Netflix Tom Hanks Dark Comedy Is Unhinged Fun, One Of His Most Underrated Roles

By Brian Myers | Published

tom hanks the burbs 1

With a list of films that include Forrest Gump, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Philadelphia, it’s easy to understand how some of Tom Hanks’ film roles have been tossed aside. While not generating material that is considered Oscar-worthy, his 1989 dark comedy The ‘Burbs is a film that has certainly been overshadowed by the actor’s other great entries during that era and is one that many cinefiles have long forgotten.

Thankfully the film is available to stream on Netflix, giving it another opportunity to grow a new generation of fans to add to its already impressive cult following.

The ‘Burbs Starring Tom Hanks

tom hanks The 'Burbs Tom hanks

The ‘Burbs follows the residents along Maple Place, a cul-de-sac tucked away inside the fictional suburban community of Hinkley Hills, who become strangely obsessed with a new family named Klopeck that moves onto the block.

When older neighbor Walter (Gale Gordon) disappears without a trace, several of the men in the neighborhood concoct a theory that the new neighbors are behind it. Believing that the Klopecks are murdering people and burying them in their backyard, neighbors Ray Peterson (Hanks), Art Weingartner (Rick Ducommun), and Mark Rumsfeld (Bruce Dern) embark on a mission to expose the killers.

The ‘Burbs Awesome Cast

The ‘Burbs delivers the acting that you can probably imagine with a lineup that features Hanks, Carrie Fisher, and industry heavy hitter Bruce Dern.

Sprinkling in the wise-assery of a young Cory Feldman, the comedic timing of stand-up legend Rick Ducommun, and twisted humor of cult-icon Brother Theodore helps to serve up a dark comedy masterpiece that should be considered an entree instead of an overlooked side.

The Oscar-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen, Star Trek: The Motion Picture) adds a critical element to the film by setting a tone that zigzags from ominous to goofy against the backdrop of a seemingly typical suburban neighborhood in the Midwest.  

The ‘Burbs also co-stars Courtney Gaines (Children of the Corn, Can’t Buy Me Love), Henry Gibson (Laugh-In), Wendy Schaal (Innerspace, American Dad), and horror legend Dick Miller (Gremlins, The Terror, A Bucket of Blood).

The ‘Burbs References

tom hanks The 'Burbs Tom hanks

Aside from a fun and sometimes eerie storyline, The ‘Burbs tucks away little references to other Hollywood entries or nods to greats in the industry.

Director Joe Dante’s previous project, Gremlins, was given homage during a breakfast scene where a box of Gremlins cereal was strategically placed. Short clips from three different horror films (The Exorcist, Race with the Devil, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) are shown, giving Ray nightmares about his new neighbors that include inspirations from each film.

Reception And More

tom hanks

More nods include a framed photo in Walter’s house that is of Gale Gordon and Lucille Ball from their series The Lucy Show.

And in one scene, the cinematography itself is an homage to director Sergio Leone  as the camera zooms in on each of the character’s eyes a la The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Roger Ebert gave it two out of four stars, the New York Times weighed in with negative reviews, and Rotten Tomatoes only gives the film a 56% rating.

The ‘Burbs Is An Underrated Classic

The 'Burbs Tom hanks


But The ‘Burbs has been able to amass a staunch following in the decades since its theatrical release, partially due to the combination of the relatable storyline, the 1980s star power, and the quirky one-liners that the script seemed to be poised to generate.

All of these attributes, plus Goldsmith’s score and Dante’s performance from the director’s chair, make it a solid ⅘ stars.

You can stream The ‘Burbs on Netflix now and experience one of the most unsung films of the 1980s.