offs), which ends with some homoerotic milkshake-pouring revenge:
Messing with young Slater leads to eyebrow action and....
there's some classic '80's media circus' social commentary; there are not 1, not 2, not 3, but FOUR senseless lowblows; and Christian Slater gets to rock out a dress.
Yes, this is a cult classic. Four stars.