Movie Review: The Legend of Billie Jean
By Luis Arjona
When Hurricane Hanna visited the Coastal Bend a few weekends ago, I decided to milk the opportunity and watch some films. One, in particular, I have been meaning to visit was The Legend of Billie Jean. A cult classic from the 1980s with poignant scenes that bring a wave of nostalgia.
Disclaimer: I will be talking about the movie so if you plan on watching it, I will probably ruin some of the plot. This would be what they call a spoiler alert.
Starring Helen and Christian Slater (no relation to my surprise) as Billie Jean Davy and younger brother Binx. The Legend of Billie Jean follows the Davy siblings as the initial point of conflict involves local bad boy, Hubie Pyatt, stealing Binx’s Honda Elite Scooter after having ice cream thrown in his face for being rude. Billie Jean, being a good sister, goes to the police to no avail. Unsurprisingly, they do nothing.
This point of action catalyzes the movie. Having to handle the situation on their own, the Davy siblings each take a step to rectify the situation. Binx goes off by himself to get his scooter. He returns home with both his bike and face wrecked. Billie Jean attempts to handle this civilly by asking Hubie to pay the $608 it will cost to repair the bike. He refuses. A recurring theme throughout the film is how Billie Jean’s knee finds its way to Hubie’s groin as if it was making its yearly pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Hubie’s father and local bad guy, Mr. Pyatt, walks into the ruckus at his store. A sense of relief washes over me, which was my mistake.
Mr. Pyatt attempts to handle the situation by paying the $608. But, the scumbag tries to sexually assault Billie Jean and offers a payment plan for the debt. I’ll tell you what, I was steamed. Binx and their neighbor Ophelia walk in during the entanglement. Binx finds a gun and accidentally shoots Mr. Pyatt in the arm after Mr. Pyatt says it is not loaded. The three become fugitives on the run! However, the team adds another accomplice, Putter. Putter is Ophelia’s little sister I believe? Fun fact, the actor who plays this role, Yeardley Smith, is the voice actor for Lisa Simpson.
The four are on the run, and slowly become famous as somehow Billie Jean becomes the voice of rebellion, the motto “Fair is Fair,” and the pixie cut. Billie jean decides it would be best to turn herself in as long as Mr. Pyatt pays up. Here is the famous Sunrise Mall chase scene. Filled with people, color, and happiness, the scene uses the gone but not forgotten Sunrise Mall as their location for Billie Jean to get double-crossed by Mr. Pyatt and chased by the police until she manages to escape. Hubie also gets kneed in the groin again.
Now, Billie Jean and co. cannot trust anyone, except local citizens that help them at every turn. The only people that do not seem on board is a man who pulls out a rifle and hunts them down SPID in his truck. I did spend time rewinding to see if I could recognize any landmarks throughout the chase.
The film reaches its climax at a beach rally set up as a negotiation point for Billie Jean to turn herself in along with friend and voluntary hostage, Floyd, in return for a new Honda Elite Scooter. The beach rally looked on point. Neon swimsuits, some mustaches, kooks, and lovely sunny weather. I am excited for Corpus Christi to return to this golden era of beach culture. But, I digress.
Binx ends up getting shot while pretending to be Billie Jean, and in the final confrontation, Billie Jean faces Mr. Pyatt. He tries to shut her up with the money, but she uses her reliable knee to bring him down. The merch shop he ends up going in flames, everyone, including Hubie, look at Mr. Pyatt in disgust. All in all, the movie wraps up with Billie Jean and Binx in Vermont since that was always Binx's dream.
This movie has a lot to unpack, but I think that if you are from the Coastal Bend, it is something worth watching to see our city during the 1980s. Some of the sequences show Corpus Christi as a thriving beach town which we now see as the developed city it is today. We can thank the Coastal Bend for giving us an interesting film that was shot with good energy and beautiful passes of the Harbor Bridge, Sunrise Mall, and what I believe to be the Country Club off Everhart(?). Helen Slater even visited back in 2018 to attend Corpus Christi Comic-Con. After watching the film and seeing where some of these actors ended up, this film was a springboard for success stories. I hope another director gives our area another shot to produce some more beautiful films.