Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review - The ‘burbs (1989)

Director: Joe Dante
Starring: Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher, Rick Ducommun, Corey Feldman & Henry Gibson
Screenplay: Dana Olsen

To say this is a weird movie is an understatement. Imagine a monkey swimming through chunky mango yoghurt, the two things separately might make people smile but together it’s just a weird funny mess. Is this my not too subtle feeling towards The burbs? Not really but I just wanted readers to imagine that weird image.

Honestly The burbs is probably the movie I’ve watched the most in my short time on this earth, the more I think about it the stranger that seems as it’s not even in my top 20 movies of all time but yet I’m addicted to it. When ever I’m feeling down or pissed off The burbs seems to be one of my go to movies to relax. It’s a fun, well paced movie that is over the top, has a dark streak of humour and says a lot about people living the suburban lifestyle.

Tom Hanks plays Ray Peterson, an over stressed man on vacation trying to relax, but thanks to the eccentric behaviour of his neighbours the Klopek’s; they like a spot of night digging; his mind is starting to let urban legends get the better of him and he’s beginning to suspect that he is living next to killers. While his wife Carol (Carrie Fisher) might be a calming influence she’s no match for his friends, Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern) who’s a war veteran who relishes the chance for a return back to his glory days and Art Weingartner (Rick Ducommun) who’s the friend Ray would rather not have, both men are played over the top and come off probably crazier than the Klopek’s. It’s an interesting plot and one that is played for laughs over scares but it must said that the Klopek’s; especially Henry Gibson who is Dr Werner Klopek; come off on the right side of creepy or at least enough to realistically fuel Ray’s paranoia.

Visually the movie looks like it should be a sitcom, even the beginning starts things off like that before introducing the weirdness of the Klopek’s. Dante keeps this theme throughout the movie with everyone’s house looking picture perfect except for the Klopek’s. Strange angles, odd lighting, all is held off until a scene deals directly with the Klopek’s or when someone is talking about the darker side of suburbia. In particular Art’s speech about an urban legend is very creepy and effective, pulling you in before the laughs are once again administered including one of my favourite lines. “I’m off to do something productive, watch television.”

Yet again Joe Dante makes a movie that’s bright, fun and really connects with a weird vibe that might have something to do with his love of Looney Tunes. The acting is okay and gets the job done; really it’s Joe’s sense of fun that gives it the watch ability and while not the best movie in the world there has to be something to the combination of dark humour and broad humour that makes me watch it way to much for my own good.

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