When something you own gets stolen, there’s no penalty for being robbed. You don’t owe the thieves time with your stuff, but when Billie Jean (Helen Slater, Supergirl) goes to the police, to ask for help getting her brother, Binx’s (Christian Slater, Mr. Robot) scooter back from some bullies (and not a Razor scooter, but a cherry red, motorized one) the lieutenant (Peter Coyote) tells her to call back in two days if nothing changes.
As it turns out, Billie Jean only needs the time it takes to get home to find the scooter trashed and her brother inside their trailer, bruised and bloody. Done with going to the police for help, Billie Jean approaches one of the bullies, Hubie (Barry Tubb), with a bill for the repairs and ends up having to fend off his sexual predator father (Richard Bradford). When Binx finds a gun in the cash register, Hubie’s dad says it isn’t loaded. Binx believes him, which is how Hubie’s dad ends up shot.
This is how The Legend of Billie Jean begins, with Billie Jean and Binx on the run from the cops. Today considered an 80’s cult classic, I had never seen the film before this week but it’s easy to see why it’s popular. The supporting cast is stacked (Christine’s Keith Gordon, The Simpsons’ Yeardley Smith), Pat Benatar sings the theme song and (possibly most importantly) the film doesn’t confuse rebellion with crime. This extends to the 80’s fashions as well (most famously the haircut Billie Jean gives herself to emulate Joan of Arc – though I’d say the real ballsy move is pairing it with a single earring). Billie Jean’s change in style doesn’t mean she’s “gone bad.” Billie Jean isn’t a criminal. At no point does she use being wanted by the police as an excuse to break the law (the few times she shoplifts she leaves IOU notes). “Fair is fair,” is the slogan she lives by, and she’s truly a movie heroine worth emulating.
Along the way the film addresses class prejudice and gun control (with toy guns proving just as dangerous as real ones in a heated situation) in ways that are really smart and discerning. There’s also a keen awareness displayed for how the media works and influences public perception. Binx was the one who shot Hubie’s dad, but its Billie Jean whose face graces every newspaper in Texas.
I will say that if you already own Mill Creek’s Blu-Ray from 2014, there’s no inducement to double dip. The same commentary, featuring Slater (Helen, not Christian, and the first thing she clears up is that they’re not related) and Smith is carried over from the old release and there are no additional bonus features. As for the Retro VHS packaging, it’s underwhelming. Initially I was expecting packaging like was done for Stranger Things, where the box actually opens and looks like a VHS box, but all “Retro VHS” means in this case is the usual, cardboard sleeve.
The Legend of Billie Jean goes on sale February 19th from Mill Creek Entertainment.