Atrocious Movie of the Week – The Blue Lagoon (1980)

I’d only heard passing comments about The Blue Lagoon. My indifference to its existence was staggering. I have no emotional attachment to Brooke Shields.

I’d only heard passing comments about The Blue Lagoon. My indifference to its existence was staggering. I have no emotional attachment to Brooke Shields. Kleiser’s only previous foray into cinema had been Grease, and his only contribution worth mentioning since then were a Pee-Wee movie and a Honey, I Shrunk The Kids sequel. It’s not difficult to see why I ignored this man and his work up until now. Upon the recommendation that The Blue Lagoon was truly awful, awful on a level never before seen, awful to the point where it stretches and brings new life to the definition of entertainment, I had to give it a chance.

The ‘story’ revolves around two orphans on board a ship, soon to grow into Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins. Their character names are virtually irrelevant: they’re here to be pretty, say lines and occasionally look like they know what emotions are. It is subtly insinuated that they are orphans with the question ‘are mummy and daddy coming back from heaven?’ before being faced with an exploding ship.

Adrift at sea, they stumble across a island populated by all the previous living casts of David Attenborough documentaries and some tribal folk you don’t really get to meet because they’re a bit foreign, and would provide somewhat of a threat to our perfect Aryan leads. They build a very, very ornate hut out of bits of stick, then they turn all teenagery, then they do some soft porn. They were warned about going to the ‘other side of the island’, so they think about it for a bit, then they don’t. I couldn’t really tell you what happens. The story, in a nutshell: two attractive people learn about puberty in a really nice place.

From my lack of knowledge came my first misapprehension: that this was a family movie. The mawkish dialogue and over-the-OTT facial expressions from child and aging actors alike, interspersed by unnecessary extended shots of animals and sealife and supported by the tameness of the (off-screen) exploding ship all pointed at a movie aimed at and written by children.

The one redeeming feature appears early on, as a by-product of the inept writing, in the form of an insect crawling out of a corpses mouth. It became almost a twist that the dialogue in this film wasn’t intended for twelve year olds. This same twist, however, removes any innocence from the incessant shots of the two child leads naked. It just becomes a touch bothersome to see a grizzled old man chasing after naked children around the five minute mark. Shields and Atkins make a valiant attempt to deliver every line vapidly and without a sense of character (‘Why are these funny little hairs growing on me?” is delivered with such deadpan brilliance that it’s hard to overlook as unintentional.) 

They somehow manage to look perfect for the entire film. After childbirth, Shields simply looks mildly disgruntled instead of giving the impression of a woman who just had her vagina ripped open from the inside-out in a forest with no anaesthetic or professional medical assistance. Atkins, for a man wrestling with puberty, shows no signs of sprouting a single hair, anywhere. He’s essentially a pre-Vader Anakin Skywalker, dipped in bleach: he strops around, demanding attention and sex, shouting a great deal about nothing and doing ‘manly’ things like hunting fish, building boats and boasting about his athleticism. Brooke Shields, on the other hand, sits around looking at flowers and stroking trees. Feminism clearly hasn’t reached this tiny island. Intersperse misogyny with an extended shot of a crab punching an octopus. Cut to next scene. Cry as you’ve pissed most of the budget up the wall on unrealistically fresh looking bananas.

The film would work if the leads were fleshed out and vulnerable. They never get sick or bedraggled or anything less than model-attractive. There’s no humanity in this film, it’s just a series of idyllic looking images of fruit mixed with some teen angst. Even the human threat in the film, the tribal folk hinted at by drumming and droning, don’t ever interact with the leads. The ending is bewildering, unprompted and probably the most poorly acted sequence in the entire film. I fail to see why this film even exists.