A dramatic journey through the dreck we all know and love
Written By Zak Attack
Why Did I Watch This?
Similar to last week, Suburban Commando is a movie I vaguely remember watching on VHS when I was a young lad. However, due to my age when this movie came out (I was probably 6 or 7) I don’t remember a thing about it except for scenes from the trailer that aired incessantly at the time. In fact, I’m only about 70% sure I have seen it before… which should have told me something about its staying power before deciding to re-watch it.
As with many of the terrible movies in my collection, I got this for super cheap on Amazon. This particular movie came in an oddly enticing 2-pack with the other Hogan vehicle, Mr. Nanny, for about $6. Which means I will probably review that film for this feature… eventually.
How Did I Watch It?
With my girlfriend and a few beers. Unfortunately it was late and she went to bed about 15 minutes into it.
What Did I Watch?
The oddly named Shep Ramsay (Hulk Hogan) is an interstellar superhero who works for some sort of interstellar superhero committee and saves planets across the universe. We meet this character during a mission to foil the evil plans of General Suitor (who inexplicably turns into a monster, but only when he’s injured). After being called out for letting a world leader get blown up during said mission, he throws a tantrum in his spaceship slamming his fist on the dash. As a result of his stupidity, the power on the ship goes out, forcing him to land somewhere and wait six weeks until it reboots. Well at least they say that, but at one point Ramsay and Christopher Lloyd’s character need to steal some crystals to power it. Or something like that. I don’t really know or care. There were some strange logic jumps going on in this one.
Anyway, Ramsay ends up renting the spare apartment in the backyard of beaten-down working man Charlie Wilcox (Christopher Lloyd) and his supportive wife Jenny (Shelly Duvall, in a thankless role). There are two Wilcox children in the picture, but they are completely worthless and barely in the film at all. After 45 grueling minutes of “hilarious” misunderstandings utilizing “Aren’t the 90’s wacky?!” punchlines, some bounty hunters finally arrive in order to generate some much-needed conflict. Seriously though, only about 20% of the movie involves fighting the villains or figuring out how to fix Ramsay’s spaceship. The remaining 80% is Hulk Hogan emoting his way through superhero-ing by way of lame, suburban wish fulfillment. Most of the movie plays as-if watching something dreamt up by some of the hackiest of uncool, joke-telling dads of 1991.
- Are teens driving too fast in the neighborhood? Destroy their car!
- Is there an annoying traffic light on your morning commute? Blow it up!
- Do you have an asshole boss taking advantage of your work? Yell at him!
- What’s the deal with skateboards and mimes?!
The heroes and the bad guys confront each other, General Suitor (who survived his previous encounter with Ramsay) lands on Earth to cause a ruckus, and Wilcox becomes emboldened enough to stop letting suburban life hammer him down. Movie ends.
When Suburban Commando isn’t griping about daily annoyances or showing Hulk Hogan try to skateboard, it is still not particularly good. The “adult” humor about work, family, and minor inconveniences really has no place in a film that’s so strongly geared towards kids. However, there are little moments of cartoon absurdity that point to the movie that could have been. The movie is actually funny when the bounty hunter played by Mark “The Undertaker” Calaway is revealed to have the voice of a 4 year-old. The silliness kind of works when the other bounty hunter’s rocket boots send him throttling through a wall that leaves a man-shaped hole or when Shep Ramsay accidentally sends an 8 year-old girl (Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss!) hurtling through the air. When utilizing people famous for overacting (whether it’s Christopher Lloyd and Larry Miller doing it well or Hulk Hogan doing it very poorly), absurdity seems to be the most effective style of humor. Unfortunately, there was not nearly enough of that in this one.
Hulk Hogan’s acting is especially cringeworthy. The way he mugs for the camera is distracting, even in a low-aiming movie clearly targeted at kids. General Suitor and most of the child actors tend to be pretty terrible as well. Remarkably though, everyone else seems to know what kind of movie they’re in and how to treat it. They sell their roles with a strength of craft that the film doesn’t deserve.
The worst types of bad movies typically were intended to be comedies. If a horror fails to be horrifying, it can still be interesting. If a drama fails to be dramatic, it can still be unintentionally hilarious. However, if a comedy isn’t comedic there’s nowhere else for it to go. At least 95% of the jokes fall flat because of poor pacing/context with the rest of the film, Hogan’s tone-deaf delivery, or just straight up being extremely weak jokes.
Also, the soundtrack made no sense whatsoever. Over the opening credits we’re treated to the introduction to Christopher Lloyd’s family while an awkward rap song by someone named J-Rock plays over the dialogue. It’s one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard.
There’s also a puzzling reggae song that plays as Hogan’s character walks through suburbia… because reggae is the voice of provincial America for some reason.
Was It Worth Watching?
The lack of focus on its admittedly weak story and all the actors’ propensity to go for broke make it clear that Suburban Commando is a full-on children’s movie. Frankly, there isn’t really anything to offer adult audiences, despite its efforts at lampooning modern times. The juvenile spirit and worldview of the movie doesn’t make any attempt to mature when tackling more “grown-up jokes”.
That being said, unlike many other movies of my generation’s youth, I don’t plan on showing it to any potential children of my own either.
Zak has been an avid movie fan since his mom made him cover his eyes before the “icicle stabbing” when they rented Die Hard 2 in 2nd grade. As a consolation, in 6th grade he got straight A’s so she gave him the entire Die Hard trilogy on VHS. The rest is history.
All images courtesy of New Line Cinema