Batman must battle former district attorney Harvey Dent, who is now Two-Face and Edward Nygma, The Riddler with help from an amorous psychologist and a young circus acrobat who becomes his sidekick, Robin.
Minature green monsters tear through the small town of Kingston Falls. Hijinks ensue as a mild-mannered bank teller releases these hideous loonies after gaining a new pet and violating two of three simple rules: No water (violated), no food after midnight (violated), and no bright light. Hilarious mayhem and destruction in a town straight out of Norman Rockwell. So, when your washing machine blows up or your TV goes on the fritz, before you call the repair man, turn on all the lights and look under all the beds. 'Cause you never can tell, there just might be a gremlin in your house. Written by
When Mrs. Deagle crashes through the window & lands on the snow still in her chair, her legs are completely stiff in the air. This might happen hours later when rigor mortis sets in, but not right away. See more »
The sort of film where a good idea suffers from a patchy script and a lot of revisions, "Gremlins" reflects the time when it was made. The 1980s were a decade of goofy gimmick movies, and "Gremlins" offers exactly that.
While scouring Chinatown to sell one of his many inventions, Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) is introduced to a cute, furry critter called a "Mogwai." He names it "Gizmo" and brings it home as a pet for his son Billy (Zach Galligan). Gizmo requires special handling: no bright light, no water, and no feeding after midnight. After getting wet, Gizmo produces replicant Mogwai. "This could really be the big one," Randall says happily. He is soon proved tragically correct.
When it was released in the summer of 1984, "Gremlins" was a marvel of cinematic wizardry on account of the animatronic puppets that make up the title characters. Much of the talk around the film centered on a sequence in the Peltzer kitchen where Billy's mother (Frances Lee McCain) has to fend off various attacks from the nasty gremlins, and in doing so contributed to the creation of a new MPAA- rating, PG-13.
It's a brilliant sequence, the one moment in the film where the special effects (designed by future Oscar winner Chris Walas), the story (by Chris Columbus) and a human performance deliver on the payoff "Gremlins" promises. McCain is so intense yet so funny you can get as much from watching her face as you do from the carnage on the countertops around her. It's one of the great moments of 1980s cinema.
The rest of the time, "Gremlins" is a tonally imbalanced, under- funny concept film that doesn't do much more than flog merchandise in the guise of a story. Conceived as a straight horror film, "Gremlins" went through various changes after producer Steven Spielberg took hold of the project, so that when it finally was released, it became a scare comedy without the jokes.
Entire plot lines were dropped, but the film is so ineptly constructed that their beginnings remain. We are introduced to Billy's interest in comics, a local pub under threat of condemnation, a poor mother trying to find a way to feed her children for Christmas, an obnoxious co-worker of Billy's played by Judge Reinhold, and other things, all of which vanish when the gremlins take over the second half. None are addressed again; Reinhold, the biggest male name in the cast, disappears entirely once the gremlins attack.
Director Joe Dante does what he can to make the filler interesting. I like the Reinhold character's come-on to Billy's girlfriend Kate (Phoebe Cates), inviting her to his apartment with the tagline: "I'm talking cable." It's a very 1980s experience in that and other ways, such as when the gremlins don leg warmers and start flashdancing. But for too long a time, "Gremlins" seems to be in a holding pattern, doing nothing much at all except presenting these red- herring story lines that never get resolved while the monsters themselves wait in the wings.
It's a very goofy film. One secondary character has a consuming hatred for all foreign things, which he talks about non-stop. A science teacher runs late-night tests on a caged gremlin in a middle-school laboratory. Both father and son Peltzer are walking Murphy's Laws, where anything that can go wrong does. Once they run amok, the gremlins often wear fitted caps and coats, as if they happened upon the little people's section of L. L. Bean.
"Gremlins" kicks into a higher gear with that attack, though it never again achieves anything like the sustained brilliance of the kitchen battle with Mrs. Peltzer. The film posits at one point that the gremlins are subtle creatures who creep into machinery and make the resulting carnage seem like an accident. This would have made for an intriguing idea, but Dante and Spielberg never do anything with it. They are making a gimmick movie, and striving for audience impact in the cheapest way possible.
It's fun for young people, I suppose, and those who first saw it when they were children. Give me the sequel instead, where the comedy is much stronger and the story more engaging.
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