Two tickets to "Paradise" would make the perfect gift for one's worst enemies, or for those most in need of a snooze. The cheapie imitation of last year's teeny-porn smash "Blue Lagoon"--now at area theaters--amounts to 100 minutes of agonizing tedium seasoned with equal parts excruciating embarrassment.
Willie Aames (formerly of TV's "Eight Is Enough") and Phoebe Cates, whom press material says was "discovered at Studio 54," take on the Christopher Atkins and Brooke Shields roles, and make them look like Lunt and Fontanne in the process. Aames, though 21, seems not to have gone through his pubescent change-of-voice; he sounds whiny and shrill. Also, anyone required to show so much torso in a movie should think seriously about doing the Special K pinch in preparation.
Cates, a much-photographed model, sulks around uninvitingly, lolling her petulant way through the kind of bad acting that anyone can recognize as bad acting, even if he's just stepped off the first commuter flight from Pluto. It's hard to imagine a line like "They've-killed-him-Oh-no" being read with any less emotional involvement.
The two adolescents are left stranded in 1823 Baghdad when a nasty sheik, played as an offensively stereotyped Arab by Tuvia Tavi, massacres an entire village all because little Phoebe didn't respond to one of his slimy overtures. The rest of the film consists of his chasing her all over the desert with a singlemindedness that is totally bewildering under the circumstances. She radiates all the sexual energy of Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks.
Writer-director Stuart Gillard doggedly imitates "Blue Lagoon" with precious little variation, even to the point of having the youngsters briefly chaperoned by an old codger (Richard Curnock in the Leo McKern role) who later dies. The two teens, outfitted in the latest thing from Frederick's of Ouagadougou, play house at a convenient oasis near a huge body of water (the sheik would never think of looking there) and then set off on that great adventure, one's first roll in the hay, inspired in this case by the naughty exhibitionism of a chimp.
After the girl teases and flirts with the boy for an hour--one of the most aggravated cases of coitus postponus in movie history--the kid finally gets up the nerve and imagination to kiss her, whereupon she recoils and says something like, "No, not yet," which is almost as funny as the scene in Woody Allen's "Love and Death" in which Allen finally weds Keaton after pursuing her through the whole film, starts to make love to her in bed, and she says, "Not here."
Sex is portrayed as something so loopily wholesome and sweet (the lovemaking scene is naturally a series of disembodied dissolves) as to make one want to join the antisexuals of the world in terminal celibacy. The camera plays the predictable game of peekaboo with the stars: Cates, unlike Shields, seems to have done her own nude scenes; there is much frolicking on land and sloshing in the surf, all of it defiantly uninteresting.
If dirty old men deserve love, too, as the saying goes, they may also be entitled to their soft-porn movies about pubescent combustion, and better ones than this. Perhaps "Blue Lagoon" is to become a genre, like kung fu films or horror movies. If so, producers of the future will have to go some to do worse, or less, with two semi-nubile bodies than "Paradise" does. "Paradise" is a living heck.