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JOE DANTE DIRECTS TOM HANKS & CARRIE FISHER IN THE 'BURBS

Carrie Fisher and Wendy Schaal YEAR: 1989
Director Joe Dante, no stranger to the world of strange characters in bizarre situations, throws it all into the cinematic pot… including the kitchen sink… serving up THE ‘BURBS starring Tom Hanks during the tail-end of his comedy-only career. As family man Ray Peterson, there’s a REAR WINDOW vibe as our passive, debilitated hero faces a suburban col de sac while one house in particular becomes the prime target for morbid curiosity.

The BurbSCORE: ***
Much of the film has Hanks and chubby instigating neighbor buddy Art, played by GROUNDHOG DAY actor Rick Ducommun, along with Bruce Dern’s Vietnam vet Lt. Mark Rumsfield, his trophy wife Bonnie (Wendy Schaal, pictured above), Carrie Fisher as Ray’s assertive wife Carol, who injects her usual pizazz into what would be a filler role with another actress in an extremely limited/thankless role...

Wendy Shaal stealing the scenery YEAR: 1929
And last but not least is cool kid Corey Feldman as Ricky trying to figure out what exactly is going on with these mysterious new neighbors, residents of the shabby manor looking a cross between the Bate’s Hotel and Frankenestein’s mansion.

The best scenes are in the buildup, getting to know the eclectic cast, after which Dante inserts so many “nostalgic” camera tricks, the tail begins wagging the dog. Which is sad since THE ‘BURBS was much better when we didn’t know what (or rather, who) lurked inside the house, making it difficult to tell exactly which specific genre is being parodied – as if the movie were making more fun of itself than any campy predecessor. And in one genuinely frightening image, when Ray witnesses cloaked figures frantically digging holes in the backyard during a lightning storm, there’s potential for the film to stretch beyond all the deliberate homage.
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