They cause all the trouble, but you’ll have all the fun
This flick is anchored by Fred Savage, who plays Brian the protagonist. At this point Fred was still relatively new on the scene, having only started his iconic role as Kevin on The Wonder Years the year before. He must’ve already had some serious pull, though, because he got real-life bro Ben Savage his first acting gig in this one, playing brother Eric.
Following Freddy boy from the Wonder Years’ set is Daniel Stern, who plays the overworked but goofy dad. Stern is a year away from forever being typecast as a shitty burglar in Home Alone. His performance is lackluster, but he wears some seriously sweet clear-framed hipster glasses.
In a six-degrees twist, Stern also shares the screen with Devin Ratray, who plays pee-drinking bully Ronnie Coleman in this movie, but is better known for his role as brother Buzz in Home Alone.
The award for most embarrassing role goes to Howie Mandel, who plays the grease-paint-caked monster Maurice. Most people know Howie now for being the creepy bald guy on America’s Got Talent, but I know him best from being the creepy guy with the Jheri Curl that introduced Bobby’s World.
Brian is a 6th grader who doesn’t have any friends because his constantly-fighting parents bought a fixer-upper house in the middle of nowhere as a last-ditch effort to save their marriage. Weird stuff keeps happening around the house, and Brian’s tired of getting blamed for it. He sets a trap by dismantling his bike and crushing Doritos on the floor and HOLY SHIT HE CATCHES A MONSTER. Seriously though, how are 80s kids so innovative? Turn a bike into a monster trap?! I tried MacGuyvering shit when I was little and it NEVER worked. Once I tried to create fragmentation grenades out of baking soda, vinegar, and soda bottles, and all I made was a mess.
Anyway, the captured monster’s name is Maurice, and instead of dismembering Brian with his razor sharp teeth, he for some reason decides to befriend Brian and take him on a tour of his underground monster world.
Brian is stoked he finally has a friend, and he starts sneaking into monster world every night. Brian and Maurice raise hell in an underground monster montage, and all’s right with the world.
About 45 minutes in is where you can tell the writers were like “oh shit, there has to be some conflict in this movie, doesn’t there?” because the narrative really starts to unravel. We meet a character named Snik, who we can tell is a bad monster because he rips a kid’s head off in his first scene. It’s unclear why Snik is bad, but he works for someone called The Boy, and well, it’s also unclear who that is, but he’s bad, okay? Brian also starts to shrink for some reason, and they never really get back to that?
Snik doesn’t like Brian, or he DOES like Brian and wants him to play with The Boy, I’m not sure, but either way, he kidnaps Cory Matthews, er, little brother Eric and straps him to a giant dartboard. Brian has no choice but to convince the ginger with the sideways hat he had a crush on and the bully he made drink piss in the beginning of the movie to travel to the monster underworld and help save the day.
They fail at first, but then Maurice pops out of nowhere with a flamethrower and kills The Boy and Snik, and the monster people, who were apparently oppressed by these two villains but that wasn’t really explained earlier, rejoice like the Wicked Witch just died.
Brian and Maurice have this tearful goodbye because for some reason they aren’t allowed to see each other anymore. I think it has something to do with the shrinking? I swear I wasn’t even drinking while I watched this; it just stopped making sense halfway through.
Brian somehow gets his parents to stop hating each other, the kids somehow end up on a beach in California, and Howie Mandel somehow still has a career 30 years after this movie. The end.
FIRST MEMORIES OF MOVIE:
This was definitely one my mom picked out at the video store for my brother and me. In the days before Blockbuster, we went to this store called Video Monster in Mantua, and since we had just passed the point where we could wipe our own asses, Mom was still in charge of our movie selections.
I’m not sure if Mom knew about Fred Savage at that point — my parents basically stopped paying attention to pop culture once MASH went off the air — but she definitely knew who Daniel Stern was because of the movie Breaking Away.
My dad may have bootlegged the VHS, because I saw this one more than once.
Either way, none of my friends have ever heard of this movie, which is a disappointing thing to discover after you’ve invested four hours writing a funny nostalgia essay about it.
GAPING PLOT HOLES:
To be honest, there are so many flaws in this film’s plot, I’d never wrap this goddamn thing up if I tried to list them all. So here’s a couple of the funny ones:
– In the opening scene, Brian sneaks downstairs and makes himself a PEANUT BUTTER AND ONION SANDWICH. Stop right there, because no kid on the face of this earth would do this. I’m not sure my dad, whom I’ve seen eat sardines from a can on several occasions, would even do that after smoking three bowls.
– Kiersten is the sassy ginger Brian has a crush on, and in one scene, Maurice sneaks into her house and mangles a science report she spent hours writing. When she pulls it out of her backpack all torn up, the teacher looks disappointed and gives her a zero.
Seriously? What an asshole. It’s clear she did the work and something happened to the printout. Can’t he just tell her to turn in another copy tomorrow, or is he so fucking into himself that he’s willing to send this girl to Cutter Canyon?
– Early in the film, it’s established that light hurts the monsters in a Dracula kind of way. When the kids try to rescue little brother Eric, they use super-powered flashlights, but its not enough.
Then Maurice kicks down the door and merks the bad guy with a flamethrower. A FUCKING FLAMETHROWER.
Forget the logic of a flamethrower just laying around an underground monster world, but if light was so bad, wouldn’t it ALSO affect Maurice? That shit is so confusing, but by the end of the movie, I basically suspended all expectations of rationality.
JOKES THAT USED TO BE OVER MY HEAD:
– Brian: Where are my batteries?
Maurice: I ate ‘em. AA Batteries constipate me, ok? You’ll get ‘em back later.
– Maurice: Don’t you have anyone besides your mother in your life who wears an over the shoulder boulder holder?
– Maurice: Ah, a man’s best friend: his right hand.
LINES THAT WOULDN’T FLY IN 2020:
Maurice: Maybe he stepped outside to smoke a cigarette?
DOES IT HOLD UP?
Not even a little bit. I think the fact everyone I talked to about this movie thought I was talking about the Nickelodeon animated show Ahh! Real Monsters! should be a tipoff. Despite a pretty strong cast, this one fell into obscurity for good reason. It’s basically a PG-rated ripoff of Beetlejuice, with Mandel trying and failing to keep pace with Michael Keaton as a rude crude monster with a painted face. Unless you REALLY like that weird time between the ‘80s and ‘90s, you can skip it.