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review added: 6/28/02



The 'Burbs
1989 (1999) - Universal

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The 'Burbs Film Rating: A-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/C-

Specs and Features

102 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, alternate ending, cast & filmmaker bios, production notes, film highlights, theatrical trailer, web links, film-themed menus screens, scene access (18 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

"I-want-to-kill ev-ery-one. Satan-is-good. Satan-is-our-pal."

Once upon a time, there lived a man named Ray (Tom Hanks). Ray was your average work-a-day guy with a wife, a kid, two cars and a house in the 'burbs. One week Ray got a vacation. Instead of going to the lake with his wife Carol (Carrie Fisher) and son Dave (Cory Danzinger), Ray decided to stay around the house watching ball games, drinking beer and hanging out with his oafish, intrusive neighbor Art (Rick Ducommun). Ray and Art are bothered by Ray's new neighbors, the Klopeks - a strange family, consisting of brothers Dr. Klopek (Henry Gibson) and Uncle Reuben (Brother Theodore) and scraggly young man Hans (Courtney Gains). Strange noises emanate from their house all night long and the Klopeks never come outside. Art talks Ray into believing that the Klopeks are evil, and the gateway to Hell resides in their basement. And when an elderly man on the block mysteriously turns up missing, Art and Ray start a mixed up journey to find the man's remains, and to expose the evil Klopeks to the world. Will they find what they're looking for... or discover that they're just a couple of bored busybodies?

The 'Burbs is a hilarious movie, brimming with quirky moments and sidesplitting sight gags. This film comes across like a live-action cartoon, as do many of director Joe Dante's movies. The characters are vivid, with only the female leads, Carrie Fisher and Wendy Schaal, providing the voice of reason to out-of-control situations. The movie works because Dante's direction is precise, with great attention to everything from the dominant action of the scene to the most subtle background detail/humor. The perfect timing and presence added by each and every actor contributes a great deal as well - there are no weak performances. Another major plus for this film is Jerry Goldsmith's incredibly clever score. Goldsmith effectively uses sound effects and visual cues to add almost as much humor as the script. He even parodies himself by resurrecting his famous theme to Patton in the character introduction of consummate military man neighbor, Rumsfield (Bruce Dern).

The picture quality of this 1.85:1 anamorphically enhanced DVD is very good, with pleasing colors and a fine level of detail. There are minor amounts of noise apparent in the video, making the transfer look somewhat dated. Compression artifacting does rear its ugly head occasionally, and darker scenes look a bit muddy, but the overall video presentation is good. The Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack is a kick. The rear channels are used effectively for music and sound effects, and provide an overall pleasing ambience. Like the video, the audio is a bit dated and a little strident in areas. But the fidelity is generally pleasing and it's a great example of how a 2.0 soundtrack can still sound good in the age of 5.1.

The extras on this disc are fairly limited. An alternate ending appears here that's not listed on the box, but the less that's said about that, the better. You'll also find the Universal requisites in the form of production notes, cast and filmmakers' highlights and a theatrical trailer.

The 'Burbs is a funny, funny movie. It's definitely a crowd-pleaser - a flick that's fun to watch with a group of people. The performances are superb and Joe Dante does a wonderful job directing. The disc might not provide a perfect, reference-caliber demonstration of your system, but it's more than good enough for the scope of the film.

Sleep tight!

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com




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