Roger Corman's MUNCHIES wasn't the worst GREMLINS knockoff (not while a tape called HOBGOBLINS is still around), but close enough. It featured a horde of Aztec puppet demons who all talked like Cheech Marin as they ate up a town. But enough bad memories. The 1992 followup MUNCHIE chooses
to be a kiddie pic, a sort of Disney manque that's inoffensive as far as it goes, but hardly worth the talent involved.
Ignoring the origin and persona of the beasts in the earlier movie, this features just one Munchie, a stiff, pointy-earred animatronic troll with the voice of Dom DeLuise. In a flashback intro, the Munchie is crated up by its tormented owner and thrown off a cliff (the road sign reads: "Danger:
Bottomless Pit"). Flash ahead to the present day, where young Gage Dobson (Jaime McEnnan) finds the crate in an abandoned mine. Bravely ignoring this continuity lapse, Gage releases the wisecracking beastie, who offers, genie-style, to grant the lad's every wish.
The boy asks for relief from school bullies, his failing grades, and the pompous Dr. Elliott Carlyle (Andrew Stevens) who's angling to marry Gage's gorgeous single mother Cathy (Loni Anderson). The mischievous Munchie accomplishes all these tasks using sorcery and slapstick. Then, with nothing
else to do, the story shifts gears into a cheesy ripoff of ET, with Gage and Munchie on the run from the dissection-crazed Dr. Carlyle. At the climax Munchie levitates the rickety jeep they're driving and flies it across the face of the full moon, a Spielbergian image the Corman crew sniggeringly
Director Jim Wynorski and co-writer R.J. Robertson are prolific B-movie crafters who often season their celluloid junk food with warped humor. Initially they give Gage some funny daydream fantasies, but those abruptly cease. Also insufficiently exploited is the idea (propounded by Arte Johnson,
playing an eccentric professor with an indefinable accent) that Munchie has guided human progress for eons, instructing Buddha, authoring all Shakespeare's works and inventing the automobile. The filmmakers trip over another plot point: Gage wants to win the love of a pretty classmate, and while
fulfilling that wish Munchie gets the girl's widowed father romantically paired off with mom Cathy. Wouldn't that end up making Gage's desire sort of ... illegal?
Jaime McEnnan and all the other child actors are wonderfully expressive; one sincerely hopes they get superior material. Stevens, frequently seen as ingratiating heroes, shows good comic timing in his change-of-pace role as a bad guy. As he did in the AN AMERICAN TAIL animated features, Dom
DeLuise proves himself an excellent vocal artist; his energetic patter far outshines the dopey-looking mechanical doll from which it emanates. Looking like a pop-eyed cross between Bilbo Baggins and the Big Boy Restaurant logo, the Munchie prop goes through its paces with limited gestures and a
frozen what-me-worry smirk on its face.
Lots of schlock-cinema vets make small cameos, including PHANTASM's Angus Scrimm, sexy young things Monique Gabrielle and Becky LeBeau, and the one and only Fred Olen Ray. A real surpise is the whimsical score by Chuck Cirino, a composer who's contributed chalk-against-blackboard synthesizer
chords to too many horror pics. His MUNCHIE musical theme, however, is a pleasant little tune that's the nearest to magic this production ever gets. (Substance abuse.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: PG
- Review: Roger Corman's MUNCHIES wasn't the worst GREMLINS knockoff (not while a tape called HOBGOBLINS is still around), but close enough. It featured a horde of Aztec puppet demons who all talked like Cheech Marin as they ate up a town. But enough bad memories. T… (more)