New Line // 1991 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // August 5th, 2003
You are what...they...eat!
While returning from one of those notorious family vacations that can best be summarized as consisting of long cross country treks sandwiched in between greasy roadside food stands and the ever present scent of bad foot/butt odor, Annie and her baby brattling Johnny run into two very strange people. One is Charlie, the occasional intergalactic bounty hunter who's now just the deposed, certifiably loco ex-sheriff of Groves Point, Kansas. The other is pre-pubescent hunky meat Josh, whose strange stepfather is the President of the Simon LeGree Impersonators Club. During a Frisbee hunt pow wow, crazy Charles in Charge tells the young ones about the Crites, the tiny hirsute space spuds that have kept him unemployed and shunned for most of the last few years. After this close encounter of the pedophilic kind, everyone returns to Topeka to continue living their less-than-luxury high lives. Little do they know, but those reprehensible little globes of gluttony have hiked a hitch and are now living in the basement of Annie and Johnny's non-efficiency flophouse. There they eat the sour super, Josh's evil landlord non-biological and umpteen snootfuls of ham and beans. Mandatory extraterrestrial fart jokes are the order for the day when our about-to-be-evicted victims fall through the pipes, climb past the holes, and stall for their Critters 3.
At this point in the Critters Quadrophonicology (oh yes, there is still one more to go...), the notion of the cheesed-off roly poly porcupines terrorizing the citizens of Anyset, USA, just can't build up a decent head of steam. In this cracked combination of *batteries not included and Troll, the rather ineffective furballs get the opportunity to move on up to the big city (well, Topeka) and a deluxe apartment in the sky (actually, a dilapidated home for pseudo transients) and still can't figure out a way to be entertaining, frightening, or just non-comatose. Oddly, over the inevitable sequels, the character design of the Crites has seen a significant makeover. Where once they looked like fuzzy bowling balls with teeth, they now resemble glowing red eyed over plump wombats with dental issues. Also seemingly modified is their slaughtering instinct. While part one and part two had them operating under an instant gratification modus, the Critters of number three are all about delayed satisfaction. They are more than happy to let several minutes of mediocre plot play by before they sink a tooth into it. And they are no longer the aggressive, go-getting type A personality pests they strove to be in the initial offerings. Indeed, this latest version of The Attack of the Feathered Apples sees our bored beasties simply waiting for potential meals to wander into their personal space before pouncing on them. Of course, they still skitter around and go bowling for dinner, but they are just not the same kick-ass Critters as before. When you combined this with the fact that the series go-to guy, the bumbling gap-toothed Charlie, is utilized for only the first three and last fifteen minutes of the movie (including the irritating over credits crud) you realize that this mildewed Melrose Place with monsters has nothing really much going for it.
Except maybe stunt casting. Critters 3 has the distinction of being the first big screen outing for the until then small screen future heartthrob known as "The Noodle." That's right, toddler teenyboppers in training will recognize a certain blond haired sex machine in formation as Leonardo DeCaprio struts and frets his ten or so minutes upon the soundstage on his way to becoming a qualified seat moistener. For those who are so inclined, rejoice in the notion that Leo looks all cuddly and duddly in his ersatz skate rat pageboy haircut, bangs sufficiently long so that he can occasionally brush them off his face in a smoldering, devil-may-care sweep of his hand. But for the rest of you, he will simply be a starting out star anomaly, like Johnny Depp in A Nightmare on Elm Street, Kevin Bacon in Friday the 13th, or Tiny Tim in Blood Harvest. The rest of the surrounding cast are so non-descript that they are often utilized by police departments to check their sketch artist's skill level. Indeed, most of the actors seem to have been hired for how much they kinda sorta look like someone maybe. The lumbering hair-lipped buffoon playing luscious Leo's scrappy step-pappy looks like a drag queen's impersonation of Fred Gwynne. The resident old couple is the spitting image of every other elderly duo that has ever been cast in a film. And the love interest/frisky fighting female of the rental unit resembles a post-Necronomicon facelift (or is that facelongate) Ash from Army of Darkness. Incorporate the King of the World into this meandering mishmash of tired jokes, rubber puppet effects, and non-existence scares, and you've got everything the first Critters fought against so bravely. Critters 3 shows that, when it comes to hackneyed old sayings, the third time is not the charm, but the harm.
As part of their ongoing efforts to release every mediocre monster and horror film that surfaced in the late '80s/early '90s, New Line brings Critters 3 out into the open in a "trailers only" DVD dud that no amount of milk could make palatable. Strictly from a print quality position, the movie looks pretty good. Obviously budgeted at about half what the first two installments of the series were made for, the movie has many negative "negative" issues, including grain, dirt, and scratches. New Line does clean it up a little and then gives you the option of seeing the halfway viable transfer in either 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen or "go ahead, it's only Critters 3" full screen. Neither is better than the other image wise, and no-name director Kristine Peterson wouldn't know what to do with a frame if she had a priceless, borderless Van Gogh sitting around her home, so it's completely up to you which version you view. Sonically, Critters 3 is not very good. The Dolby Digital 5.1 renders everyone into an echo chamber, mistaking reverb or distance for ambiance. And since all we have to drown our digital sorrows in is a collection of the same old freaky furball movie ads (the DVD-ROM content was unavailable), there is nothing here to warrant another helping of these ornery orbs from outer space -- not even the underbaked beefcake of the future star of Poison Ivy and Total Eclipse. Save your Leo lust and your disposable income for the inevitable Growing Pains Special Edition DVD. This Critters should have been condemned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* DVD-ROM Content