The 'burbs (1989)
Desperate House Husbands
Nobody knocks off an old man in my neighborhood and gets away with it - Ray
Sitting down to watch Tom Hanks in "The 'burbs" something struck me straight off and that it has a slight similarity to "Desperate Housewives". That may seem a bit strange but "The 'burbs" is about the men in a small street who become suspicious over new neighbours, something which wouldn't be out of place in "Desperate Housewives". And to add to this "The 'burbs" was shot on the Universal Backlot, that same Universal Backlot where "Desperate Housewives" was also shot. So "The 'burbs" is a little similar to "Desperate Housewives" and it has to be said despite being over 20 years old is still great fun with comedy, drama and also a touch of horror.
Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks - Big) has taken a week off work and despite the nagging of his wife Carol (Carrie Fisher - The Man with One Red Shoe) just plans to slob around his home and take it easy. But Ray along with his neighbours Lt. Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern - Family Plot) and Art Weingartner (Rick Ducommun) become infatuated by their new neighbours the mysterious Klopek's who's house is dead by day but strange things happen at night. When their neighbour Walter Seznick goes missing the three start to believe that the Klopek's are behind his disappearance and step up their snooping.
It would be fair to say that "The 'burbs" is a dark comedy embellished by the wackiness of director Joe Dante who infuses ever moment of the movie with elements of comical quirkiness. And in a way it disguises what is essentially a simple story of the residents of the neighbourhood becoming increasingly suspicious of their new neighbours before it all gets too much and they start snooping around their dilapidated home. It's a storyline which isn't new, but Joe Dante soaks it in comedy, a blend of dark humour and slapstick so one moment we will watch one neighbour take a tumble whilst the next they get attacked by a swarm of bees causing frantic behaviour.
The good thing is that because Dante fills "The 'burbs" with so much comedy that it never becomes dull. We get the almost quirkiness of the neighbourhood as the movie opens with news papers being delivered, dogs being walked and allowed to poop where they like. But then you get the darker side the creepy goings on at the Klopek's house, the mysterious lights, the door number dropping from being 669 to 666 and it all entertains brilliantly. And as such "The 'burbs" is perfectly paced, skipping along to its own perfect beat.
But whilst "The 'burbs" will most definitely make you laugh it's also a horror or at least one which fits into the category of family horror. There's nothing really scary about it rather more creepy in an almost "Addams Family" sense of creepiness and it works adding to the amusement.
Of course besides being a fun movie "The 'burbs" is also a Tom Hanks movie although being one from the 80s still features the screen legend finding his feet so to speak. As such it's an entertaining performance from Tom Hanks as Ray Peterson full of slapstick and comical over enthusiasm the sort of thing he delivered so well in "Splash" a few years earlier.
But to be honest "The 'burbs" isn't really a Tom Hanks movie because it features equally good performances from all its stars. Bruce Dern is funny as hell as Vietnam vet Lt. Mark Rumsfield and Rick Ducommun delivers plenty of slapstick as Art Weingartner. But then you get the same fun performances from Carrie Fisher, Corey Feldman and Henry Gibson, Brother Theodore as well as Courtney Gains who play the creepy Klopek's.
What this all boils down to is that "The 'burbs" despite being over 20 years old is still great fun. It is quirky, dark and amusing as hell with wonderful performances from an array of stars that with the direction of Joe Dante combine to make a thoroughly entertaining and memorable movie, one of the better Tom Hanks movies from the 80s.
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