Years after the original batch of evil tomatoes was destroyed by the song "Puberty Love", a new batch has been created -- a batch that can be transformed into a humanoid appearance, to blend in with the human population. Wilbur Finletter, the original hero, returns as his nephew unknowingly falls in love with Tara, a tomato and the girlfriend of the evil Dr. Gangreen.
While there's something to be said about sequels not being able to surpass the originals, I find this to be an exception. The humor is campier, and the jokes are lamer. But for some reason, I really appreciate it. The visual gags are stepped up to the level of "Airplane!" or some Mel Brooks movie and I do not think this one should be neglected. Even in the beginning when clips are shown from the first movie, the clips are well chosen to really bring out the funniest and most important parts, adding something to the new saga.
The original film was actually a student film at UC-Davis, and was redone in 1977 as what we know today. That could have been the end of the series, but by early 1980s home video came around and gave the original a new lease on life and a sequel was inevitable... this time even produced by New World (who had no input). The bar was set higher (or lower) and they succeeded.
George Clooney appears. Actually, he more than appears -- he is on screen more than just about anyone. This is before he was big, and he has a long-haired look as though he was auditioning for the part of Jesse on "Full House" (but I guess he lost to John Stamos). Clooney is very lovable in this film, pulling a Charlie Sheen act of women-chasing that suits him well. There is something funny in retrospect about him running a "Meet Rob Lowe" contest to meet women, when now (2016) the women would much rather meet Clooney than Rob Lowe (though Lowe has come back in the last few years).
Some of the jokes are more subtle, at least as subtle as a film like "Killer Tomatoes" can be. Take, for example, the Oliver North Federal Prison. At the time, this was probably pretty funny. Today, the audience who "gets it" will be much smaller (they'll say "Isn't he a commentator for Fox News?"). And there are plenty of sex jokes, but despite their prominence I never felt the film crossed into the childish realm of "gross-out" humor. Even the nudity was more or less tastefully done (I expected much more).
For me, the scene (or scenes) with the product placement running joke are among the funniest. We get the characters to break the fourth wall, we get some slight jabs at low budget film and consumerism... and just in general the whole concept is funny. Some have pointed out that the gag was stolen by "Wayne's World"... how much this film (or "Wayne's World") were actually paid by the companies they use in the joke remains unclear.
If you liked the first film, I cannot see why you would not love this. And if you grew up with the cartoon, you will want to see this film since this is the one the series was based off of. I have yet to see "Killer Tomatoes Eat France", but I think it is safe to say that "Return" is the high point in the movie series.
As always, the best way to see this film is on the blu-ray released from Arrow Video. Besides the priceless audio commentary with creator-writer-director John DeBello, there are also TV spots and other promotional items. Anthony Starke provides a nice interview concerning how he got involved and the use of product placement. Clooney, unfortunately, is not interviewed, but that is not really a surprise. Stephen Peace, a series regular, is also not interviewed, most likely because he went on to be a notable California politician of all things.
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