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
"Gremlins" starts out well enough, as an inventor looking for a Christmas present for his son buys a strange little creature from a Chinese boy, despite the boy's grandfather's warnings that taking care of a "mogwai" requires a great amount of responsibility. Gizmo the mogwai goes home with the inventor to a small town where a mean old lady tries to make everyone's life hell and the inventor's son, Billy, has a crush on a girl. There are three rules to taking care of a mogwai: never get one wet, never expose one to sunlight, and never feed one after midnight. Of course, we know that by the end of the movie, all of those rules will have been broken at least once.
"Gremlins" goes downhill once it becomes clear that it's a movie without any kind of intended audience. Gizmo, the only good gremlin, is as adorable as a stuffed toy and the characters are portrayed in a broad way children can easily understand, but shortly after Billy's friend accidentally breaks the "no water" rule, the movie turns into something between satire and horror. It's too scary for kids, but not clever enough, scary enough, or sharp enough to hold the interest of adults. Kids will be the ones eager to see the mean old lady get her comeuppance, but the way in which she does will probably give them nightmares. Likewise, Billy's girlfriend's story of why she doesn't like Christmas is completely out of place for a movie geared at children. The movie doesn't know whether it wants us to laugh at the gremlins or to be truly afraid of them. The whole thing might have worked as a campily over-the-top shorter film, but there's not enough substance for a full-length movie, and after a while it grows tiresome waiting for the gremlins to be defeated and the movie to end.
I kept thinking of another 80's movie in which buying something strange from an old Chinese man leads to chaos, "Little Shop of Horrors." Unlike "Gremlins," "Little Shop of Horrors" knows what it is (a satire) and knows who it was made for (teenagers and adults). Its twists and turns are capable of holding the audience's attention and it's genuinely funny. "Gremlins" could have been a children's movie about a cute gremlin named Gizmo, a horror film, or a tongue-in-cheek sendup of horror films. Trying to be all three at once doesn't work.
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