As a child when the teacher asked my class to write down what we wanted to be when we grew up, my fellow students put down things like “Fireman” and “Doctor” while I put down somewhat more exotic selections. I was very much disappointed to later discover that things like “intergalactic warrior” or “monster boat mercenary” were not occupations I would find at the job fair booths of my future. The big and small screens of the 1980’s were teeming with muscle bound heroes and while they were all charismatic,
Terry Gene Bollea Hulk Hogan was my favorite. His cartoonishly positive and inspirational persona made a huge impression this basement dwelling weakling. I marveled at the boundless energy and determination I saw him ooze as the Hulkster on WWF. On the big screen, his characters were decidedly more old-fashion wholesome than those of Schwarzenegger and Stallone, and his role in “Suburban Commando” is no exception.
The story centers around intergalactic warrior Shep Ramsey’s (Hogan) quest to recharge his ship while masquerading as an earthling in the shelter of non-confrontational suburbanite architect Charlie Wilcox’s (Christopher Lloyd) recently converted family guesthouse. After Charlie’s curiosity accidentally leads a pair of space mercenaries to earth, the pair have to find a way to defeat them and get Shep back into space. I am huge fan of this hour and a half cheese-fest. Cinema love, like real love, defies all reason and logic and despite all the hand-me-down props, cheap looking sets and awful dialogue, “Suburban Commando” is a blast to watch. It was an time where PC everything wasn’t a part of the culture and where movies still had their innosense. Only in the 80s could a mainstream children’s movie feature such wildly inappropriate moments like the back ally “mugging”. What do you think those two guys were going to do to that woman in the alley if Wilcox hadn’t interfered? I guess that bit may have gone over most of the kiddy’s heads but even the most un-sexualized of child would understand what the girl meant when she offers to do “anything at all” for Charlie for saving her life and if that wasn’t obvious enough they add a ringing codpiece alarm to the mix. As awesome as it would be I doubt they will be putting an attempted rape scene in “A Night at the museum 15”. That fun loving gal from the alley is
topless featured in the wonderfully trashy absurdity that is “Frankenhooker” if your hoping to see more of her breasts talents.
The script the movie is based on was originally titled “Urban Commando” and was written for Arnold Schwarzenegger as
a space warrior an elite military commando thats laying low in suburbia and Danny DeVito as the timid local housing him but the pair opted to make “Twins” instead so New Line Cinema bought it and developed to be star vehicle for Hogan who they had just made “No holds barred” with a few years earlier. If you look with the right kind of eyes you can still see glimpses of the movie it would have been with the intended cast but you can definitely tell that it was re-tailored quite a bit to play to Hogan’s more kid friendly persona. All the actors do a fine job of chewing through the script but the only really standout performance is by William Ball as General Suitor. He understands exactly what kind of movie he’s in and brings the kind of melodramatic tongue-in-cheek performance to the villain that it deserves.
Watching this movie is kinda like telling your friends you love them; its corny, embarrassing and really only should be done once an a while but its a solid wholesome good time that will leave you feeling better than you did going in. That “hunk of hardware” Hogan will always have a special place in my heart and remind me of a magical time when kid’s movies had sex jokes and big biceps and a big heart was your ticket to ride the Hollywood fame roller coaster. Its a terribly cheesy, mostly adorable and occasionally hilarious ride driven by the very likable Hulk Hogan in his golden era as the glorious Hulkster.
Here are a bunch of random bits to watch out for that didn’t fit into the review but I thought were funny enough to include.
- At what point did non-satirical saxophones disappear from movie soundtracks? Thankfully they are still alive and well here in 1991.
- The “apartment for rent” sign doesn’t even have an address on it, just an arrow. Did she just post a bunch of those signs around town leading all the way up to her door?
- Add to the weird sexual wish list: 1980’s Shelly Duvall in that bustier reading me a bed time story in that quiet voice and then tucking me into bed.
- I love that with all the superior technology available to him, General Suitor hands the mercenaries a sheet of paper with a bad sketch artists interpretation of Ramsey for their visual reference.
- Shep’s ship computer system saying “You’re stuck here” and all the talk from the lippy sports car alarm system are this movies contributions to the great late 80’s / early 90’s tradition of featuring sentient computers with attitude.
- For an intergalactic hero with tons of field experience how could Shep not notice he was being tailed by an architect?
- The scene with the Shep and kid at the arcade is absolutely adorable. They both are so into it that you can’t help but smile. “It’s never over!”, “Game, what game?”
- My favorite over the top moment of Hogan’s performance as Shep Ramsey is during the bank scene when he says “anti-freeze!”.
- The Kamikaze drink joke that Wilcox’s boss makes to the Japanese clients is so inappropriate it’s amazing. I wouldn’t be surprised if Larry Miller improvised a lot of these lines, they are so fresh.
- The cameo by “The Undertaker” as one of the baby-voiced bounty hunters is pretty awesome.
- “Aww what is this a tag-team?” the not-so-subtle reference to the wrestler star’s other life as the Hulkster.
- The self-destruct button in Ramsey’s spaceship is hilariously obvious. A mushroom cloud of explosion.
- Listen for the brilliant ever-present voice of Frank Welker as the monster form of General Suitor.
- The “Hey dude how about a bomb-pop?” line always makes me laugh.
- The legitimate use of “Cowabunga dude” by the skateboard kid at the end is radical.
- At the end of the movie, why would Shep let Charlie keep one of his super dangerous weapons? If he uses it couldn’t it be traced by other bounty hunters and land him in a world of trouble?