Flick of the Day: The Burbs

The cinema of your youth can retain a powerful hold over your imagination even years later. For a younger me, there was nothing better than The Goonies or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or today's flick of the day The Burbs. I think their appeal lay in a sense of adventure and a touch of danger which appeals to all children. The Burbs, directed by Joe Dante is an over the top satire on the idle speculation which can grip a suburban cul de sac.
Tom Hanks, playing one of the many comedic roles which were his bread and better in the early part of his career, is Ray Peterson, an average suburbanite on a week off from work. With little to do, he spends his days hanging out with his dim witted but paranoid neighbour Art played by Rick Ducommun. Together with  their other neighbours, an ex-military man played by Bruce Dern and layabout stoner Ricky played by Corey Feldman, he quickly develops an obsession with the new neighbours who have moved in next door, the Klopeks. To say the least the Klopeks are odd, coming and going at all hours of the night while loud noises emanate from the basement of their decrepit house however are they the axe-wielding murderers Ray imagines them to be?
It is easy to forget how could Hanks was at comedy given the Oscar laden career that came afterwards in more serious roles. He brings a likeable charm to the role of Ray. This could be your street, well it could be were it not for the out-sized personalities that inhabit it. Ray aside, the neighbourhood is populated by the familiar tropes of American suburbia. That's not to say they aren't funny, but the film relies more on its charm than the kind of off-kilter humour which Dante perfected in his earlier effort Gremlins. 

Art: I think the message to, uh, psychos, fanatics, murderers, nutcases all over the world is, uh, "do not mess with suburbanites". Because, uh, frankly we're just not gonna take it any more. Ya know, we're not gonna be content to look after our lawns and wax our cars, paint out houses. We're out to get them, Don, we are out to get them. 
The paranoid humour is played for full effect when it comes to the Klopeks. They are creepy well drawn oddballs played by familiar faces like Henry Gibson and to a child appeared genuinely menacing.
 After a fashion, the film moves to its inevitable ending where the quiet townsfolk take the law into their own hands. Are they right or have they fatally misjudged their new neighbours? It's fun for what it is and still remains an enjoyable romp for my adult self.
If their is a weakness in the film, it is that it makes little or no effort to develop some of the roles beyond a single dimension. Carrie Fisher is criminally underused as Hanks nagging wife. Perhaps the oddest thing about that is the idea of Carrie Fisher playing the wife of Tom Hanks, whether due to the unfairness of gender politics or not, can you imagine an actress of a similar age being cast opposite Hanks today?
All in all, this is a decent 80's comedy that relies more on charm than laughter to carry itself. It has a fine cast of comedy actors including a star turn from Tom Hanks that hints at the depth of talent that would come to the fore in the early 90's. Still worth a go today.