Saturday, 30 March 2013

No.85 : The ‘Burbs

The 'Burbs at the IMDb

Off to the suburbs now as we take a look at this horror comedy staring Tom Hanks and directed by ‘Gremlins’ helmer Joe Dante. Sounds a sure fire winner? ‘Fraid the ‘Burbs isn’t worth the effort.

Hanks plays  his usual likeable every man character, who on this occasion is called ‘Ray’. He’s married to Princess Leia and is looking forward to a week off at home. Leia is worried he’ll go nuts in their quiet cul-de-sac but we’re pretty sure all sorts of exciting stuff is going on behind the net curtains. They don’t show this exciting stuff however and rely on a dog shitting on someone’s lawn to get a feeble laugh - two if you count the man trodding in the mess five minutes later.

The neighbours are your predictable collection of kooks with Bruce Dern leading the way as a military nut with an unfeasibly attractive wife. For your money you also get Corey Feldman off ‘The Goonies’ and some other assorted and forgettable oddballs.

The pressure of suburbia soon gets to our principals, but while they are at each other’s throats they realise that the new neighbours who moved in a month ago have yet to tend their yard. This mild observation leads to more suspicions and paranoia and before long the gang are convinced a fully fledged cannibal cult have moved in.

They get little satisfaction from the householder but that’s little surprise given he’s the lead Nazi from ‘The Blues Brothers’. With the mania reaching fever pitch our heroes plan a mission to break in to their home and investigate the weird goings on while Feldman hosts a house party so he and his friends can observe the doubtless wacky conclusion.

This was a really dull effort that only succeeded if its intention was to show how dull life in the suburbs can be. The slow build up lasted a full hour and the tension never got above ‘don’t care’. It was clear from the off that the mysterious happenings would have a reasonable explanation and once it all goes explosive it’s equally predictable a wrong foot is on the cards, otherwise our heroes will end up in the clink.

Part of the issue for me was that the film never left the same few houses. Of course this claustrophobia is part of the plan but it just makes the whole enterprise seem small scale and unimportant. The plot where the foreign neighbours were thought to be eating people was absurd from the off but not in a funny way. Why Hanks didn’t spend his week off getting Leia out of her frumpy outfits and into her ‘Jabba’  bikini instead of raking through bins was never explored.

Bruce Dern was passable doing his usual ‘mania’ bit but Hanks phoned in his performance from very far away. The plot was too thin to sustain the film and although the last half hour brought some explosions and a some surprises they felt unearned as all empathy towards the characters had been lost long ago.

The seismic shift in pace towards the end and the unfolding revelations looked like frantic rewrites that failed to save this laugh and gore free horror comedy.

THE Tag Line ‘ ‘Burbs Fails to Disturb or amuse  45%

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