Wednesday, October 24, 2007

dreamrot's favorite movies: The Burbs

If you asked 100 people in their twenties what their favorite movie to come out of the 1980s was, you probably get a lot of different answers. There's a lot of love for movies like The Goonies and The Dark Crystal. Labyrinth would probably come up as well as The Empire Strikes Back, maybe even Return of the Jedi. In other words, the movies we watched as children. And you'd get all the bullshit nostalgia and sentimentality to go with it. I'm sorry, but a lot of the movies that people still seem to love from the eighties just aren't that good.

If you asked me, however, you wouldn't get any of those answers. I'd tell you flat out that my favorite might be The Burbs. In fact, it might just be one of my favorite movies ever made.

The Burbs is, at it's heart, the quintessential suburban story. Mayfield Place is meant to be Anyplace, USA. When people think of the suburbs, of America, Mayfield Place is that image. Meticulously cared for lawns. Clean and quiet neighborhoods. Eccentric neighbors who can't mind their own business. If ever there was an AMERICAN image, this is it.

You can see, through the movie, the prevailing attitude of our suburbanites, "The Klopecks are different. They aren't one of us. They must be evil. Look at their lawn. They don't come out during the day. They're so different than us. We have to do something about them."

Of course, the great irony is that it turns out that the neighborhood is right and that the Klopecks ARE indeed evil. That's just one of the things that makes the movie so great. We spend almost the entire movie watching the neighborhood's paranoid reaction to the new neighbors.

Sure, the Klopecks aren't the Cleavers. Is that so terrible though? It's at the end, that Tom Hanks' character Ray, finally learns that it's okay that they're different and that the neighborhood really is just paranoid. It's after destroying the Klopeck's home that Ray sees just how crazy they'd all become. And of course it's at this point as well that we see that the Klopecks managed to fool everyone.

That illusion is shattered however when we see the inside of the Klopeck's trunk. This, naturally, leads one to wonder what kind of fool drives around with skeletal remains in their trunk? Aren't you just ASKING for trouble at that point? I mean, even a busted tail light could get you pulled over and then, catch a cop on a bad day and you can get searched if he can find even the least bit of 'probable cause'.

That's not the only question that is raised by The Burbs. The other question is 'Doesn't anyone have a fucking job to go to?' Ok, I might believe that Rumsfield and Walter are retired. And we know that Ray is on vacation. Ricky is a kid, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. What about Art? What the hell does he do? Other than mooch off of his neighbors that is... His wife is out of town and all he does it talk to the neighbors. Is he on vacation too? Was he laid off? Is he unemployed?

The movie is also the good kind of horror comedy. The kind that works. The kind that still manages to be unsettling.

Carol: Ray isn't coming out of his room until he resembles the man I married.
Art: Carol, We don't have that kind of time.

Ray: I've never seen that. I've never seen anybody drive their garbage down to the street and bang the hell out of it with a stick. I-I've never seen that.

The lines, even out of the context of the movie are great, and the humor is obvious. But, what makes the movies so unsettling is how accuratley it sums up the American experience more than any other movie I can think of. This movie is us in a nutshell. Every cliche. Every bit of xenophobia. It's all there. Sure, the Klopecks turn out to be the bad guys we all thought they were, but we only find that out by accident, by coincidence. For all of the neighborhood's spying and investigating they weren't able to turn up the smallest bit of evidence. They dug up the Klopeck's yard and burned down their house and couldn't prove a goddamn thing for all their efforts. They were the monsters, not the Klopecks.