Critters (1986)

30 Jan


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

1985 released a critically-panned, “Gremlins”-spoofed, box office bomb “Ghoulies.” It’s a long, sad story, but I won’t write about it right now. But I do know the last line—“they will never rip off ‘Gremlins’ again.” Well, now we not only have one but four science fiction hits that 1986’s “Critters” has to satirize. I have to say I really enjoyed this satire on the science fiction hits of the early 1980s. It’s charming, it’s witty, and it’s funny.

Those sci-fi hits are “Gremlins” (of course), “The Terminator,” “Starman,” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” In “Critters,” we get the “Gremlins” spoof with the villains in the film—furry, carnivorous, rolling aliens who come to earth to eat us; we get the “Terminator” bit with the bounty hunters who hunt the aliens and shoot at everything, including the TV; we get the “Starman” bit when the bounty hunters turn human; and the “E.T.” bit with Dee Wallace Stone as the mother to another big-eyed small boy. Oh, and the Critters look curiously at an E.T. puppet.

Well, let’s move on to the “Critters” plot. The movie begins in outer space. A prison asteroid is carrying fanged alien fuzzballs called “Crites” who are about to be terminated for their ravenous appetite for…just about anything. The Crites escape on a stolen spaceship and travel around the solar system until finding the best planet to land and eat—ours.

On earth, we’re introduced to your average family of four living in Kansas, the Brown family. The Browns are Helen (Dee Wallace Stone) and Jay (Billy Bush) and their two kids April (Nadine van der Velde) and Brad (nicely played by Scott Grimes), who is often teasing April, getting into trouble, mouthing off, and shooting firecrackers. Brad is a wild kid in an otherwise “perfect family.”

Hunting for the Crites are the galaxy’s two bounty hunters. Their mission: annihilate the Crites and get paid. They track them down to Earth, pick human identities (one of them chooses a rock star, the other can’t find the right one, so he chooses many), and pack a huge gun to get ready to blow them to kingdom come. But the hungry Crites are now invading the Brown farm and soon the Browns are left in their house in the middle of nowhere to battle until the bounty hunters can find them in time.

This should’ve led to a big scene in a bowling alley where bowlers mistake Crites for bowling balls and Brad and the bounty hunters fight them, but it didn’t. Too bad, considering the possibilities with that idea.

I enjoyed this little film called “Critters.” What I really liked about this movie was that the screenplay didn’t go for the wrong stuff and just gave us a group of characters to root for, scenes to laugh at, and a good satirical screenplay. And that Brad kid isn’t a kid that gets on our nerves. He’s a really cool kid with a great personality and we’re rooting for him to save the day. Also, I admire that this movie lets the two sides of aliens fight amongst themselves.

And it’s funny. This movie has a lot of laughs in it. I especially liked the scenes with the bounty hunters and I’m cracking up already thinking about their antics. This was a nice friendly town and now it’s occupied by these two buffoons who never crack a smile and blow up everything, even a bowling pin and a television set. And one of them can’t even keep an identity. When one of them picks the form of a rock star to disguise himself, the other one chooses the town patroller, the priest, and the town crazy Charlie, who thinks he gets signals in his teeth about arriving aliens- aren’t you surprised, my friend. The screenplay keeps comedy coming as well as horror and the Crites even have some of the best lines. Another funny character is the town sheriff played by M. Emmet Walsh who has no clue as to what’s going on.

“Critters” isn’t quite up there with “Gremlins,” which is a classic comedy-horror film, but this works gloriously as a sci-fi satire or spoof and it’s not dumb either. I still need to give praise to young Scott Grimes because he’s very good as the smart aleck, troublemaking kid who teams up with the bounty hunters and saves the day. The movie’s very entertaining, the Browns are likable characters, the bounty hunters are funny, the script is witty, and it just goes to show that this movie is a lot of fun and the filmmakers a lot of fun making it.

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