Jul 13, 2010

Underrated: The 'burbs

Some of you may have seen The 'burbs on my top ten list. In college, I thought I was giving my friends a major treat when I introduced them to this movie for the first time. They all fell asleep. All of them. One friend complained loudly as he stumbled off to bed that it was the most boring movie he had ever been made to sit through. I was bewildered and crushed. How could I be so wrong about this movie?

My sincere admiration for The 'burbs goes back to the days when families still went to drive-in movies. All the way back to a time when you had to clip the radio receiver onto your half-opened car window. Yes, this was before FM channel coordination.

Occasionally, on a lazy weekend in summer, my family would take in a drive-in movie. On this particular evening, we decided to go see a nice family picture, K-9. If you've seen K-9 you know it isn't appropriate for children whose mothers are my mother. We didn't know what we were getting into, and I'm guessing it's because we saw this trailer. However, it so happened that the marquis at this drive-in had reversed the order of their movies so The Burbs showed first although it was listed second. None of us knew anything about this movie. I guess we missed this trailer (bear in mind I was 9 years old, so I had no awareness of movie trailers and wasn't even allowed to watch MTV for goodness sake). We decided to stay, even when the opening sequence made it seem that the movie might be a little scary for young children (I am the oldest of three). The rest is Lloyd family lore. We laughed hysterically and much later purchased the VHS (a rare honor reserved only for beloved classics such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Tremors).

This movie is funny because 1) Corey Feldman, the airhead teenager who lives next door, makes weird faces when he is on-screen but not the principle actor in the shot. It's fun to watch for these "reaction" shots. 2) Bruce Dern is the ex-military, takes-himself-way-too-seriously, kinda nutty neighbor who is dying for a reason to use his military gear. 3) The wife is Carrie Fisher; I have loved and adored and wanted to be Princess Leia since my earliest recollection. My love of film was in no small way shaped by her early influence in my life. 4) There is a great scene involving some funny demonic chanting... You'll have to watch it yourself. It just sounds twisted if I quote it. 5) Tom Hanks is downtrodden dad and husband Ray Parker who turns vigilante on his creepy neighbors. This was before he did dramatic roles, so he was still doing the Tom Hanks "spaz" thing all the time, and I think he was at his "spastic" peak in this performance. 6) Quotability. "I've never seen that. I've never seen anyone drive their garbage to the end of the driveway and then bang the hell out of it with a stick. I've never seen that." 7) The soundtrack enhances both the funny moments and the scary ones. 8) There is just the right amount of slapstick - Bruce Dern falling off the roof or falling through the rotting floorboards on the Klopeck's porch while holding a plate of brownies, "There go the goddamn brownies." After picking them up off the porch and putting them back on the plate, he presents them to the new neighbors, saying,  "Here you go, sonny. A little somethin' for the sweet tooth."

Note: I had never seen the above-linked trailer before I began writing this review. I could write an entire piece about this trailer. Love for this movie is swelling in my bosom. I am aware that this may diminish my credibility as a critic, but I am OK with that.


  1. I thought you'd enjoy knowing that this is the blog that showed up when I clicked the "next blog" link at the top of your page:


    It appears to be the personal blog of Miss Malaysia '04/'05.

  2. That is awesome. I actually found someone I knew but don't keep in touch with by clicking "next blog."

  3. The joy of being family! I agree with every last word of this post and I laughed aloud through most of it! That trailer is, indeed, genious! Now I need to watch the 'burbs as soon as possible. It is my go-to comfort movie and a true Lloyd Family Classic! Love the review sissy!!


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