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Mel Brooks is most famous for his series of movie genre parodies. Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Spaceballs, and many more. Throughout the 80’s, though, he also produced several films under the banner of Brooksfilms. This included a diverse batch of movies including The Elephant Man, The Fly, and My Favorite Year. And then there was this film featuring a bunch of rollerskating teens in a post apocalyptic future. Strap on your skates for 1986’s Solarbabies.
It is the year 41, and the planet is a vast wasteland where water is in short supply. Kids and teenagers are housed in orphanages run by a group called The Protectorate. The major activity for these teenagers is some sort of roller hockey quidditch hybrid. Our heroes are a team known as the Solarbabies. They include Jason (Jason Patric), Terra (Jami Gertz), Rabbit (Claude Brookes), Tug (Peter DeLuise), Metron (James LeGros), and their little mascot, of sorts, Daniel (Lukas Haas). One night, after a secret match against a team called the Scorpions, Daniel happens to find a bright glowing orb in a tunnel. The ball communicates with the youngster telepathically and tells him its name is Bodhi.
Exactly what the importance of the glowing volleyball is is unclear, but it does cause it to rain inside the team’s little clubhouse. Turns out he’s destined to save the planet in some way. This attracts the attention of a mysterious resident of the orphanage with a thing for birds called Darstar (Adrian Pasdar). He swipes Bodhi and Daniel takes off in pursuit. Well, the others have no choice but to go after the little tyke. Eventually they all catch up with each other and have to deal with the people of the wasteland (led by our favorite hunter of crites Terrence Mann), some bounty hunters, and the evil Protectorate commander, Grock (Richard Jordan). When Grock nabs Bodhi, it’s up to the Solarbabies to skate him back to freedom.
Solarbabies is quite goofy, but I did get a kick out of it. It’s a strange mishmash of lots of stuff from The Goonies to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome to Dune to Rollerball. Truth be told, the story is not that strong. It uses that well worn plot device we’ve seen in everything from Supergirl to Transformers. There’s something that glows, is important, and we’ve got to get it back!! Thanks to an opening narration we know that there was some kind of prophecy about Bodhi, but our heroes don’t seem to know why it’s important…other than the fact that Lukas Haas seems to want to cuddle with it. I didn’t really mind, though, that the story is silly. I enjoyed the world building and the cult-like obsession with this roller hockey-ish game was something different.
I enjoyed the six members of our Solarbabies team, though they do kind of fall into the standard archetypes we see in groups of 80’s movie teens. We have the beefy jock guy (Tug), the nerdy guy (Metron), the black guy (Rabbit), the hot girl (Terra), and the de facto leader (Jason). The pint-sized Daniel does, perhaps, get a wee bit irritating…but it’s not unbearable. For the most part the teenaged characters are likable and help us get through some of the film’s goofier moments. We even get a villainous teenager straight out of the William Zabka school for blonde 80’s bullies. The adults don’t fare as well. Richard Jordan phones it in as Grock and Sarah Douglas (Ursa of Superman II) is wasted in glorified cameo.
I think that Solarbabies worked on me primarily because it tugged on my nostalgic 80’s heartstrings. It’s not a skillfully made or performed film, yet it still charmed me. It’s silly, I wholeheartedly admit that. However, it’s got 1986 Jami Gertz roller skating around the desert chasing a glowing fishbowl! I dig that sort of stuff…so sue me!