Sunday Afternoon Movie The Burbs [1989]


The world is steadily falling apart at the seams, so sit back and watch a Sunday Afternoon Movie. This week we’re giving Joe Dante’s under-appreciated black comedy The Burbs a spin but before that a brief word from our sponsor.

Every year without fail the new year seems to bring about a dose of the blues, not the missing the joys of Christmas blues, but the “it’s cold, I’m broke, people are the worst, and I’m getting over a cold” kind of blues. I think we can all agree that for a variety of reasons, 2016 was a waking nightmare of a year with occasional blips of hope followed by a tidal wave of crap.

Brexit happened, Trump happened, and beloved icons of music, film and television seemed to die on a daily basis. The only cure for 2016 is the hope that 2017 will be a bit easier on all of us. Obviously, that’s unlikely to happen, so the best thing you can do right now is set aside two hours every Sunday to watch a movie that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling to get a break from the madness.

Neighbours, Everybody needs good neighbours, with a little understanding you can find the perfect blend. That timeless message from the theme tune composed by Tony Hatch for the popular soap box drama entitled Neighbours is as true today as it was almost 30 years ago. That said, I bet Tony Hatch never lived next door to a murderous family who enjoy a good ritual sacrifice.

Directed by Joe Dante, The Burbs features the nicest man in America (Tom Hanks) as Ray Peterson, an everyday guy looking forward to a week off work to lounge around his house in the suburbs. His wife (Carrie Fisher) is dubious that this coach potato vacation will do much to lift her husband’s glum mood, but Ray reassures her that this is exactly what he needs.

Ray’s peaceful break doesn’t last long, aided by his neighbours Art (Rick Ducommun) and Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern), Ray becomes mistrustful of his new neighbours. After a series of unfortunate events, Ray believes that he’s living next door to a family Satan loving murderers.

Joe Dante knows how to handle a dark comedy and putting the affable Mr. Hanks in the leading role is a smart piece of casting and a cheeky bit of misdirection. You wouldn’t normally associate Tom Hanks with a dark comedy, so to the untrained eye, The Burbs looks like another light-hearted family-friendly Hanks comedy. While it is still all of those things, the macabre undertones make The Burbs the cult classic it is today. On a side note, I cite The Burbs as the reason I can’t eat any kind of tinned fish to this day.

While at times a tonally jumpy affair, The Burbs is an underloved movie and is guaranteed to make you feel better about who you live next door to.

Rating B+

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