The Suburbans

Reviewed by Chris Galloway


Columbia-TriStar, widescreen 1.85:1/16x9, languages: English DD 5.1 [CC] & Dolby Surround, subtitles: English, single side-single layer, 28 chapters, production notes, talent files, theatrical trailer, rated R, 87 min., $24.95, street date 2/29/2000.

Studio Line

Directed by Donal Lardner Ward. Starring Robert Loggia, Bridgette Wilson, Ben Stiller, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Amy Brenneman, Will Ferrell, Craig Bierko, Jerry Stiller, Donal Lardner Ward, Tony Guma.

There goes the nieghborhood when The Suburbans, the height of cool back in the day, are rediscovered by an overly eager fan turned high-powered music executive (Jennifer Love Hewitt) determined to stage the comeback of her favorite eighties band. Suddenly, four regular guys (Craig Bierlo, Will Ferrel, Tony Guma, and Donal Lardner Ward) find themselves faced with the possibility of recapturing the fifteen minutes of fame they lost eighteen years ago.

But when their fantasy of rock stardom is replaced with the reality of humiliating MTV interviews, an ill-fated video and an impossible lack of talent The Suburbans must decide whether to go down quietly as one-hit wonders, or squeeze the retro trend 'till it squeaks!

Picture/Sound/Extras (A/B+/D+)

There are only 2 things worth watching this movie for and they both belong to Jennifer Love Hewitt. I've read a lot of reviews for Hewitt films and every critic (I've even caught Roger Ebert doing it) always comment on her upper qualities. While I wanted to avoid being as crude as that for this review because I really do hate saying stuff like that and I actually want to look at the film and the actual performances, alas it isn't going to happen. I was only able to make it through this utterly painful film because of those and a couple tease shots of her body. Thank you for wearing a G-string!

Oh man! That was uncalled for.

The Suburbans is an incredibly unfunny 80's music parody. I was so absolutely shocked as to how unfunny it was. No one, and I mean NO ONE can mess up on parodying 80's music. There's just too much to make fun of. But this film misses every chance in doing so and when it does poke fun every joke falls into painful torture. They even miss a chance of making fun of A Flock of Seagulls! Here is a list I actually made during the movie to help with my boredom:

Actual Laughs: 3
Chuckles: 2
Smiles: 2
Sighs: 17
Times I wanted to stick my head in the oven (and thankfully I don't have one): 28
Approximate Running Time: 87 min
Actual Running Time: 81 min

The movie starts very promising with stock footage of an 80's band called the Suburbans doing an interview with Dick Clark. One of the chuckles occurs here. We then flash forward to now and one of them, the character played by Will Ferrell, is getting married. And we get to see every group member in their post-stardom slump. A coincidence occurs and a top dog of a record company named Cate (Hewitt) is at the wedding and makes a proposal to the band for a comeback. And they all accept.

Actual laugh number one occurs here where we get to meet the two producers played by Ben Stiller and his dad Jerry Stiller. Here I actually laughed and it helped me to appreciate Ben Stiller a little more. I should have savored the moment because I wouldn't laugh again until the two showed up once more 30 minutes later.

Many things ensue including the dramas of the group members' relationships and dealing with the hope of fame. And the lead singer Danny played by Donal Lardner Ward must also deal with the fact that Cate has a huge crush on him (and what a coincidence that he also wrote and directed the film, and admit I'd be doing the same thing if I had Hewitt in a movie). This stuff is all tedious and predictable, all the characters paint-by-number. When we learn that Danny was once an alcoholic it will be no surprise that a.) His girlfriend (Amy Brenneman) will leave him and b.) He will go on a bender.

The performances are all fairly bland. The usually dependable Will Ferrell has nothing to offer as he is hardly in it (he does offer laugh number 3 when he tells Kurt Loder to shut-up). Ben and Jerry Stiller offer the only real laughs and are fun to watch. Hewitt is also given very little to do.

Although I think Hewitt is attractive I avoid her movies like the plague and I also have never seen an episode of Party Of Five. I know that if she is in it then the movie is going to be a waste, which is unfortunate. In all the movies she's been in she has obviously only been cast for two very obvious reasons. I have unfortunately seen the Last Summer flicks and parts of Can't Hardly Wait (against my will) and she isn't given much to do. She doesn't stand out (not counting the physical aspects) and gets 1-dimensinal roles. She's cast to get my horny friends into the theater.

And this flick is no different. But yet again, like the other films I've seen her in, there is a spark that wants to get out. It annoys me so much when I see her in a film because I can tell she wants to do more but is held back by her weak characters. There's something there other than her chest and I hope one day someone will cast her for that and actually let her bring it out. Until then I will continue to avoid her movies like the Black Death.

But still, for all you guys that want a better look at Hewitt that's all I can recommend this dud for (but don't expect any real nudity because it "ain't happenin'"). It's incredibly contrived, horrifically unfunny and just plain out boring. A true pain to sit through from start to end.

Columbia Tri-Star manages to release a fairly nice DVD for one of the biggest bombs of last year (and was actually much deserved). The film is presented on a single-sided, single-layered disc in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It has also been enhanced for widescreen TVs. And odd, they decided not to release it with an optional standard ratio option. They've been doing that more for some reason.

The picture is actually quite good. The only problem it suffers from is the occasional print flaw. Colors are very strong and bold, no smearing or over saturation. The test of the colors is presented in the outfits that the band members wear. The blues are very strong, especially on Hewitt, making her look even better. Flesh tones are well presented and look very accurate.

Black levels are dead on making for some nice shadows and night scenes. I noticed no incidents of grain, shimmering, chroma or moiré effects. This is actually an outstanding picture transfer, another check for Sony.

The 5.1 Dolby Surround track is also very good. It's not a loud movie but it uses everything to a nice little effect. Music scenes are what use the soundstage closest to its fullest and there are some very nice ambience sounds all the way through from an outside wedding to a club. I actually don't remember a moment where the surrounds weren't really used. Quite good for what it is.

And for extras you get next to nothing. You get 4 trailers, one for this as well as other Hewitt flicks like the I Know What You Did Last Summer movies and Can't Hardly Wait. There are also your usual very uninformative cast and crew bios for a few people involved with the film and there is also the booklet. That's it.

In closing, this is one of the worst movies I've seen so far this year with a better DVD than it deserves. Very unfunny, very painful and aggravating, I wouldn't wish this movie on any of my enemies. Only the two Stillers come out looking good. Hewitt has another X on her list of films. While I actually feel bad for only focusing on her physical attributes, I can't help it. This is all she offers in the movie thanks to poor writing. But at least she gives us some very nice tease shots, and does it well.

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