So the last movie I watched, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was inspired by my PG 13 query … even though the original inspiration would have been Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Temple of Doom was one of two movies that inspired a PG 13 rating. The other was Gremlins, which I have never seen … not even a scene. After seeing Gremlins and having watched Temple of Doom before, there was definitely a good case to be made.
I would give this film 6 “fantastic ideas for a fantastic world” out of 10.
FOR THE UNITIATED
Gremlins starts off with Randall Peltzer, inventor extraordinary, stumbles on a Chinese shop that sells “everything” … except for a mogwai he finds and names Gizmo. He brings it home as a present for his son Billy after being told three very important rules:
- Keep him out of the light, he hates bright light, especially sunlight, it’ll kill him.
- Don’t give him any water, not even to drink.
- The most important rule, the rule you can never forget, no matter how much he cries, no matter how much he begs, never feed him after midnight.
These are all broken in record breaking speed. Bright lights will stun them and sunlight will kill them. Water causes mogwais to multiply based on how much water touches them. Once a cute and fuzzy mogwai eats after midnight, they transform into a slimy and nasty gremlin. One of the original offspring from Gizmo named Spike almost immediately goes into a pool and creates an army. The army of gremlins then creates chaos for the town.
You might notice I didn’t mention any actors, that is because the big names in the movie are side characters or mixed voices. Corey Feldman plays a young neighbor in his fourth movie and we also see a “young” Jonathan Banks (Mike from Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul). We “hear” Howie Mandel, Michael Winslow (Police Academy actor who makes noises), and Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime).
The best parts of this movie are obviously the gremlins and the mayhem they cause. The bar and movie theatre scene are both an excuse to have the gremlins dress up as stereotypes or famous character, which totally worked! Seeing them act out every bad habit didn’t get old since there weren’t any obvious repeats or stretches. The movie theatre scene was near and dear to my heart since I worked in theatres for several years … and sadly some of them were more well behaved than some people can be at times. If only there was a lone concessionist serving popcorn, drinks, and candy similar to the bar then it would have been more perfect. Then there was a group working an old reel to reel projector and make up table before finally getting it going. After the Snow White and Seven Dwarves scene was on screen and everyone quited down and started singing along, it reminded me that even some of the least pleasant customers could come together for a great movie.
I didn’t grow up with Gremlins, and I can definitely see that nostalgia would play a big part in helping you overlook some issues. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but everything seemed to follow the 80s Spielberg formula … which doesn’t age well. There was a surprising lack of consequences and follow up from any character. It doesn’t become that bad or apparent until the end, but by then it was just rushing to find a conclusion. While I appreciate getting into the story quickly, the middle portion just drug way too much building characters before any of the “action” got going.
Gremlins is a fun movie that is definitely a product of its time. If the premise was grounded a little more and there was some sort of character growth, it could have been a much better movie. Instead it went all in with the gremlins causing chaos while interacting with each other. If you haven’t seen it and love 80’s movies, you should check it out while it’s free on Netflix. Otherwise, there are better movies to check off that nostalgia box.
Another special list that Gremlins falls into (movies that caused PG 13 ratings) is irregular Christmas movies. Sure a lot of people just want to include A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, or Home Alone … but my pick for best Christmas movie is also my recommendation: Die Hard. My argument for the specifics will be held until one of my yearly viewings. Long story short, it inspired a subgenre of action movies: Die Hard in a bus, Die Hard in a submarine, Die Hard in a plane, etc. It is also the start of Alan Rickman’s career … let me emphasize that this was the START of his movie career. Stop what you are doing and watch this masterpiece if you haven’t already.