(Second viewing, On TV, March 2017) I was wary of revisiting The ’burbs: what if it didn’t measure up to my good memories? Fortunately, I shouldn’t have worried: As a comedy, it’s still as increasingly anarchic as I recalled, and the film has aged relatively well largely due to director Joe Dante’s off-beat genre sensibilities. Baby-faced Tom Hanks stars as a driven suburban man daring himself to spend a week at home doing nothing. But his holiday soon turns to real work as he starts obsessing over his neighbours and, egged on by friends, suspecting them of the worst crimes. Set entirely in a quiet cul-de-sac, The ’burbs still has a few things to say about the hidden depths of suburbia, dangerous obsessions and the unknowability of neighbours. It’s also increasingly funny as actions become steadily more extreme—by the time a house blows up in the middle of the climax, it’s clear that the movie has gone as far as it could go. Corey Feldman (as a fascinated teenager treating the whole thing like a reality-TV show), Bruce Dern (as a crazed survivalist), Carrie Fisher (as a voice of exasperated reason) and Henry Gibson (deliciously evil) are also remarkable in supporting roles. The “burbs may take a while to heat up, but it quickly goes to a boil and remains just as funny today.
(On DVD, June 2011) Never having seen The Goonies (I know, I know…), I can’t say for sure if the film holds up for those with fond memories of the original. But seen fresh, the film still has a lot of fun and narrative energy. Sure, the kid actors often overact: Corey Feldman, in particular, seems to be mugging for the camera over and above what a motor-mouth should. The acting is broad and unsubtle: there’s little naturalism in how the characters are portrayed. But up to a certain point, that’s part of the charm: The Goonies is recognizably an early-teen fantasy of adventure and action: in-between wacky inventions, ingenious traps, first kisses, sibling tension, silly criminals and treasure maps, the film aims square at boys and girls and succeeds in portraying the kind of adventure many wished for in late grade school. As a collaboration between producer Steven Spielberg, writer Chris Columbus and director Richard Donner, The Goonies is also a powerhouse of talents who were at their mid-eighties peak: all would go on to make other things, but their reputation would hinge heavily on this film. Even from the first snappy minutes, it’s easy to see how everything clicks in this film. Not every sequence and plot elements works as well (I’m not so fond of Sloth, nor the various plot tricks), but even a quarter of a century later, the pacing is fairly good, the atmosphere between the kids is credible and the spirit of adventure rarely flags. There’s an added bonus in seeing familiar actors in younger roles, from Sean Astin to Josh Brolin to Joe Pantoliano. The DVD does justice to the film, with great picture quality and extensive supplements ranging from a superlative audio/video commentary to a few featurettes about the making of The Goonies. I’m probably one of the last kids of the eighties to see this film, but the wait has been worth it.