12/17/09

Ladies Night Presents Gremlins (1984) Mogwai? or Mogwai Not?

Gremlins (1984) Directed by Joe Dante Wiritten by Chris Columbus. Starring: Hoyt Axton, Zach Galligan, Frances Lee McCain, Pheobe Cates, and Corey Feldman.

Randal Peltzer (Axton) has found the perfect Christmas gift for his bank teller son, Billy (Galligan). It is a unique little critter called a Mogwai. This new pet comes with great responsibility, and three simple rules that must be followed: no bright light (especially sunlight), no water, and never, ever feed it after midnight. When two of these rules are inadvertently broken, all hell breaks loose in the small town of Kingston Falls.




Although I quite like The Gremlins, It was better when it first came out. I was eight then, and the film seems to have lost its magic over the years. This may be because I have grown up, or because I have seen far more monster movies now. Even still, it is a very nostalgic film for me, and Gizmo is just so damned cute.

The first half of the movie is actually a lovely little monster movie. Small green demons with sharp teeth and a taste for deadly mayhem……Well, that’s just plain fun! Unfortunately, the second half of the movie happened. The gremlins went from being kind of scary to silly, and it really changed the mood of the whole movie. It’s sort of disappointing since the beginning was so strong.

There are still some great scenes to see in the film. One is when the gremlins hatch out of the pods. It is a little gross and a little spooky and nicely done. Another fine scene is when mom defends the kitchen. She uses everyday kitchen items to pick off three gremlins in a row without even blinking. Why is it, that mom is bad-ass in the kitchen, but as soon as she leaves, she is helpless? I’m not sure if I should be offended or encouraged!

As I mentioned earlier, the first half of Gremlins was fantastic. Then the need to have a “family film” took over, and things went awry. The gremlins dressed up as old movie characters and performing slap stick bits seems unnecessary. Film references are fine and comedy is fine, but in Gremlins it felt out of place. I really liked the film Gremlins started to be, but in the end, it just didn't hold together. I will give it lots of leeway seeing as Gizmo is just so damned cute.

Mogwai Rating


Have you every stood in front of the candy counter at the drugstore and wanted some gum? It’s not just candy anymore. The universe provides you mint, sugar free, mango madness or even mojito (because who doesn‘t want gum to taste like a mixed drink). The cashier is getting impatient, and it's starting to get embarrassing. A voice deep inside your id calls out. Before you even think about it you grab the multi colored pack on the bottom shelf with the zebra on the front. It will only be later when you‘ve tried a stick that you wonder, “What happen to Fruit Stripe Gum.?”

If you can apply that same feeling to a movie, it would be how adult me views Gremlins. Even as I’m typing this the 9 year old in me is fighting to take the reigns. How can a movie about super cute furry animals that turn into horrible little monsters be bad? On some level I can’t argue with that. Gremlins is a great introduction to the monster genre. It’s fast and fun with just enough grossness to keep any kids attention. If you had a couple of little eyes that needed to be occupied on Christmas night this is the film. Even if it’s an all adult party and say you needed something to throw on in the background, Gremlins would be great. Unfortunately, those are the only two situations I can see appropriate for this beloved movie.

From the very beginning it seems Gremlins is fighting with itself. As a story it’s about respect for nature, as a movie it’s about shoveling as many Hollywood touchstones into the story as it can. In the first 15 minutes story elements from the Wizard of Oz and It’s a Wonderful Life are dropped in to help set the Norman Rockwell-esque backdrop of Kingston Falls. As a children’s movie I applaud this intent. It’s like chopping up carrot and putting them into spaghetti sauce. The problem is I like my cinematic veggies now. As the film moves along, it devolves into a hybrid of a monster movie and Loony Toons, and this is what makes this movie so highly effective for the nine year old me. Adult me just never needed the movie to move into cartoonish silliness. .

The mish-mash of a story aside, it was nice to see a film that looks this good. It would be very easy for a movie starring a stuffed animal to look bad all these years later, but the practical effects really save the day. By keeping the rest of the setting so ordinary, the puppets become part of the world, and it doesn’t hurt that Gizmo belongs right aside Yoda and Kermit for cuteness. He is one of those creations that quickly becomes humanized, and in many ways, Gizmo is the hero of the movie. I can’t say if all the douche bags in high school could multiply and become bigger and stronger, I would not give into peer pressure just for survival’s sake. Gizmo, on the other hand, stays strong. By the time Gizmo comes to save the day in Barbie’s dream car, I cared about him more than Billy. On one hand that is an achievement of the effects. On the other, it’s a failure of the script.

So my walk down memory lane didn’t go as I expected. Maybe I have just lost the innocence it takes to really appreciate Gremlins. I still know next Christmas I’ll try again. Something inside of me wants to.
Mogwai Rating

Stocking Stuffers
- Howie Mandell does the voice for Gizmo and Michael Winslow from Police Academy helped voice the Gremlins.

- The theater that explodes is the same theater that Marty McFly crashes into the front of in
Back To the Future (1985).

- Billy is watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) when he feeds the
Mogwais after midnight.

- At the inventors convention, one can see the machine from The Time Machine (1960) in the background. Also in the scene is Robby the Robot from The Forbidden Planet (1956). Robby speaks a line from his movie.

- There are references to The Howling (1981), another of Dante’s films, through out
Gremlins. Also, Lim McKrell appears in both films as character Lew Landers.

- Hoyt Axton is a songwriter credited with such tunes as “Joy to the World”, “Greenback Dollar”, “The Pusher”, and “A Cat Called Kalamazoo”.



11 comments:

  1. I felt the same as you with this one -- I remember it being really good as a kid, but then a bit of a letdown as an adult. It does carry some interesting memories with it though, ones that I didn’t even know I had until watching it again a few month ago.

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  2. I still think "Gremlins 2" (1990) is even better than the original and one of the most ludicrously under-rated movies of the last 20 years.

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  3. I still love GREMLINS to death, I think it is as equally horrifying as it is funny, and there is no denying that Chris Walas' designs have stood the test of time like you mentioned Bugg. Then again, I still wear Spider-man boxers..

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  4. I have many super heros on my jammies, and if that wrong, I don't want to be right.

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  5. I have never seen Gremlins 2, so I can't really comment on that, but I might like to see it. And, by the way, Bugg didn't write this review! I'm sure it is a common mistake since it is his sight. thanks for all the comments!

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  6. This is one of the few movies I loved as a kid and still love just as much today, mostly because it's much smarter than it initially appears to be and I now get a lot of the jokes I didn't understand when I was a kid (the whole Mogwai stuff, the WW II / Japan links etc.).

    Gremlins 2 is pretty good as well, I prefer the first one (the second one is a bit too OTT), but it's an excellent sequel.

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  7. I have found lots of jokes and references in things I watched as a kid that only come to light with age. Yes, Gremlins was one of them. Many cartoons and other seemingly kid movies have some hidden gems. I gotta see Gremlins 2!

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  8. Indeed, answers my question as to why there were random banners in between the GREMLINS pics lol.. Sorry for the mixup FG! I always thought Ladies Night was in reference to the film picks =D

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  9. I suppose I should introduce the Ladies each time, but I forget since they've been doing it for so long. I'll take credit for their work if they'd like though!

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  10. No problem, Carl. Bugg, I'm sorry but I will have to decline your offer thank you.

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  11. I'm not sure if he wants to take credit for my 2 pages of rambling about kenny loggins

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