Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Monday, April 18, 2016

WHY DO I OWN THIS?: Suburban Commando (1991)

I have never watched a professional wrestling match in my life. I’m going to make either myself or my parents sound like elitist scum here but it’s the truth. My mom discouraged me from watching pro-wrestling, considering sports entertainment trashy, stupid and overly low brow. Despite having never laid eyes on a WWF or WCW match, many of my friends have been into wrestling. So I picked up on some stuff. Among them was an admiration for Hulk Hogan. He wasn't just famous once for saying racist stuff on sex tapes. He was, by my measure, the most popular grappler of the early nineties, especially among kids. This popularity was pushed with many toys, a Saturday morning cartoon show, a baffling pasta venture, and a couple of really stupid movies. “Suburban Commando” is one such film, a vehicle for Mr. Terry Bolleo and his golden locks, aimed at the kiddy market. It’s a garbage movie. So why do I own it?

Shep Ramsey is some sort of intergalactic mercenary, an alien super soldier who seeks out villains when they need killin’. His latest enemy is General Suitor, some bad guy who has kidnapped the president of an alien planet. After that mission goes pear-shaped, Ramsey’s space ship runs out of fuel. He has to land on Earth and lay low for a while, should any of his traceable equipment attract further alien menaces. Shep rents an apartment in the home of Charlie Wilcox, a frustrated family man. Naturally, Shep befriends the human family which becomes important when bad guys from outer space, among them General Suitor, track him down.

“Suburban Commando” is a comedy for kids. This is a nice way of saying that its humor is not especially sophisticated. As soon as the Hulkster arrives on Earth, a pattern emerges. A redneck will lock his dog inside a truck on a hot day. Neighborhood kids will be loud. A little girl will cry about her cat being a tree. A mime will exist. Being a space commando, Hogan will respond to these issues in oversized manners. The film returns to this gag repeatedly. Hulk beats up that mime, like, three times. “Suburban Commando” doesn’t have many other comedic ideas. Some of the jokes – such as a pair of tough guys being mistaken for gay or a secretary repeatedly pulling out a gun – are probably inappropriate for the target audiences. Maybe it’s actually a good thing the film sticks to such a simplistic ideas. When “Suburban Commando” strays outside this template, we get gags like Hogan mistaking an “After Burner” arcade game for an actual space ship or the blonde wrestler tripping on a skateboard.

Hulk Hogan’s skills as an actor are pretty limited. He’s okay at grunting in an annoyed manner but he can’t even crack lame one-liners with conviction. Perhaps realizing that its pro-wrestler star could barely carry the movie, “Suburban Commando” has a way overqualified supporting cast. Christopher Lloyd plays Charlie Wilcox while Shelly Duvall plays his wife. Lloyd’s character arc is very simple. The character is pushed around at work by his asshole boss. Weirdly, the film illustrates this struggle by having Charlie pause every morning when people race through a stoplight. Naturally, befriending a space commando gives Wilcox the courage to confront his boss. Lloyd is too much of a professional to be embarrassed by a shitty script. Even when putting on some space armor, flying through the air, and playing second fiddle to a pro-wrestler. Duvall, meanwhile, is wasted in a nothing part.

Did “Suburban Commando” make me laugh at all? Yeah, a little bit. One gag concludes with a cat being tossed through the air. That was sort of funny. Maybe the funniest moment in the film – and it’s a tiny moment – has a big bad alien bounty hunter speaking with a little boy’s voice. As a PG action movie, “Suburban Commando” works slightly better. The opening action sequence, where the Hulkster blasts his way through a space ship, is mildly diverting. The star stacks up a surprisingly high body count for a kid’s movie. At the end, General Suitor returns and reveals himself to be a vaguely Predator-looking monster. That make-up was sort of neat. I even kind of like the battle armor Hogan wears in the film. Even if it does look like laser tag armor.

Why Do I Own This?: I wish I had a good answer to that question. I own “Suburban Commando” on a cheap double feature disc that I think I got out of the dump bin at Best Buy. I rented the film a couple of times as a kid. I figured a smidgen of nostalgia was worth a five dollar price tag. Some times you watch something from your childhood and it holds up alright. Sometimes, you watch something you haven’t seen since you were a kid and come to the conclusion that kids are very easily amused. What’s the second movie on that DVD? “Mr. Nanny.” Even I’m not shameless enough to review that fucking thing. I mean, at least this movie has got some space aliens and laser guns and shit in it… [4/10]

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