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Picks and Pans Review: Paradise

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It’s a rare film indeed that can be compared unfavorably with The Blue Lagoon, but Paradise out-trashes even that ankle-deep wallow in teen sex. This time New York model Phoebe Cates, 18, and Willie Aames, of TV’s Eight Is Enough, don the peekaboo fig leaves discarded by Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins. On a caravan leaving Baghdad for Damascus, circa 1823, Phoebe and Willie are thrown together when their elders are slaughtered by marauding Arabs led by a dark-eyed sheik (Tuvia Tavi) with a lust for Phoebe’s virginal flesh. The kids escape, finding solace and love in a lush desert oasis. Filmed in Israel, Paradise at least looks good. Cates has a lithe figure, flawless skin and diction bad enough to make Brooke Shields sound like Helen Hayes. Aames, a moony Malibu type, adjusts his loincloth a lot, especially while watching Phoebe shower, which she does with scrupulous attention to erogenous zones. These two innocents shed inhibitions almost as fast as clothes, learning sexual technique from the monkeys. Since the orangutans are played by Doc and Eve, the two pros who showed Bo Derek how to do it in Tarzan, Phoebe and Willie are in good paws. The script and direction, however, are in the none-too-firm grasp of Stuart Gillard, best known as head writer on The Donny & Marie Show. Contemplating the sheik’s perverse desires, Phoebe moans: “If he just kills me, I’ll be lucky.” As fates worse than death go, this movie itself is far more insidious. (R)