|Directed by:||Joe Dante|
|Written by:||Dana Olsen|
|Cast:||Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher, Rick Ducommun|
Of all the ‘80’s comedies I grew up watching, The ‘Burbs was not one of them. Despite enjoying both Tom Hanks and director Joe Dante as a kid and a person with unquestionably good taste as my interest in the Beethoven movie franchise has proven, this one never appealed to me until much later in life even though it was always on TV somewhere. Once I finally checked it out as I got older, I thought this was more funny strange than funny ha-ha but still interesting to watch on TV. Then, the second time, whatever fascination it had on me the first time was totally lost because it didn’t like any of the jokes were really hitting. Maybe this was some kind of clever anti-comedy that was just going over my head. Now, having seen it again, I don’t know if it totally succeeds as far as my personal taste goes, but it’s truly a big accomplishment for the people involved in this movie that they got something this odd to be distributed by a major studio and put in major theaters all around the country as it’s got a very unique vision in mind. But that’s not to say that it’s a total misfire, in fact, it’s watchable enough both in spite of and because of its weirdness. Also, it was cool rewatching this as I’ve seen this main neighborhood set twice on the Universal Studios backlot tour.
The premise of the neighbors investigating their weird neighbors is actually interesting and I can appreciate the ideas of fear and paranoia that the movie brings to the table as a result. Rear Window or The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street it's not but I wasn't expecting that. I don't know what exactly I wanted from it other than I do love Tom Hanks and he does a serviceable job. His staycationing character Ray was a nice touch and made all the more relatable by the everyman attitude he usually brings to his role. He rides the line of being a rational human being who just wants to mind his own business and being a paranoid conspiracy nut who’s only that because being a rational human being who just wants to mind his own business isn't enough for him to enjoy his relaxing but dull holiday role very well. He’s funnier in The Money Pit or Turner & Hooch but it makes sense that he fits as the straight man in a movie full of eccentrics as he knows how to give his role a bit of flavor. I thought his neighbor friend Art, played by Rick Ducommon, was really annoying. I get he serves a purpose to be the wacky sidekick and the annoying aspect is part of the character but it doesn't make it any better. He just never stopped talking and very rarely did he make me laugh. It’s too bad because I do like that guy from Scary Movie and his stand up I randomly came across on YouTube is okay. Bruce Dern’s war veteran Mark and the dynamic with him and the rest of the neighbors was interesting solely because I thought he would be a lot more strict than he actually turned out to be. While it would’ve been nice for him to be more intimidating especially with Dern in the role, it was nice that they made a decent everyman kind of guy who was still live with a warlike mentality even though he was living in the suburbs. Mark’s wife Bonnie, played by Francine from American Dad, was kinda interesting too as she wasn’t the typical ditzy blonde and aside from Carrie Fisher as Ray’s wife, Carol, actually seemed to be one of the more level headed people in the entire movie. Speaking of, Carrie Fisher does a nice job playing the typical put upon wife character. It’s a thankless role but she does a serviceable job with it.
Corey Feldman’s Ricky has a weird thing where he invites his friends to watch his neighbors while they go on their own mission. I don’t know if this supposed to be funny but it was interesting in a weird Kids in the Hall short film at the end of the episode kind of way. I think he’s also convinced that the whole neighborhood itself is a movie in itself, which was an unique detail about his character. He’s self aware enough to know that the journey that Hanks and his friends go through is silly but yet he’s still fascinated by how this will end. Feldman’s not the best actor of our time but he weirdly finds a way of making such an odd part work for him just by being himself and allowing the weirder aspects of the character seem organic. I could see him being more antisocial but because he plays it like Corey Feldman. It’s still believable that despite his eccentricities, he still came off as a regular teenager in a way. In a way, his limited ability as an actor does wonders in this role because the normal white teenagerness of his acting style helps to make a weird character more palatable, relatable, and tolerable than the blueprint of his character make him out to be. Now that I think about it, he might have been my favorite part of the movie.
The neighbors themselves were creepy and the movie actually does a good job making them as mysterious as possible. I always like Henry Gibson in stuff and he makes for a great foil here as the patriarch of the strange family that our protagonists are curious about. I didn’t know what to make of the uncle or the one weird looking son played by the “Did you cum in my burrito?” guy from that ski resort episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia other than they looked creepy. Their house was also really creepy looking and looked suspicious enough. I just feel like a lot of murders and other miscellaneous crimes have happened there just from the look of it so good job, person whose job it was to pick this house. There’s at least some justification on the neighbors’ part for why everyone is so curious about these people.
I mean, there's worse movies to have revisited. It's hard to say it this movie would work better if I had grown up with it as I know that seems to be the case for a lot of people. Hanks, Fisher, and Dern deliver strong performances that make it more palatable to sit through. I can't say that I was invested in the overall characters that much but there were fine enough to somewhat keep my interest. The humor doesn't hit much for me but some moments kinda worked for me like when Feldman says the pizza dude’s coming. I never felt tortured watching this so that’s good. Dante helps to add a sense of mystery and terror whenever he can and that’s probably where the movie works best. That said, those aspects kind of felt like it came from another movie as it feels awkward with the light tone we’re first introduced to. It had weird pacing to me though as there were times that I felt bored by it. Plus, I think the quirkiness of the whole movie at times was offputting to me especially when it comes to the humor of the movie. I do like some of the cinematography which makes it feel a bit off, which is great for a movie of this tone, although that's probably contradicting my previous issues. It’s weird. I think I like the tone but this movie needed a better sense of humor to make it appreciate it more. While it does have horror and suspense elements, it really seems to be really concerned on getting laughs and that’s where it felt short the most for me. Honestly, for the kind of movie it is, it seems to succeed for whatever that is. It didn’t exactly hit the mark but I can see why some people might appreciate its strangeness. Suppose if this was directed by someone like the Coens or Tim Burton, this might be better? Who really knows? I can just be me and the me that I know was pretty meh on this. But as is, this is fine to watch if there's nothing else on.