Picks and Pans Review: Lord of the Flies

updated 04/09/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/09/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Balthazar Getty, Chris Furrh

Anyone who has started thinking that maybe the world is becoming a pretty cheery place after all, what with the Cold War thawing and all, could be brought back to reality pretty quickly by two considerations: the thought that Geraldo is still on the air and the existence of this movie.

It's an Americanized remake of the 1963 British version of William Golding's novel about a group of schoolboys stranded on a tropical island after their airplane crashes at sea. (The Americanization consists mainly of having the boys call each other "dork" and discuss ALF.) Golding's acidic view of human nature still has a disturbing ring of plausibility. The boys' rapid descent into primitive savagery is still chilling, and director Harry (The Kitchen Toto) Hook gets convincing performances out of his cast of American boys recruited in a nationwide talent hunt.

Getty, 15, an L.A. prep student (and great-grandson of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty), handles a tough role with poise as he, among the 24 boys in the crash, leads the faction for civilized behavior. Furrh, 15, a San Marcos, Texas, eighth grader, shows a touch of the swashbuckler—he looks like a young Douglas Fairbanks Jr.—and affects the arrogance he needs as leader of the boys who soon develop a taste for blood.

Director of photography Martin Fuhrer uses his Jamaica locations to lush effect—the beauty of the surroundings contrasts all too well with the ugliness of the boys' behavior.

And if it all seems too crazy, listen. Chances are some members of the theater audience will snicker and snarl in sympathy with Furrh's band as they torment the chubby, vulnerable "Piggy," Danuel Pipoly. This is not, as the saying goes, a pretty picture. (R)

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