Promising a Spinal Tap-like look at an erstwhile 80s New Wave band reuniting for one last chance at glory, The Suburbans instead delivers a mediocre ensemble comedy-drama thats not particularly funny, involving or even nostalgic. Disappointingly flat feature from actor-turned-writer-direc-tor Donal Lardner Ward looks to scare up just mild theatrical action, followed by decent ancillary prospects.

Promising a Spinal Tap-like look at an erstwhile 80s New Wave band reuniting for one last chance at glory, The Suburbans instead delivers a mediocre ensemble comedy-drama thats not particularly funny, involving or even nostalgic. Disappointingly flat feature from actor-turned-writer-direc-tor Donal Lardner Ward looks to scare up just mild theatrical action, followed by decent ancillary prospects.

Opening flashes back to 1981, when big-haired New Wave popsters the Suburbans — Danny (Ward), Rory (Tony Guma), Mitch (Craig Bierko) and Gil (Will Ferrell) — hit the top of their fame with a guest spot on American Bandstand. But the group turned out to be one-hit wonders, and the members each frittered away fortune as well as fame before settling into less-than-satisfying adult careers.

Turning up for Gils wedding, however, the quartet stages an impromptu reunion at the reception. Also in attendance, by chance, is slinky young record company talent scout Kate (Jennifer Love Hewitt), who confesses the Suburbans had been her childhood faves. Before they know whats hit them, the pushing-40 foursome are gearing up for — hopefully — a second world domination.

The parodic possibilities of MTV, 90s corporate sponsorship of rock, early 80 s New Wave silliness, etc., are pretty rich, but helmer Ward and co-scenarist Guma only get the meekest mileage from them. Likewise, flashes of slapstick are wholly uninspired. Worse, the films real plot engine isnt music biz satire at all, but rather the tedious marital strife between Danny and a loving wife (Amy Brenneman) who just wants him to settle down and help her raise some kids.

Hewitt doesnt evince much talent for comedy; other players who assuredly do (notably Saturday Night Lives Ferrell) are given very little to work with. The one bright spot is a couple scenes featuring Jerry and Ben Stiller as manic father-and-son music moguls. One suspects the Stillers worked up their own material here, and its on a level that The Suburbans might have reached for more often. A few incidental chuckles aside, pic just doesnt have much comic verve or inventiveness.

Lensing, like tech contribs on the whole, is slick but routine. Soundtrack is predictably crammed with early 80s radio faves by the Romantics, Romeo Void, etc., suggesting soundtrack sales may well outperform the film itself. Print screened at Sundance preem lacked a final credit crawl and some minor tech finishing touches.

The Suburbans

(Comedy)

Production

An Ignite Entertainment production in association with Motion Picture Corp. of America. Produced by Michael Burns, Brad Krevoy, J.J. Abrams and Leanna Creel. Executive producers, Marc Butan, Tim Foster, George Linardos. Co-producer , John Saviano. Directed by Donal Lardner Ward. Screenplay, Lardner Ward, Tony Guma. Camera (color), Michael Barrett; editor, Kathryn Himoff; music, Robbie Kondor; music supervisors, Lynn Geller, Sue Jacobs; production designer, Susan Bolles; set decorator, Catherine Pierson; costume designer, Pamela Withers; casting, Sheila Jaffe, Georganne Walken. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Premieres), Jan. 25 , 1999. Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Mitch ..... Craig Bierko Grace ..... Amy Brenneman Magee ..... Antonio Fargas Gil ..... Will Ferrell Rory ..... Tony Guma Cate ..... Jennifer Love Hewitt Jules ..... Robert Loggia Jay Rose ..... Ben Stiller Speedo Silverberg ..... Jerry Stiller Danny ..... Donal Lardner Ward Lara ..... Bridgette Wilson

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