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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. 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 even has Gizmo on the cover.
Premise: Ray Peterson has finally been given a vacation, with the only thing on his mind being to stay home, relax and maybe drink a couple hundred beers. New neighbors, the Klopek’s raising an eyebrow or two for their rather suspicious behavior including almost never leaving the house in the light of day. Something others not only noticed but desired to get to the bottom of. Including Ray’s closest friend Art (Rick Ducommun), a man hellbent on finding something other than his own lackluster marriage to focus on, ready to read into anything slightly out of the norm. Consistently egging on Ray to be the ‘man’ of the neighborhood and discover what was at the bottom of the even more irrefutable notion of another neighbor having gone missing, with the only explanation being that the Klopek’s were behind such events as well. Involving Lt. Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern) whose departure from the military only proved that a new endeavor would be had; getting to the bottom of the controversy on the street and having most of the supplies needed in order to do so. Believing the neighbors to be a bunch of satanic worshiping, grave-digging, weirdos that they must run out of the neighborhood before anyone else’ life was in immediate danger.
The Good: The beginning shot is reminiscent Google Earth as it zooms into the otherwise normal, middle class neighborhood. 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. While no stranger to playing off a pair, Ducommun was the storyteller/instigator of the bunch; sure to push others to the front while cowering from behind, he sets up plenty of opportunists for the surrounding cast throughout. However there are simply too many great moments within that make the film worthwhile. From Hank’s character getting up in the middle of the night to investigate a strange noise suppressed on his side of the lawn yet, enhanced once stepping onto the neighbors property. To when Art and Ray finally get the courage to reach the front porch and the address of 669 changes to 666 with a hard enough knock. Met with a realistic dream induced from clearly viewing one too many horror films is convinced to insist that his wife (Carrie Fisher) along with son go ahead with their vacation so as to stay behind and do absolutely nothing about almost every neighbors suspicion. Or so he would merely imply.
Providing entertainment for Ricky (Corey Feldman) and his friends, with a cameo from Nicky Katt, who decide to throw a party in hopes of catching an outcome to the question on everyone’s mind. What the hell was in the Klopek’s basement?
The family playing the eerie neighbors also set a great tone. Hans (Courtney Gains), the youngest was certainly a familiar face outside of just Children of the Corn. The strong silent type, he was more for presence than any real immediate threat. 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. While Dr. Klopek (Henry Gibson) himself rounded out the band of misfits, seemingly a good guy that it’s only in the last moments of the film that we’re made aware just how good he was at the art of deception.
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, it loses a little momentum. While 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 as her male counterparts. Usually women are depicted as the one with their noses in everything going on around their streets so it was nice to see them focus on the men being inquisitive to the point of no return.
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. The film simply didn’t have to be so outlandish with its humor and rather, focuses on a minuscule part of society while honing in on great comedic timing that the cast all around was able to provide. A great thing about Joe Dante’s films being his ease of integrating Horror with a comedic reality that always turns out refreshing.