Monday, January 26, 2009


Tonight at the pub, it came to the attention of Will and Matt and myself that none of us had ever seen Gremlins. I'm a big fan of Steven Spielberg, and so I'm always glad to find these "lesser" projects in the Spielberg canon. Everyone gets a pass on some things, but after this summer's debacle known as the final installment in the Indiana Jones cycle, I've been looking for some sense of redemption. Sure, Munich, Schindler's List, and Saving Private Ryan all built up enough capital to cover for the sins of Harrison Ford's last hurrah, but I digress.

Did anyone else remember that it was Spielberg that produced Gremlins?

"What's in the box, Dad? I hear it moving around."

"It's a plot device, son."

After watching this gem of my childhood, I may have to reconsider my Christmas top 5. Maybe. I'll sleep on it a few times. But seriously: can you imagine buying something called a Mogwai for your kid for Christmas? It's like if you actually found a unicorn, and bought it for your kids. Sure, it'd be mildly cool....okay, it'd be really awesome...but you'd never be able to tell anyone about it. It's the Christmas present that has to stay perpetually wrapped, which would just be hell. Surprisingly, though, everyone's remarkably cool with this strange animal that's the cinematic equivalent of a Tribble.

A few thoughts:

1) Why doesn't Gizmo know Chinese? He picks up English amazingly quickly, calling out "bright light!" almost from the first moment. Why doesn't he spout Mandarin? Kevin? Thoughts?

2) What's with the heavy--almost OPPRESSIVE--use of the synthesizer in this movie? It goes so far as to have Gizmo playing on a Speak-N-Spell songmaker.

3) Corey Feldman is, once again, a loveable child comic device.

4) Malfunctioning inventions are almost always funny. Exhibit A: Home Alone.

5) Judge Reinhold, once again, is a douche bag.

6) This is an exceedingly dark comedy. This is before the days of the real dark comedies (The Royal Tennenbaums) , but still, it makes otherworldly mayhem and chaos seem, well, just downright adorable. It's the perpetual genius of the visual gag, I think.

7) Stripe's bad demeanor is telegraphed from the start, despite the fact that he looks just like Gizmo. Eyebrows tell you everything with the animated set.

4 Buckets of Water out of 5.


Anonymous said...

This was a Joe Dante masterpiece(Spielberg was only Exec. Producer).

You didn't do full justice to the pathos of the Phoebe Cates monologue. Hard to believe that got past the suits. It gives the darkest edge to an already dark comedy. I wonder what the body count is in this?..and not just of faceless extras, but of poor misunderstood characters like Miss Deagle (R.I.P. to her and her escalator chair). -DW

Anonymous said...

Gremlins terrified me when I was a kid, but, then again, I couldn't handle even the tamest of suspense and horror films and shows. Lou Ferrigno's Incredible Hulk reduced me to frightened wailing. However, I do remember watching Gremlins 2: The New Batch before I ever actually sat through the original. I gotta say, for such a ridiculous cinematic pustule, I still enjoy Gizmo's turn as a Rambo complete with his offing the Mutant Spider Gremlin with a bow and flaming arrow. As far as the original is concerned, the only thing I ever wondered was how early could a Mogwai eat breakfast? I mean, what if he had to get up at 4 AM for an early flight back to Manhattan? Could he have a muffin or a breakfast Hot Pocket, or would that still be considered "after midnight"?

the hamster said...

let me just say, before tackling dr. werntz's beautific exegesis, that wonderstuff has brought up an interesting point: when does "before" midnight begin? i'll be chewing on that all day.

dr. werntz - when i planned my christmas list, the one i never posted, i had GREMLINS in the top spot for favorite christmas flicks. it's a gem. total gem. i remember seeing this in the theatre when i was a kid. there were tikes all around me screaming their heads off. i remember a few moms voicing their tensions when the one gremlin gets billy's mom in the kitchen. cheers to this film for changing the way i have considered microwave ovens ever since. just ask the wife, i refuse to nuke.

as for your question: i believe that gizmo was bilingual. if you will remember, the china shop keeper was bilingual. and grumpy. i guarantee gizmo could have gotten along just fine stranded in beijing. as it were, he landed himself a sweet pad in the burbs. thus we have "bye, billy" as opposed to "zai zhing, wee-dong."

pheobe cates is real bad cute.

tratorm - the moment when a mogwai transforms into a little green mofo

myleswerntz said...

i had forgotten how hot Phoebe Cates was. Her self-disclosure about Christmas was macabre and sublime.

the hamster said...

both of my grandfathers died before i was born. i never met either of them. and as silly as the pheobe cates' story sounds to us now, i found it so moving as a child that i told it to a few people as my own. no one ever called me on it, but i vividly remember receiving less than sympathetic eyes in return for my grandpa-died-in-the-christmas-chimney story. it just sounded so good when i was seven.

bilioc - the flavor of a bile heavy belch

Sean said...

I enjoyed this film as a child. I am not sure I would be willing to sit through it as an adult.

Wow, I guess I finally grew up for the worse.

But seriously, I have no faith in my ability to enjoy this story without being between the ages of seven and ten and it being sometime around 1987-1990.

Sean said...

Angela and I have been working our way through Seinfeld. Judge Reinhold makes an appearance as a close-talker. He is very sweet in the episode, going so far as to spend the day with Jerry's parents. Twice.

the hamster said...

sean - when i was a child, i talked like a child, i acted like a child, i fell for pheobe cates' melodramatic stories; but when i became a man i put childish talk and activities and films away, and i fell for pheobe cates.

John Barber said...

Interesting sidebar: I met Judge Reinhold once. I was working in the music department at Barnes & Noble in Little Rock and he came in wife his brand new (and extremely gorgeous) wife. He asked me what CD was playing over the speakers. I told him what it was, looked it up, and apologetically told him that we were out, and the copy that was playing was the last one in the store. He asked if he could pay for that one, even though it was already opened. I said, no, unfortunately, he couldn't. Then I took it out of the player, handed it to him, told him how much I liked Vice Versa, and said it was on the house.

True story. Nice guy.

unlemil: How a Gremlin begins to feel after his 11:59 snack. As in "I probably shouldn't have had that bagel, but I didn't want to go all night on an empty stomach. I feel totally unlemil now."

the hamster said...

john - you just won commenter of the day for two reasons:

a) the totally pimp judge reinhold story

b) the usage of "unlemil" in a sentence. beautific, broseph.

travino - the national wine of count dracula, as in "i don't feel like hunting translyvanian peasants tonight, dearie. just pour me a spell of travino."