Killer Tomatoes
Killer Tomatoes Eat France!
Medium: film
Year: 1991
Director: John De Bello
Writer: John De Bello, Costa Dillon, J. Stephen Peace
Keywords: comedy, parody, low-budget, rubbish
Country: USA
Actor: Tom Katsis, John Astin, Bill LaFleur, Steve Lundquist, Marc Price, Angela Visser, Costa Dillon, Kevin West, John De Bello, Rick Rockwell
Format: 94 minutes
Series: << Killer Tomatoes
Website category: Comedy
Review date: 15 July 2008
Yeah, yeah, laugh at me. I was disappointed by the fourth Attack of the Killer Tomatoes film. It's got a bigger budget and twenty times the invention of #3, but at the end of the day it's not very funny. I loved the first twenty minutes, but after that it all rather dribbled away. The problem is the story. With the blandest heroes of any of these sequels and no plot structure to speak of, there's nothing to support the gags.
I don't blame the actors. They're quite good with the self-parody, even if they never manage to rise above it. One is Marc Price (Michael), a former child actor near the end of his short acting career, and the other is Angela Visser (Marie), a former Miss Universe at the start of hers. She's pretty. They're both sometimes funny. They get lots of good jokes and they're likeable. However neither of them says or does anything that matters, unless you count Michael's short-lived period of despair when he thinks he's lost his girl and he goes off to war to end it all. It's also fair to note that Visser is very good at wearing a low-cut dress to the theatre.
No, the plot is driven instead by its villains, John Astin and Steve Lundquist returning once again as Professor Gangreen and Igor. Personally I reckon the filmmakers should have ditched the good guys altogether and turned this into a Pinky and the Brain style romp as Gangreen tries to take over the world. They're still better than their material, John Astin in particular now having worked out how to deliver Killer Tomatoes dialogue, but even for a comedy his character's latest evil plan is dumb. He's found an old book of prophecy which says that when the streets run red, the sky turns black and the waters dry up, then a new King of France will take the throne. The picture in this book resembles Igor.
Yes, that's his plan. A prophecy in an old book. Even this could have been fun if they'd gone crazy with the Biblical curses, but the streets running red is realised by Gangreen spraying a few passers-by with squashed tomatoes. Theoretically it should also have been a stretch to believe that the people of France will cast aside centuries of republicanism to give the crown to some random dork, but in fairness this is a Killer Tomatoes movie.
In fact the French are portrayed throughout as comedy retards, self-lampooning cliches and/or Blackadder peasants. Angela Visser's character manages to be even more of a cartoon than Karen M. Waldron's similarly self-spoofing romantic lead in Return, despite the fact that unlike Karen's character had literally been a vegetable. She's French, you see. I hadn't particularly been looking forward to this, but as with Flushed Away it actually provides the movie's best laughs. Most of this film is fairly hit and miss, but the first twenty minutes are excellent and the main reason is all the gags about France. It doesn't matter yet that the plot hasn't got going and we're happy just to go on a whistle-stop tour of Outrageous Stereotype Land.
Oh, and why those watery-looking squashed tomatoes? What would have been so bad about using ketchup or tomato paste? If we can't get a little blood from the activities of these Not-So-Killer Tomatoes, then couldn't we have got something that looks like it? The only death in the whole film comes courtesy of Tomatohead, a monster big enough to eat people. I wanted more of that.
As for the regular tomatoes, would I sound strange if I said that they're stupid-looking even for a Killer Tomato movie? Apparently they're based on characters from Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: The Animated Series, but with redesigned faces. They're glove puppets, essentially. They look rather good when they're just sitting there chattering away, but they're more than a little daft when bouncing along. They're called Zoltan, Kethuck and Viper and it seems that at last tomatoes in the Tomatoverse have abandoned their squeaky little language for English. They even do musical numbers. Twice. On stage. With lyrics. This is less funny than it sounds.
Of course even at their best, they're not a patch on the original's real tomatoes. I reckon the little red guys are underused these days. Even as late as #3, some of the best jokes involved the terror of a tomato on the rampage. I'm thinking of the Friday the 13th parody.
The cast is... uh, why am I talking about the cast? Kevin West gets another cameo, but a rubbish one. The production team's guest spots are bigger than ever, though.
Overall, this is an amateurish and uninteresting mess from a franchise that feels as if it's had its day. The fourth wall gags haven't got old yet, but that's a minor miracle in itself. However that said, ironically going off to France clearly inspired the filmmakers fit to bursting with fresh material, so this could have been a real winner if only they'd managed to string together some kind of story instead of just a collection of scenes. One thing I particularly admire is that none of these four Killer Tomato movies in any way even tried to copy its predecessors. Instead they're all so different that you'll get whiplash going from one to the next, which is absolutely not the way any studio would approach a franchise.
I did laugh hard several times during this film. The war movie was good. France was excellent, helped a lot by swathes of location shooting. I said they'd boosted the budget, didn't I? This is an enthusiastic, good-natured film that's as usual jam-packed with comic ideas, but as a whole it feels flabby and amateurish. One of those films that works much better if you're doing something else while you're watching it.