Little critters that act like little assholes, how are these things different than most kids?
Written By: Chris Columbus
Directed By: Joe Dante
What sucked me into Gremlins was how willing the film was to stay true to its story. At no point was a reason given for why the Gremlins are the way they are, how the Mogwai came to be, or why some people in the town just accept the Mogwai and Gremlins as existing without question. I love the way the film handled those elements. Joe Dante’s direction and Chris Columbus’ script had no time for explanations and exposition. They quickly established a world, and had fun within that world. Because of that I had oodles and oodles of fun in their created world.
Gizmo is cute, and I have no doubt that he was a marketing department’s wet dream. But, Gizmo is more than just a cute and fluffy animal. Gizmo is the opposite of the Gremlins in every way, he’s the opposite of the other Mogwai we see as well. Gremlins is a simple tale of black and white, good versus evil, and there’s no two characters in the film as good as Billy and Gizmo. Together they represent the power of good and how ultimately good will triumph over evil. The film implements this motif in a very simple and even handed fashion. That’s a good thing, because it’s a simple motif without a lot of depth to it and to treat the motif as complex would have undermined it.
There’s a definite Looney Tunes vibe to Gremlins, and that’s not surprising with the consistently underrated Mr. Dante as the director. Mr. Dante’s love for the slapstick, silliness, and irreverence of the classic Looney Tunes cartoons comes through bright and clear during Gremlins. There are a few laugh out loud moments, but mostly Gremlins consistently had me chuckling.
The humor also comes from a simple place and is implemented in the quickest and easiest way. We are shown the Gremlins, we know they are bad, and we know that they are up to no good. We see Billy’s mom, Lynn Peltzer, we see her carrying a weapon and we know she is trying to track down the Gremlins. There’s no suspense to this sequence, nor is there the terror of the unknown. What exists instead is a confrontation where the grossness of the Gremlins appearance is used for laughs, Lynn’s hysterics are used for laughs, and the way she disposes of the Gremlins is used for laughs. That entire sequence is funny from beginning to end, and it’s funny because of how simple and straightforward its comedic aims are.
Gremlins is an energetic picture, and it’s a film that knows exactly the type of movie it wants to be and is. From the moment we meet Randall Peltzer it’s obvious he is a kind hearted huckster. The film could have left it at that, but it keeps showing us the dad’s woe begotten inventions. His family uses them despite the fact that they will inevitably fail, and never a cross word is uttered about Randall’s inventions. Yes, showing his failed inventions is funny, but it also gets across the family dynamic in a fashion that is effortless.
The two best words I can think of to describe Gremlins are economical and fun. Joe Dante employs an economical style of filmmaking that gets the major points of the film across and establishes the world of the film without wasting any time. This allows Mr. Dante to have lots of fun with Mr. Columbus’ script. And this in turn leads to an audience that smiles a lot, laughs a lot, and has a lot of fun watching the movie. A simple approach that leads to a lot of enjoyment, now that’s a recipe for a great movie and something that I wish was present more often in Hollywood movies. Either way, it is present in Gremlins, and that’s why Gremlins remains a stalwart of the comedy subgenre of horror and a great movie for anyone to watch regardless of its genre.