The Suburbans

on October 29, 1999 by Christine James
   With the '80s nostalgia wave in full swing and VH1's "Behind the Music" and "Where Are They Now?" specials generating rabid popularity in a culture morbidly fascinated by the inner workings of the downward spiral, the concept behind "The Suburbans" seems sure-fire on paper. In it, the titular (fictional) one-hit wonders from 1982 are given a second chance at fame when a young and bubbly record company exec (Jennifer Love Hewitt) arranges a comeback pay-per-view special. But the band was, is and always will be mediocre at best, and no one is remotely interested in them. That quickly established, all the audience has left to care about is the fate of the band members' messy personal lives. Given that they're all a bunch of pathetic losers, we don't. The Suburbans frontman, Danny (scripter/director/producer Donal Lardner), is the only one of the quartet who's remotely fleshed out, and obviously is the Everyman we're supposed to be sympathetic to, but it's hard to feel sorry about the romantic woes of a man who responds to his insecure girlfriend's query as to which of her body parts is his favorite with an exacerbating "Can I be excused from this exam?".
   The crash-and-burn of fleeting superstardom is a macrocosmic metaphor for the trajectory of most people's dreams and aspirations, but this film fails to bring any insight to the psychological ramifications and subsequent adjustments, positive or negative, to such life-altering disappointments. Not that we need deep meaning or social significance in our goofing-on-the-'80s comedies. But much more egregiously absent is any sort of clever exploitation of the era's notoriously wacky fashion and music sensibility. The Suburbans' insipid hit song "Right By Your Side" sounds vaguely '60s if anything, and the shimmery blue suits and skinny ties are downright conservative in comparison with the true garb of the decade in which everyone constantly looked as though they were on their way to a sci-fi convention.    Starring Donal Lardner Ward, Amy Brenneman, Will Ferrell, Craig Bierko, Tony Guma and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Directed and produced by Donal Lardner Ward. Written by Donal Lardner Ward and Tony Guma. A TriStar release. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 85 min.
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