Sep. 27, 2010
The Emerald Forest (1985)
Grade: 66/100

Director: John Boorman
Stars: Powers Boothe, Charley Boorman, Meg Foster

What it's about. Loosely based on a true story. Set in Brazil, at the edge of the Amazon forest. He-man Powers Boothe is chief civil engineer for a dam project. His comely wife is Meg Foster. Their two young children include Tommy (William Rodriguez), who is abducted by an indigenous tribe called the Invisible People during a family picnic.

Boothe spends the next ten years off and on searching for Tommy. Finally, he leads a small expedition into the Amazon to find the Invisible People and his son. Instead, he is attacked by the Fierce People, a cannibal tribe. Boothe holds them off with a machine gun, but is cornered in a stream. Because it is a movie, he just happens to encounter his own son there, and the pair somehow manage to escape.

Tommy has grown into a young man, and is now played by the director's son, Charley Boorman. Because it is a movie, Tommy's wedding to native hottie Kachiri (Dira Paes) was within days of Boothe's arrival. Boothe is predictably unable to convince Tommy to return to "civilization," and leaves without his son.

Meanwhile, the Fierce People decide to get their own boom-boom sticks, which they obtain by kidnapping the Invisible People's hottie women and selling them into sexual service in an Amazon border city bar and brothel.

Naturally, the Invisible People want their hottie women back. Desperate, Tommy returns to the city where he lived as a child to locate his birth father, Boothe, in the hopes that Boothe will aid the cause of the Invisible People. Because it is a movie, Boothe and two Westernized Indians join the surviving Invisible People warriors in a dramatic armed raid on the whorehouse, to free the Invisible People hottie women. Because it is a movie, the raid goes remarkably well, as does Tommy's entreaty to the frogs to make it rain enough to destroy the dam that threatens their way of life.

How others will see it. The Emerald Forest is an entertaining action-adventure. It received moderate critical praise and box office success, and picked up three British Academy Award nominations. The user ratings are consistent and fairly high.

How I felt about it. The first three-quarters of the film are very good, although we suspect that the benevolence of the Invisible People is exaggerated, and the coincidence of Tommy's coming of age with Boothe's success at finding him is strictly cinematic.

The movie loses its way in the final reel, when Boothe takes up arms against the bar/brothel and its Fierce People allies. How the Invisible People convince the frogs to invoke a Noah-quality flood, and how the frogs have such an ability to begin with, is not plausibly presented.

You may wonder how well the director's son performs in his role, which is the second lead behind Boothe. It is shades of Sophia Coppola's casting in The Godfather, Part III, much ridiculed at the time although she has redeemed herself in her subsequent career as a director. Fortunately for viewers, blonde and wide-eyed Charley Boorman is energetic and charismatic, enough to be satisfactorily engaging albeit not entirely convincing.