Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gremlins


Yesterday, we saw what happened to Zack Galligan when the Gremlins money finally ran out. He was forced to star in Waxwork Let us see how he earned that cash in the first place.

Gremlins is a classic 80’s movies and one of the favorites from my childhood. Is there anyone my age who did not want a Mogwai > We all swore we could handle the rules of owning one a heck of a lot better than Billy did. Even if they were rather illogical. I cannot feed one after midnight? Okay, but when can I serve him breakfast? When does the prohibition end? What if I cross the International Date Line? How do I clean him if he cannot get wet? You never know what these critters might get into.

Okay, I am anal. I think about these things. Fortunately, I think about them more in 2010 than I did in 1984, so I have a lot of fond nostalgia to make up for some of the logical issues.

Randall Peltzer, played oddly enough by Hoyt Atkins, buys his son a Mogwai, a strange little ball of fur, from a Chinese curiosity shop over the owner’s protests. Billy takes to the critter enthusiastically in spite of being warned of the dare consequences of getting him wet, feeding him after midnight, or exposing him to light.

Naturally, all three of those things happen as the movie progresses. When Gizmo, as Billy names it, gets wet, he spawns a group of hellion Mogwai who wreak mischievous havoc. When they trick Billy into feeding them after midnight by cutting the wire to his clock, they become far more sinister creatures who terrorize the town before being destroyed in the climax.

The film is wonderfully paced. We get to know and like Gizmo enough to want a Mogwai ourselves, but the one accident of him getting wet snowballs the entire story into an increasingly violent black comedy. There is brutal mauling, a microwaved gremlin, decapitated gremlin, and a final confrontation between Billy and a gremlin that used to scare the heck out of me as a tyke. I still jumped at the final bit watching the movie again 26 years later.

The violence prompted the MPAA to revamp its ratings system a couple moths after the film’s release. The revamp lead to the Pg-13 rating, which is an effort to keep kids from seeing unusually violent material. It has worked out really well for them over the years.

I will admit for a movie aimed at a younger audience, the violence is pretty graphic. There is a lot of comedic elements to temper things, such as the stereotypical mean old lady being launched out a window by a malfunctioning stair lift, but the body count and the means by which they are killed is most impressive. I have already mentioned the horrific final confrontation.

Some of the stop motion effects are awfully dated, but Gremlins is still a fun view today. Phoebe Cates in her heyday as Billy’s girlfriend Kate is also a joy to behold. And yes, that is Howie Mandel “voicing” Gizmo. That is also Tom Bergeron as a TV news reporter. Watch for producer Steven Spielberg as a man in an electric wheelchair. But do watch. Gremlins is a sometimes gruesome, but always fun classic

I have to note the allegations of racism that have plqued the film over the years. Some have claimed the final, most evil version of gremlins were a negative steretype of blacks. They ate fried chicken, listened to loud music, break danced, and were generally unruly and perverted--all racost stereotypes of blacks. If one is attwempting to see that sort of thing in it, then yes, it looks that way.

But I highly doubt producers of a big budget film would purposefully do something so malicious that would risk their reputations and box office success. And really, producer Speilberg has created such positive black themed films like The Color Purple and Amistad. I do not believe accusations of racism have any merit.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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