Gremlins (1984, Joe Dante)

Okay, I don’t get it. How did Zach Galligan not succeed as an actor? He’s not astoundingly good or anything, but he’s incredibly likable. From his filmography, it looks like he just disappeared… Anyway, I watched Gremlins because I haven’t seen it in ten years and, I don’t know, I thought Blockbuster was sending me the special edition (they didn’t).

What’s incredible about Gremlins is that it’s a special effects spectacular, back when they knew how to make them. I watched this film and constantly wondered how they did the models, the moving faces, the puppetry (I assume it was puppetry). That feeling is incredible today, because I never feel it anymore. At best, it’s something like Hellboy–watching the ‘making of’ documentary and being surprised they didn’t just use CG.

But Gremlins isn’t just odd because it’s visually interesting, it’s also interesting–and amusing–because they made it to amuse the audience. There is no reality in the storytelling–the Gremlins know pop culture references within an hour of birth–and once you let it go, Gremlins is amusing. A lot of it doesn’t work. For example, the connection between “gremlins” in machines to the Gremlins of the title, that’s all forced. It’s not funny enough either, though I saw the second one before the first, and I think they got that one right.

Oh, and I love how all the characters seem to meet just before the film begins. Presumably, since it’s a small town, everyone would know how Phoebe Cates’ dad died. No one does. It just doesn’t work that there’d be these young stars stuck there with no other young people around… the small size of the town really limited that aspect of the film’s “reality.” It gets the quotation marks because I’m not sure they cared about reality too much. You can’t force a purely amusing film–Gremlins writer Chris Columbus has been trying to do that again for twenty years–so it’s an admirable feat.

I’m trying to think if there’s anything I forgot… Hoyt Axton is really good… I think that’s it….

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Joe Dante; written by Chris Columbus; director of photography, John Hora; edited by Tina Hirsch; music by Jerry Goldsmith; production designer, James H. Spencer; produced by Michael Finnell; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Zach Galligan (Billy), Phoebe Cates (Kate), Hoyt Axton (Rand Peltzer), Frances Lee McCain (Lynn Peltzer), Polly Holliday (Mrs. Deagle), Keye Luke (Grandfather), John Louie (Chinese Boy), Dick Miller (Mr. Futterman), Jackie Joseph (Mrs. Futterman), Scott Brady (Sheriff Frank), Harry Carey Jr. (Mr. Anderson), Corey Feldman (Pete), Glynn Turman (Roy Hanson) and Judge Reinhold (Gerald).


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