Plot: Ray (Tom Hanks) is poised to spend his vacation in total relaxation, which means he will just stay home and let himself unwind. His wife wants him to take the family on a road trip, but he resists and is certain a week at home will let him relax more than a stress filled trek. So he dons his bathrobe, eats breakfast, and walks out to soak in the sights of his suburban neighborhood. While he knows most of his neighbors and their various quirks, dramas, and rivalries, a new family has recently moved next door and they’ve been less than social. This has led to a lot of gossip, but given the kooks that reside on his block, Ray isn’t taking the wild claims of his colorful neighbors seriously, at least not yet. But when their uptight neighbor suddenly vanishes, leaving both his beloved dog and his hairpiece behind, even Ray begins to wonder if a dark force is at work in the suburbs…

Entertainment Value: A masterful blend of horror, suburban boredom, and slapstick humor, The ‘Burbs offers a unique cinematic cocktail that has kept it popular with fans for decades. Of course, Tom Hanks in a memorable lead role doesn’t hurt, but the movie is armed with numerous tools to entertain and rarely misses the mark. The narrative is well crafted and easy to relate to, given that most neighborhoods have that one house where a mysterious neighbor resides. The movie is also smart to emphasis how bored and restless all of these people are, which in turn drives their desperate need for excitement on the block and that helps explain the ridiculous, sometimes dangerous antics involved. But given the over the top, slapstick nature of the material and the consistent escalation, such details can be lost in the shuffle. The pace is excellent and the movie never feels drawn out, as most scenes are either humorous or memorable, always pushing either narrative or character development. In other words, The ‘Burbs is wall to wall fun and while I wish the finale was more of a home-run, the movie is a brisk watch and has tons of memorable moments.

The cast here is a big reason why The ‘Burbs works so well, especially Tom Hanks, who shines in the bored, uncool dad role. His slow unraveling drives the movie and is one of the most fun threads to watch, as he handles the descent into paranoia so well and with such a great sense of humor. He’s also able to convey a more normal persona than the rest of the cast, so having a straight man is a nice touch and lets the more colorful, over the top characters seem even more insane. Rick Ducommun has a similar bored dad role, but funnels in a massive dose of the “annoying neighbor” archetype, making an effective foil to Hank’s more common sense Ray. Bruce Dern has one of my personal favorite parts as the militant neighbor with the hot, young wife and a severe hatred for dogs who shit on his lawn. His aggressive persona is crucial to push Ray and the others at times, while Wendy Schaal plays his gorgeous wife. The cast also includes Corey Feldman, Dick Miller, Carrie Fisher, Corey Feldman, Henry Gibson, Courtney Gains, and Gale Gordon, while genre legend Joe Dante is in the director’s chair. The ‘Burbs has remained a fan favorite for a reason, as it boasts a colorful cast, relatable concepts, and an eccentric sense of humor, giving us a super fun, well crafted movie.

Use this Amazon link to purchase The ‘Burbs (or anything else) and help support my site!