Picks and Pans Review: The 'burbs

updated 03/06/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/06/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

Okay, let's check the old laugh-o-meter. Hmmm, looks like a reading of 1.73 signs of amusement per viewer, per showing. Well, how about the pace-o-graph? It's hovering between glacial and Arctic ice field. Maybe the relevance scale? Oops, the needle's not even budging. What is this anyway? Directed by Joe {Inner-space) Dante, The 'Burbs puts Tom Hanks, Carrie Fisher, Bruce Dern, Wendy (It's a Living) Schaal, Corey (License to Drive) Feldman and comic Rick Ducommun in an unnamed suburb where they try to work up a frenzy over some spooky new neighbors. Mostly the stars look like appealing people waiting around for a neat thing to happen. Screenwriter Dana (Going Berserk) Olsen's degree of intellect and sophistication is suggested by his own summary of the movie: "Ozzie and Harriet meet Charles Manson." The punch lines run to such things as, "I was 18 months in the bush, and I can snap your neck in a heartbeat." There is no serious effort to send up the eminently satirizable life of the American suburbs, and this lampooning of horror films (and maybe the old Twilight Zone) doesn't go far. Any episode of The Addams Family or The Ministers is sharper and funnier, not to mention an hour shorter. (PG)

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