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1984, Dir. Joe Dante.
106 min. Rated PG.
Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Frances Lee McCain.

Review by Noel Wood

#8 on our list of the Best Christmas Movies Ever!

Some people might immediately jump up and question the validity of some of the movies that I choose for "Christmas Movies", but one you certainly can't question is GREMLINS. This is undoubtedly one that falls under the Christmas umbrella, so you can take your own rules back to where you got them from, because you're playing by mine, baby. This is a movie that takes place around Christmas and involves the holiday as a central theme, so it counts. Deal.

And GREMLINS just abso-frickin-lutely rules. This film came out when I was about nine years old, and it scared the bejesus out of me. Depending on who you believe, this was the first film ever to receive a "PG-13" rating by the MPAA. You see, way back in the day, we only had "G", "PG", and "R", alongside the dreaded "X" rating. IT wasn't until the mid-1980s that a couple of Spielberg projects pushed the boundaries of PG-dom, yet weren't quite enough to garner an "R" rating. These movies were GREMLINS and INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. The advent of this rating set a new precedent for a new breed of teen-aimed movies. But for a nine-year-old, GREMLINS was a bit scary.

Why does GREMLINS rule? Two words: Bathroom Buddy. For the uninitiated, you're probably thinking I'm nuts. Those who have seen the film though should grin at the idea of Rand Peltzer's all-in-one lavatory companion uncontrollably spraying shaving cream or toothpaste everywhere. For that matter, Rand's inventions in general all rule the earth. Smokeless ashtrays, the 'Peltzer juicer', an egg breaker -- none of which actually worked, mind you, but they were all pretty nifty little gadgets.

Rand, of course, is the father of Billy Peltzer, the average everyday kid living in a quiet little picturesque town. Rand loves his son so much that he wants to pick out the perfect Christmas gift (Biggity-bam, there's your Christmas movie right there) for him. No G.I.Joe or Thundercats are gonna do it for Billy, no sir. It's gonna take a real special gift to keep this kid complacent. So, like any dad would do to find a unique gift, Rand heads to a trinket shop in Chinatown where a wise old stereotype tries to sell him a bunch of shit about as useless as the shit that Rand invents. But Rand is fixated on one item, and refuses to leave without it. That would be our here Gizmo, a Mogwai, a small furry creature with long pointy ears. The old man won't sell it at first, but later agrees on it, letting Rand know that "with great power comes great responsibility." Oh wait, different movie. Still, pretty much the same idea here. The Mogwai has specific rules that need apply to it that Rand must agree to bide by before he hauls old Gizmo out of the store.

I'm sure we all know the rules by now. I mean, even before I saw GREMLINS I knew the rules thanks to the trailers. No sunlight, no water, no eating after midnight. Now I'm not going to get into some sort of scientific argument about the fact that such a creature would surely die without water, but it would. I mean, the rule is not to get it wet, but you have to get part of the thing wet for it to drink, and without drinking, it's gonna die. Even if it just drank Kool-Aid or lemonade or Coca-Cola, they're all like 90 percent water, right? On top of that, unless Billy and his folks live in Yuma, Arizona, there's gonna be some moisture in the air, right? Just exactly how much water is needed to make Mr. Mogwai sprout incredibly developed clones right before our eyes, anyway? Sure enough though, when our man and rock star extraordinnaire Corey Feldman spills a smattering of water on Gizmo, several more Mogwai come poppin' off his back. And the whole eating after midnight? what the hell? I mean, is this set at a permanent time? I mean, if Giz travels from to New York to L.A., does he have to curtail his snacking at 9 PM, or does his internal clock reset to Pacific Standard time? It's all just too confusing.

Anyway, as we all know, stuff happens, cute little Mogwai become demonic green Gremlins and terrorize the town, and our heroes have to put an end to all the madness. Rand winds up returning Giz to the shopkeeper in Chinatown, who decides then and there that Rand wasn't ready to accept the responsibility. Ya think? And all is well and good with the world again, until the sequel of course.

But for a bundle of Christmas joy, you can't beat Gizmo and his cute little Santa hat he wears. I highly recommend GREMLINS as a fun little movie, both for the holiday season and the rest of the year.


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