If it was sci-fi in the 1980s, I watched it. As a kid I was a movie sponge, soaking up anything and everything I could get my hands on. For example, I've seen Explorers at least 100 times. Invaders from Mars, Masters of the Universe... you name it. And yet somehow, Solarbabies completely alluded me.
I wasn't even aware it existed until I started working at a video store while I was in high school. The oversized MGM cardboard box always stood out on the shelf, although more as a nuisance than as something that was calling my name. I never took it home.
Recently the film showed up on Netflix Instant and I decided now was the time. Whatever the hell Solarbabies was, it was time.
And wow. Just wow.
Despite the allure of that big cardboard box, I never bothered to read the back of it. So going in, I still had no clue what Solarbabies was about. I could only assume it was some kind of solar flare disaster renders the Earth sterile kind of thing. Makes sense, right? I was using my context clues, after all. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. Solarbabies is actually a post-apocalyptic tale of a gang of roller skating orphans in a rain-less world who escape their orphanage prison to locate their new friend who is a small glowing ball.
The title itself refers to the nickname of our heroes' skate ball (a weird mix of lacrosse and roller derby) team. It's mentioned maybe twice, and disparagingly at that. Why you would give your movie this awful title and not even bother to have anyone except the film's villain speak it is beyond me.
Everyone in the film has a ridiculous future name: Metron, Darstar, Grock, etc. Except Jason Patric who plays "Jason". Perhaps he had a "Tony Danza clause" in his contract? Also, Smokey Robinson sings the "Theme from Solarbabies" aka "Love Will Set You Free". Love, by the way, is not a plot point in this film in any way, shape or form. One guy does insist on attempting to rape Jami Gertz' character whenever possible, however.
Water on the planet is being horded away by the military, and I'm unclear as to why. Also, it's quite convenient that despite the barren, rocky terrain, there's always a nice, smooth surface available for miles and miles and miles of roller skating. And I'm also confused about why after any apocalypse, no one with any knowledge of how to build things survives. Everyone seems to just immediately accept wearing potato sacks and living in tents with rusting pots and pans everywhere. How come no one ever decides to build a house? Or a car? Am I to believe that holocausts kill everyone with any scientific know-how?
I also don't know why Jesus shows up late in the 3rd act.
The most cringe-worthy moment comes in the following scene however. In it, the Solarbabies have decided to take their kind new alien friend and start slapping him around with their skate ball sticks. Seriously. New alien friend being thrown around violently and struck like a baseball, and no one thinks twice about doing it.
Now you might recognize that all the youngsters in the cast have gone on to become more famous: Patric, Gertz, James LeGros, Peter DeLuise, Adrian Pasdar and Lukas Haas. Unfortunately Claude Brooks, who plays Rabbit, continues to work steadily but the fame the others achieved has eluded him. The haunting memory of his contribution to this scene might be why. You'll know what I mean when you see it.
Solarbabies is so insanely 80s and so incredibly bad that you can't help but to watch it. If you have Netflix, seriously, get your buddies together and stream this one.