I have no idea why I didn’t see this until adulthood. It must’ve played on The Disney Channel regularly enough, and I adore the first one, but I never got around to it. In fact, I didn’t see it until well after I bought it, when they came out with a good release of both movies. I bought it because I figured I might as well have the set, but I think I went months without actually watching it even then. I also don’t remember why I finally watched it for the first time. “It’s about time,” I guess, which is as good a reason as any.
It’s some years after the first movie. Uncle Bené (Denver Pyle) flies Tony (Ike Eisenmann) and Tia (Kim Richards) to LA on the grounds that we need to have a plot. He lands at the Rose Bowl, for reasons, where he has arranged to have them met by a taxi. The driver runs out of gas somewhere downtown, and Tony happens upon the test of a mind control experiment. He saves Sickle (Anthony James) from dying in a fall of a building and is drugged and whisked off by evil scientist Dr. Victor Gannon (Christopher Lee) and his hapless investor Letha Wedge (Bette Davis.)
Meanwhile, Tia has wandered off from the cab herself and ends up the guest of a gang of small children calling themselves the Earthquakes. These sixth-grade dropouts—Dazzler (Christian Juttner), Muscles (Brad Savage), Crusher (Poindexter Yothers—yes, Tina’s brother, and no, Poindexter isn’t his real name), and Rocky (Jeffrey Jacquet), they call themselves—are on the run from “Yo-yo” Yakamoto (Jack Soo in one of his only film roles), Truant Officer. The Earthquakes are impressed by Tia’s power and want to help her find her missing brother.
There are all sorts of wacky escapades in LA. Uncle Bené says that Tony and Tia didn’t get a full view of the things humanity had because they spent no time in a big city, but let’s be real; the whole reason Tony and Tia are in LA is that it’s an easy place for this sort of plot to happen. Frankly, the story is very obvious in its attempt to cash in on the familiarity of the original, because there’s no other reason for the story to happen to Tony and Tia and a lot of reason for it to not. It would make more sense, in fact, for it to happen to other kids of their species, because you find yourself wondering what people thought when Tony and Tia didn’t show up wherever they were supposed to be when this started. And they are still the same approximate age as the Earthquakes, so fourteen-year-old Tia is wandering LA unsupervised.
The parts with Bette Davis and Christopher Lee make a bit more sense. He’s trying to use science to rule the world; she’s been financing his inventions and is out of cash. So far, so good. And then they discover Tony and his incredible powers, and they think, “Hey, we can use this!” Sounds about right, really. Any number of movies are based on a not dissimilar premise. Letha’s not terribly bright, but Victor doesn’t seem to have a practical knowledge of much of anything. This is also not terribly unusual a pairing in fiction. It’s a relatively standard film that way.
It’s interesting, though, that a major character in the movie is a truant officer. He doesn’t work for the police department—this is before cops took over that particular function—and his whole job is to try to get the kids back in school. In fact, he even gets a moment of sorrow that the kids aren’t getting the education they could because they’re hanging out in a condemned building instead. He says to them, in fact, that what he really wants is for them to come back someday and talk about how much better they’re doing in life because they’re back in school. He could be a much worse character; he’s not even a racist stereotype except inasmuch as he’s a bit Jack Soo, shortly before Soo himself died.
This is not a movie I come back to very often, even now that I’ve finally seen it. For one thing, the scene where they’re stealing from the museum makes me irrationally angry, both because I’ve been in the museum they use the exterior of many times and because I’m familiar with exactly how little gold it would take before you overload a station wagon. For another, the choice of the Rose Bowl as a landing site raises all sorts of questions in anyone familiar with the geography of Pasadena. Which, since it’s where I went to high school, I am. In fact, it would’ve been another reason not to have the movie about Tony and Tia—you might hide a flying saucer picking the kids up at the Rose Bowl, but not picking up and dropping off both.