Tom Hanks Project – “The Burbs” Review

28 Jan

the-burbs-poster“This movie is bullshit.” That was Caitlin’s four word review of this late 80’s misguided Hanks film*. It had enough charms (Hello, Bruce Dern!) to avoid being one of our absolute least favorites, but this is not a movie we will ever revisit. As wacky as it is, it’s always wildly predictable, and downright annoying. A pretty unlikable couple** lives on a cul-de-sac with a bunch of weirdos highlighted by the ultimate group of weirdos who seem like they’re up to no good. It’s rare to have such an unlikable Hanks that’s also unfunny and pretty unenjoyable on every level, but that’s what we get in “The Burbs.”

*I can be so charmingly eloquent when I want to be, no?

**The worst couple. Honestly.


The plot is too dumb to recap, so I’d just like to take this opportunity to say that the only thing that kept us from really hating this movie was Bruce Dern*. He plays the ex-Army wildcard neighbor and his antics had us legitimately laughing throughout. Maybe part of it is how much we loved him in “Nebraska,” but he was the only one who really made the most of his role**. Corey Feldman sure didn’t. We also loved a zoom-in on a dog’s face. Yes, there was really that little to like about “The Burbs.”

*Bruce Dern is a GOD. He’s one part Doc from Back to the Future, one part Kramer from Seinfeld in this ridiculous film and he owns it.

**Since we had just seen Nebraska, Dern was on my mind when I saw his name flash in the opening credits. I turned to Zack and went, “BRUCE DERN is in this film?!” and boy, are we glad he was.

burbs666Since Zack couldn’t bring himself to, I feel a duty to explain what this film is about because otherwise you might be tempted to watch it. Basically, a group of neighbors live in the suburbs and a weird family moves in. The neighbors start to suspect that the weird family is a bunch of murderers, so they go through all these antics to spy on them and try to prove it. At the end of the day, Hanks blows up their house, feels really bad about it, is looking at jail time…and then we discover that yes, all along, the family was a bunch of murderers so Hanks is free to go on a vacation with his wife who he doesn’t even care for that much the end. Also Bruce Dern keeps sliding around in dog poop.


This is the first Hanks movie where he’s a father, and he’s not much of one. His kid’s annoying and unnecessary to the film and they have very little interaction. This did make me think: Hanks as a father isn’t really explored too much in his career, unless I’m forgetting a few. He’s a dad in Apollo 13, but he’s obviously in space most of the time. There’s Forrest Jr. in Gump, which is a sweet connection, but only at the end of the film. I guess the best one is “Sleepless in Seattle,” since finding happiness with his child is the driving story of the movie, but in most other roles, he’s assumed to be a father, but rarely shown interacting with his kids. So bizarre. He does it so well in the few opportunities he’s had, you’d think fatherhood would be more of a theme in the last 20 years of “adult” hanks once he got through the mid 80s bachelor Hanks. And now he’s basically grandfather aged. Seems like a missed opportunity. When Zack pointed this out, I fought off the idea at first because it just didn’t make sense. Of COURSE Hanks must have played a father in multiple films, I thought to myself! Maybe that’s why I always said I wanted him to be my cool uncle, and not my dad. Also my dad’s just the coolest and I would never replace him, not even for Hanks.

Laugh Out Loud: Zack: 45 Caitlin: 33 There are some laughs in this one. We laughed our asses off at the zoom in on the dog’s face and we really did enjoy Bruce Dern’s work. This was another one of those where we laughed at the movie more than with it. It’s passably funny at times, but not an effective comedy overall. The zoom-in on the dog face was absolutely genius. It’s the best part of the film outside of Dern, and I want to use it in every movie forever now. Even these misguided fools who love the whole film call it out as one of the best parts.

Cry: Both: Zero. 

Cover Eyes: Zack: 0 Caitlin: 2 Caitlin covered her eyes at a movie within the movie chainsaw horror scene and when Hanks eats a sardine sandwich prepared by the creepy neighbors. The movie-within-the-movie looked like it was headed in a bloody direction. The sardine scene was just nauseating. Really, I should have covered my ears for that one, though, because they really put in a horrific slurp-crunch situation and…actually let’s stop describing this now.


Romantic Interest: Zack: 3 Caitlin: 0 Hanks and Fisher really seem to hate each other in this one. She wants to go to the lake on their vacation. He wants to sit around and drink beer. She blows off his complaints about the neighbors and he’s no peach to live with either. They’re completely unsupportive of each other and have very little chemistry. The “happy ending” of them coming together didn’t resonate. This is, hands down, the worst relationship I’ve ever seen in a film. And it’s with two of my favorite people!! Even when they’re trying to be loving they just seem like they despise each other. She picks on him, he is an asshole to her. It’s bad, bad, bad, from A-Z and I in no way rooted for them or hoped it would work out or anything.

Hanks: Zack: 4 Caitlin: 4 Tom phoned this one in. He’s not particularly funny, doesn’t develop much rapport with any of his fellow actors and any replacement male lead would have made this the same, unlikable movie. It’s tough, because I do think a lot of the qualities Hanks had were ones his character was supposed to possess. He was supposed to be the straight-man to everyone’s clown, and he was supposed to doubt the theories his neighbors were coming up with, but not TOO much…the character of Ray Peterson was just god-awful, but Hanks didn’t add anything to it to make it enjoyable.

Movie: Zack: 3.5 Caitlin: 3.1 It’s more watchable than Dragnet due to Bruce Dern and occasional funny parts, but this is not a movie I ever want to watch again. We had to pause it several times to break for hot cocoa or do anything else to distract ourselves from this throwaway movie. Don’t watch it unless you’re a Hanks completist. I came very, very close to putting this in a four-way tie for last place, but it gets bumped just above Dragnet, Bachelor Party and Volunteers because of Bruce Dern and that amazing dog close-up. The cast was there. How did this fail so horribly? I’d argue, from not really knowing if it wanted to be a spoof of a horror, a comedic horror, a comedy, or anything really at all.


One Response to “Tom Hanks Project – “The Burbs” Review”


  1. Introduction to The Tom Hanks Project | rockloveaustin - January 28, 2014

    […] The ‘Burbs – 1989 – Review […]

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