Re-Watch: The ‘Burbs (1989)

The ‘Burbs
Director: Joe Dante
Writer: Dana Olsen
Cast: Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher, Rick Ducommun, Corey Feldman, Wendy Schaal, Henry Gibson, Brother Theodore, Courtney Gains, Gale Gordon, Dick Miller, Robert Picardo
Part of: /slash Filmfestival

A typical suburban cul-de-sac is disrupted when a new family moves in. A mysterious family that seems to be only awake at night, making loud noises then, a family that doesn’t take care of its lawn or sticks to any of the usual suburban behavior. Their direct neighbor Ray (Tom Hanks) just got some time off. Time he spends starting to obsess about them and trying to find out more, egged on by the other inhabitants on the street.

I don’t know how many times I saw this film when I was a child. It was my brother’s favorite film for a while and he did a perfect impression of the “sardines” scene and to this day I can’t look at Tom Hanks without thinking of my brother a bit. So seeing this film for the first time in probably a decade, for the first time in English and without my brother present just wasn’t quite the same thing. It was still very entertaining though.


What I didn’t know but what I gathered from what Joe Dante said before the film: Apparently The ‘Burbs has a huge cult following and there are ‘Burbs Parties and I don’t know what else. It looked like Dante was pretty baffled by the phenomenon, why – of all the movies he’s done – this one would be the one with that status. I do get it though. The film is just the right age for all those hip, young people to have nostalgia value and just the right amount of insane mixed with hilarity.

I certainly laughed a lot, especially during that Western showdown scene. And it was really cool to look at this movie again as an adult and see the things I saw as a child partly in a completely new light.


But I did think that the ending doesn’t hold up to the rest of the film. That it turns out that the neighbors [SPOILER] are evil after all. [/SPOILER] I thought it ruined the message of the rest a bit. [Joe Dante also told us that Ray was supposed to die but when they cast Tom Hanks, they weren’t allowed to kill him off.]

Despite not everything being pitch-perfect and some things not quite reaching my childhood memories of the movie, it is a film I’d watch again straight away. Which is not something I say of many films.


Summarizing: a modern/cult classic.

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