Saturday, September 1, 2012

Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)

Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988) is to Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978) as Beware! the Blob! (1972) is to The Blob (1958). Okay, so Attack of the Killer Tomatoes doesn't have anyone like Steve McQueen, but it does have Jack Riley from The Bob Newhart Show. Beware! The Blob has the late, great comedian Godfrey Cambridge and Return of the Killer Tomatoes has George Clooney. I can probably stop there. This should at least be a curiosity piece for most people who want to see a young George Clooney in one of his first movies. He did Return to Horror High a year earlier (I know both titles start with Return... there was no Horror High, this one's not a sequel), but if you must choose, I'd go with Return of the Killer Tomatoes. As its title suggests it's a sequel to the equally ridiculous Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and even though it's ridiculous, it's one of those movies that is fun to watch with a big group of friends while cracking jokes and howling at the screen. This one is also noteworthy for starring veteran actor John Astin as Professor Gangreen. 

Return takes place ten years after the original. Tomatoes are now illegal. Wilbur Finletter, who was a hero in The Great Tomato war, has opened a pizza place that serves tomatoless pizzas. Early in the film, we get the backstory from Finletter (let's face it, we'd be lost if we didn't) the war on tomatoes wasn't won until it was discovered that their weakness was the song "Puberty Love" ...the worst song ever recorded

Professor Gangreen is planning to start up another tomato war. He swears that this time music will help them and not be their downfall. He has a staff of employees including a lovely assistant and some muscle bound gardeners who he has all made from tomatoes. Gangreen's assistant Tara is tired of his abuse, so she takes off and goes to the pizza place, since the owner's son Chad (Anthony Starke) is the only person she knows. This setup makes way for lots of jokes about her naivete. Since she is not human all she wants to do is have sex, cook and clean for him. But his nervousness is also part of the joke and he seems pretty bewildered by the whole thing. Chad's roommate and co-worker is George Clooney. He's much more confident and convinces Chad to go with it, because this kind of thing never happens to people like him. When Gangreen notices that Tara is missing, he sends Igor, one of his creations (played by former Olympic swimmer Steve Lundquist) out to find her. He's also not too bright and more hilarity ensues. He needs him to hurry so he can start another tomato war and break his partner out of prison and make him President of the United States thus taking over the country and eventually the world. All of a sudden Mitt Romney doesn't seem so bad. And get this, his imprisoned buddy is played by the notorious reality T.V. personality Rick Rockwell. You may remember him as the guy who married Darva Conger on live television in 2000, on that silly publicity stunt gone wrong called Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? Whew! The reasons to see this movie just keep on coming, just like the mutant tomatoes rolling down the street chasing after terrified citizens. 

If you haven't seen the original classic from 1978, you really should. It was given the special edition DVD treatment a few years ago and there's some entertaining stuff on there to go along with the film. Then you need to see this one for all of the reasons I've already given. But skip The Killer Tomatoes Strike Back (1990) and The Killer Tomatoes Eat France (1991). You just get more silly Rick Rockwell, who actually has a writing credit on those. Just how did he become a multi-millionaire anyway? It couldn't have been from these movies. The only multi-millionaires in this movie that deserve any real recognition are George Clooney and John Astin. John Astin really hams it up in this, and George Clooney actually plays it pretty straight, but they are both always fun to watch.

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