Gremlins (1984)

I Make the Illogical Logical.

I don’t know what’s up with Fabio’s obsession with little green men movies recently.  The last movie I reviewed for him was Troll 2 which should have made me ban him from making requests forever, but when that review brought a lot of eyes to my site, I felt like I should give old Fabio another chance.  And sure, I guess you could say I’m to blame for his back to back little green men requests because I chose to do this movie first out of a large list of movies he requested of me, and it’s also true that none of the OTHER movies he requested have little green men in them, but … I lost my train of thought…  Anyways, I picked this movie because it seemed like more fun than the other movies he requested, and I also just found out that I have a very special connection to this movie as it came out exactly one year after I was born.  Will that translate into love for the movie?  Here’s my review of Gremlins, written by Chris Columbus, directed by Joe Dante, and starring Zach Galligan, Howie Mandel, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Frances Lee McCain, Corey Feldman, Frank Welker, Keye Luke, John Louie, Dick Miller, Jackie Joseph, Polly Holliday, and Judge Reinhold.

Inventor Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) visits a small antique store in Chinatown, looking to peddle his wares and possibly find a Christmas present for his son, Billy (Zach Galligan).  He fails to sell his inventions, but he does find something he wants to give to his son.  It’s a tiny, relentlessly adorable creature known as a Mogwai (voiced by Howie Mandel).  But Randall keeps his failure alive by failing to purchase the Mogwai because the shop’s owner, Mr. Wing (Keye Luke), refuses to sell it, saying that too much responsibility comes with owning a Mogwai.  Wing’s grandson (John Louie) gives it to Randall anyway, but warns him that there are three things you have to keep in mind when taking care of a Mogwai: they will die in direct sunlight, never get them wet, and never feed them after midnight.  He gives the Mogwai to Billy and they nickname him Gizmo.  And, since rules were set for the care of Gizmo, you know that it will not be long before they’re all broken.  When Billy accidentally gets the Mogwai wet, it doesn’t divide, it multiplies.  The 5 new Mogwai are much less well-behaved than Gizmo and one of them chews the wires of Billy’s clock.  Not knowing the time, he accidentally feeds the new 5 Mogwai after midnight, causing them to create cocoons and turn into the little green men that Fabio was waiting for.

I would say that Gremlins holds up as a cute movie, but not really a good one.  It’s not bad, but I never really found it that interesting.  It’s pretty much just a monster movie, but one that attempts for comedy that I never really noticed.  I suppose you could call it a dark comedy, but I’ve never really cared for dark comedies.  In the case of this movie, I found a couple of things funny, but mostly just felt like they may have been trying to do something funny but it wasn’t so I didn’t know if it was even supposed to be.  There were also a few parts that I found funny, but I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to.  Like Phoebe Cates’ story about why she hates Christmas because that’s when, in an attempt to surprise her and her family, her father tried to climb down the chimney, got stuck, and died.  Sure, that might not SOUND funny, but I just kept thinking, “Well, technically he DID surprise you, right?”  I also probably wasn’t supposed to find it funny when Judge Reinhold tried to hit on Phoebe Cates by saying that he has cable.  And she DIDN’T give him her vagina right then and there!  THAT’S FUCKIN’ CRAZY!!  The later portion of the movie is where it picks up the speed, but not really the quality.  Sure, it’s when the gremlins finally show up, but it’s also just a bunch of scenes of varying degrees of goofiness of the gremlins causing some minor mayhem.  The ending’s kind of a bummer as well.

I can’t say that I was impressed by any of the performances.  Zach Galligan didn’t impress me, and he was supposed to be our lead character.  There was even at least one point where he pissed me off because he’s supposed to be our hero in the movie, but this douche still intentionally puts water on Gizmo when it seemed to obviously cause it a great deal of pain.  The first time was a legitimate accident, but taking him to the scientist dude and doing it again to show it off was just a dick move.  I also thought his mom, played by Frances Lee McCain, looked like a potential psychopath.  Just something about her face.  It was not lessened when she brutalized three gremlins in her kitchen.  Polly Holliday was cartoonishly evil as Mrs. Deagle, coming off as a live action Cruella DeVille.  Phoebe Cates didn’t do much for me beyond her looks.  Speaking of which, Gizmo is ridiculously adorable.  It doesn’t necessarily hold up in most parts, but hand puppets and animatronics was all they really had at the time, so it was as good as it could be.

Gremlins was not able to reclaim its past glory with me.  I remember thinking it was great when I was much younger, but I don’t think I’ve really seen it in its entirety since then, only catching chunks of it or its sequel on TV occasionally.  Watching it today, none of the comedy works for me anymore, and then it’s just a pretty goofy monster movie.  The performances aren’t particularly great, but Gizmo is still cute as hell.  You’ve probably already seen the movie by now, and if you haven’t I feel like it’s a movie that everyone should have watched at least once, but it’s not the most entertaining thing you can find nowadays.  Worth one watch, but probably not a re-watch.  Gremlins gets “Bye Billy” out of “Get out of my kitchen!”

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