This story takes place in a typical American neighborhood, when some new neighbors come to live in the house next to Ray Peterson. These new people are really strange; nobody has ever seen them, their house is a real mess, and during the night you can hear weird noises from their basement. The only thing they know is their name: Klopeks. One day Walter (an old man of the neighborhood) suddenly disappears and everyone starts to suspect the Klopeks...Written by
Chris Makrozahopoulos <email@example.com>
Henry Gibson was not the first choice for Dr. Klopek due to his charming personality and diminutive stature. Director Joe Dante had worked with him on Innerspace and loved his work and had remembered his menacing portrayal of the Doctor in Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye which convinced him that he was the right choice for the role stating that "he had something evil in him". See more »
The pineapple and tray under Art's arm change positions between shots. See more »
The world of black comedies has seen few truly classic entries in the past few years. It's a very specific sub genre of comedy that is extremely hard to do well as films like Very Bad Things frequently signify. Too many of Hollywood's more recent offerings feature truly tasteless gags that poke fun at subjects that should simply be left well enough alone. Well I have to say that Hollywood could learn a thing or two from its own past in this department. I recently rediscovered a childhood favourite of mine, The Burbs, and I have to admit that age has not in the least bit dulled the film's razor sharp wit and acid tongued dialogue
Tom Hanks plays Ray Peterson, an overstressed suburbanite who's decided to spend his vacation lounging around the house in a vain effort to relax. Of course he finds his efforts hindered by the constant presence of his somewhat excitable neighbors Art Weingartner (Rick Ducommun) and Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern) who suspect the new family in the neighbourhood, the Klopeks, of being mass murderers. Together these three decide to look into the suspicious nature of their new neighbors and just what exactly it is they get up to at night, the time when the otherwise reclusive Klopeks seem to be at their most active.
The premise is basically the set up for another of Joe Dante's (who directed both Gremlins and its remake in all but name, Small Soldiers) bedlam filled romps through suburbs in which he casts a sideways glance at all things American dream.
Quite frankly, my nostalgia for this movie makes it hard to find fault with it. Hanks is as funny as ever, playing it relatively straight compared to his other performances of the period and bringing a lovely shade of deep seated unease to an otherwise grounded character. Bruce Dern fills his role wonderfully, as the military obsessed Rumsfield, a character surprisingly reminiscent of survivalist Burt Gummer from the Tremors movies in both his nature and ability to steal scenes. The only weak link in the leading trio is Ducommun, which is a shame as it is really Art that drives the story more than any other character in the movie. Sure, Art has to be slightly obnoxious and a little irritating but Ducommun overplays these aspects so much that I began to find it painful to watch him as the end of the movie approached. It's hardly a surprise when Hanks tries to kill him. I can't help but feel that perhaps the late John Candy would have fit the role slightly better, bringing some more human and likable qualities to the character.
At times however, The Burbs can feel a little uneasy in its pacing and sense of humour. Scenes like the screaming at the bone, although funny, seem out of place in what is otherwise a movie with a very dry sense of humour. Meanwhile the Klopeks are unveiled as characters perhaps a little too late in the story for the audience to truly develop any kind of opinions about them.
Despite some small problems however, The Burbs remains an extremely funny movie with some terrific dialogue and almost universally good performances from its cast. I defy anyone not to laugh at Rumsfield's fall from the roof of his house or every man Ray's furious rant at the movie's close. For fans of black comedies, The Burbs is a perfect antidote to the current glut of obnoxious Hollywood gross out comedies and the Farrelly Brothers increasingly desperate to offend pieces.
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