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  • Writer's pictureJustin McConnell

"The 'Burbs" Turns 30 This Week

This week, Mitchell and Justin are joined by Mike Smith to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of "The `Burbs" on the Next Level Nerd Movie Podcast.

For the full audio review, search your podcast app for "Next Level Nerd Movie Podcast" and if you'd like access to exclusive NLN shows, early releases, and other goodies, just go to and drop us $1 or more.

Released: February 17th 1989

Production Company: Imagine Entertainment and Universal Pictures


Runtime: 1:41

Critical Response:

  • Rotten Tomatoes:

Tomato Meter: 52%

Audience Score: 71%

  • Meta Critic: 44/100

  • Cinema Score: C


  • Budget: $18 million

  • Box Office: $49.1 million


  • A comedy about one nice guy who gets pushed too far.

  • He's a man of peace in a savage land... Suburbia.

  • He's a stranger in an even stranger land... Suburbia

  • Life In The Burbs Will Never Be The Same Again!

Written by:

  • Dana Olsen

Directed by:

  • Joe Dante


  • Jerry Goldsmith scores the movie but there are also songs from Ennio Morricone and some generic rock tunes from Circus of Power and Jetboy.

The Cast:

  • Tom Hanks as Ray Peterson

  • Carrie Fisher as Carol Peterson

  • Bruce Dern as Mark Rumsfeld

  • Rick Ducommun as Art Weingartner

  • Brother Theodore as Reuben Klopek

  • Courtney Gains as Hans Klopek

  • Dick Miller cameos as one of the garbage men

Mitchell’s Critical Corner:

  • “The script would like to be a horror film, a comedy and a commentary on suburban living, but it doesn't hit any target.”Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

  • “The 'Burbs” tries to position itself somewhere between “Beetlejuice” and “The Twilight Zone,” but it lacks the dementia of the first and the wicked intelligence of the second and turns instead into a long shaggy dog story.”Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

  • “Why is it not funny? It's just not. Not remotely, momentarily, intermittently or otherwise funny.” Hal Hinson, Washington Post

  • “The folks who made The 'burbs appear to be card-carrying members of the School of Non-Urban Humor. Basic to the philosophy of this school is the misapprehension that anything occurring outside city limits is intrinsically amusing.” Jay Boyar, Orlando Sentinel

  • “Tom Hanks should forfeit his Academy Award nomination for Big, now that preview audiences have gotten a look at The `Burbs. Roger Hurlburt, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


The street was shot on the Universal back lot. This street is basically one big set and has been used for many films and television shows, including "Desperate Housewives". The house where Ray and Carol live was the “Leave It To Beaver” house. It was even used in another Tom Hanks movie, 1987’s “Dragnet” for the virgin Connie Swail's house. Corey Feldman's character "Ricky Butler" even lived in The Munster’s house (See Below).

The film was made during the writer's strike of 1988. For this reason, Joe Dante encouraged the actors to improvise many scenes and cast Dana Olsen, the film's writer as a cop in the movie so that he could advise them on script changes without violating the writer’s strike.

Some of the movie’s most hilarious moments happened when the actors would improvise. When Rumsfield rips the Klopeks' wallpaper, this was an idea from Bruce Dern. Rick Ducommun ad-libbed many of his lines, including the "Satan is good, Satan is our pal" dialogue. Tom Hanks and Carrie Fisher came up with the idea of playing along with Jeopardy at home.

At the time the movie was being filmed, Corey Feldman and Michael Jackson were close friends. While Jackson didn't visit the set, his famed chimpanzee Bubbles was a frequent guest, and had to be confined to Feldman's trailer during filming. Feldman would return to his trailer to find that the chimp had spread feces around the interior. Joe Dante eventually banned Bubbles from the set.

An alternate ending for "The `Burbs" was filmed, but the one they used was a lot better. Check it out here:


If you like movies, be sure to check out the Next Level Nerd Movie Podcast where we discuss films we love that weren't critically or commercially successful.

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