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The Burbs (1989)
Directed by Joe Dante Written by Dana Olsen
While I have yet to mention, Tom Hanks is my number one, favorite actor; period. This being another VHS I wish I still had, tear. The story is likable in that most anyone has felt at one point in time that had a “suspicious” neighbor, for whatever reason. We had one on our street growing up, we called them “the vamps” and the house could have just the same been deserted and no one would have known the difference. Joe Dante being familiar for such greats as The Howling, Piranha as well as Gremlins! If you pay attention when Hanks first approaches son Dave, (Cory Danziger) the Cereal in the back has Gizmo on the cover. A great thing about the Director’s films being his ease of integrating Horror with a comedic reality that always turn out refreshing. Premise: Ray Peterson has just gone on vacation and the only thing on his mind is staying home and relaxing, maybe drinking a couple hundred beers and spying on the eerie, new neighbors whose suspicious behavior has continued to worsen. Ray, along with the rest of the neighbors, rally together to investigate the disappearance of Walter (Gale Gordon) who had recently gone missing. Believing the newbies to be a bunch of satanic worshiping, grave-digging, weirdos that they must run out of the neighborhood before anyone else turned up, having found solid evidence denoting otherwise.
The Good: The beginning shot is very Google Earth reminisce and zoomed into the otherwise known normal, middle class neighborhood. Having already stated that Hanks was my favorite actor, it should be no surprise that I loved his performance and remember this being an easy favorite of mine when younger. An attractive man at any age, Hanks had a string of outlandish comedies and continued to do a variety of roles that have consistently won me over. Being no stranger to duos, is accompanied by neighbor Art (Rick Ducommun) who is the storyteller/instigator and the most willing to discover the truth. Though his character being the typical kind to cower better than anybody else. The film has a lot of great moments throughout that make worth viewing as well. Hank’s character gets up in the middle of the night, hearing noise coming from next door and once stepping onto their yard, is met with a whirlwind of debris acting as though a guardian. When Art and Ray finally get the courage to reach the front porch, the address of 669 changes to 666 with a hard enough knock. One night of watching Horror movies, (one of which is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) has a nightmare about a chainsaw tearing through his walls and splitting the family photo in half. Now, I noticed the small cameo of Nicky Katt but I’ve also seen him in so many films. He did look a lot different and I’m not even sure how many other people know who that is, just by name. My favorite part being a bit between Art and Ray:
The family playing the eerie neighbors also set a great tone; the portrayal of what I’d imagine the outsiders of the ‘Burbs to be. Hans, (Courtney Gains) the youngest was certainly a familiar face outside of just Children of the Corn. I thoroughly enjoy the film Can’t Buy Me Love and he played Patrick Dempsey’s best friend…anyone? His Uncle Reuben (Brother Theodore; most known as the voice of Gollum) has a great scene with Lt. Rumsfield who suggested him being wounded up too tight because of his short answers and evil glare refusing to quit. Dr. Klopek (Henry Gibson) rounding them out when made to be larger than life and upon meeting is not much taller than the Lt.’s shoulder.
The Bad: The last 30 minutes do drag on a little. Most of the funny or entertaining scenes occur within the first half of the film and while the ending wasn’t terrible by any means, still loses its momentum. While I am a fan of Carrie Fisher, though probably not for the films you’d expect, we didn’t see as much of her and I usually find her just as humorous. Of course, she was great in the Stars Wars trilogy but just the same in When Harry Met Sally or Drop Dead Fred and her small bit in Scream 3 is always good for a laugh. The film could have gone the same route and had the women being the inquisitive ones but flipped it with the men in the neighborhood which was a nice change. Not too much to dislike though those 30 minutes tend to feel stretched out which can be a big turn off when going into a film.
The Verdict: In its entirety, it’s a good film with a cast that is able to easily intermingle and each stand out as their own unique character. Even the ones that didn’t steal the show were great side characters and contributed in some comedic aspect or another. I’ve always been a fan of “The Corey’s” and there was a good 8 year period for Feldman in which he was consistently featured in gratifying roles. Life happens; “they” are no different. Bruce Dern played the always ready for battle, Lt. Mark Rumsfield and I thought it quite a shame that I haven’t (or cannot recall) having seen him in anything else, he had a lot of great small moments throughout the film. I did see he has a part in Django Unchained so…yay! (Just an excuse to get more excited for Django!) Still plenty good surprises for anyone actually interested in viewing, especially if you too, can appreciate the humor of the time. I believe it is an unfortunate lost cause by now but generally miss the simple comedies, they always seemed homely.