When "Critters" was about to hit theaters in 1986, few would've put much stock in its chances for success. When movies "like that" did well, it was a rare anomaly. The genre of these movies, however you want to describe it, seems to beg for poor reviews and even worse profits. Besides, most of the more distinguished critics who'd even condescend to reviewing "Critters" usually did so only to gripe about how it was a "Gremlins" rip-off.
It was pretty strange. "Gremlins" was one of the few films of its type to enjoy mainstream success; it was the only one of these films that seemed sharp and okay to like. Well, "Critters" shocked the world not only by its tidy but notable success, but because some of the well known critics actually liked it. It was a huge victory for those of us who wanted the string of "little monsters kill and eat people" family movies to continue, but "Critters" ultimately did us more harm than good. A lousy sequel debuted two years later, and in the years following that? Two more sequels -- really lousy sequels.
I've already reviewed Critters, and I've also reviewed the 1988 sequel, Critters 2. Today, we take a look at "Critters 3." Most of the original cast -- and certainly the first two films' main stars -- were absent. The budget was obviously cut down, with the menacing "Crites" looking less like alien monsters and more like dark mops with googly eyes glued on. The script, if one actually existed, consisted of lines that went 80 miles past cliche right into the dreaded "there is no way God exists if someone can write lines this bad" territory. Still, I wouldn't mind if the story and script were bad so long as the action was fun to watch. It's not. "Critters 3" is terminally dull, with the creatures taking a back-seat to three dozen superfluous subplots and a fat lady with cold sores that were too large even for Hollywood's Max Factor to cover up convincingly. Fat ladies with cold sores and superfluous subplots were not what I came (or sat, on a dirty couch) to see. I wanted those Crites to eat people and bleed a lot for a solid 90 minute block. Instead, I got goofy stories about family problems starring Leonardo DiCaprio. What? No, really. Leonardo DiCaprio.
"Critters 3" was DiCaprio's big screen debut. Sort of. The film never actually made it to theaters, woefully predestined as a straight-to-video release to be forgotten alongside copies of better "Gremlins" rip-offs, like the "Ghoulies" series. Leo played "Josh," one the flick's young heroes who thwart nasty demons with a special blend of basement wit and knowing the precise moment to silently mouth along to their fellow actors' lines. He did about as good of a job as anyone could with the role, narrowly escaping any harsh criticism because hey, it's "Critters 3." They even phoned in the title.
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To tell you the truth, I would've passed on doing this review entirely if I had less faith in "Critters 4." The fourth and final installment is probably dumber than this one, but from what I've read, it's a whole lot more fun. Just to spite me, there's enough of a continuity within the series to necessitate chronological reviewing, so if I ever want to get to "Critters 4," I've gotta recap scenes where stock footage of someone bowling a strike is juxtaposed with some idiot rolling a trash can at a stack of Critters. Yes, that's really in it. We better get this over with...
Check it out -- even the title screen sucks. I'm hesitant to introduce our main characters, as despite the nauseatingly gratuitous amount of screen-time they get, they don't actually do much. The characters are about as well defined as a lump of shit, incidentally an equivalently commendable casting choice.
"Annie" is our lead heroine; the spunky young yazadoo charged with taking care of both her little brother and "Clifford," their detached and nearly comatose father. Seems that Mom's done kick dee old bucket, and this unnamed family is hanging together by a thread. For all intents, only Annie is worth mentioning. The value of the little brother's role could've been easily duplicated by scripting the family with a cute puppy who followed them around. Ironically, the only scene I can distinctly remember the little brother in had the kid fetching a frisbee.
So, Little Brother is running after a missed frisbee, and just before he accidentally stumbles into a steep ditch, Leonardo DiCaprio pulls him to safety and warns about the potential of "badgers being down there." I swear on the church, this actually happens.
"Josh" introduces himself to the family, and we also get to meet his nasty stepfather. Everyone's pulled over at a gas station or something, and Josh's stepfather exits his truck with a perfectly mixed cocktail complete with a little cherry-covered umbrella. We never learn where he found the cocktail, but a movie like "Critters 3" should never be watched by those who like to raise questions or verify logic. This is the movie you throw on when you need to lull a friend into an almost-dormant state of drooling stupidity so you can find out if he's fucking your girlfriend. As I watched the action unfold, yellow ducks and the letter "Q" suddenly seemed so amusing.
Down in the mysterious ditch, the kids run into "Charlie," who fans should recognize from the first two movies. A loser on Earth turned heroic bounty hunter in space, Charlie had pivotal roles in "Critters" and "Critters 2." Nobody wanted him to have pivotal roles, but we didn't have a say. Somehow, Stupid Charlie is the cornerstone of the entire franchise. He warns the kids about the Crites, coming off more like a derelict than a championed warrior. This isn't lost on the children, who write off Charlie's warnings as the ravings of someone who was probably better off dead.
Family Whatever live in a cruddy old apartment building, where the heat never works and the water is no longer water. Here we meet some of the film's secondary characters, and I stress the word "secondary" as a small grace from God -- a concession from above. Had "Frank," the slimy landlord, or "Marcia," good-natured butchwoman been main characters, audiences as a collective would've forged on-the-spot murder/suicide pacts, choosing death over 90 minutes spent with Frank and Marcia. Check the video clip following the review to see how these two were introduced. I'll whet your appetite: Frank grabs his crotch and Marcia pulls out a fourth grade level joke about his dick size. Not shown in the clip is the director realizing what he'd signed on for and cutting his head off with a saw.
Through some convoluted way, the Crite eggs make their way to the apartment building. The eggs are a staple of the "Critters" series; a foreshadowing of the terrible creatures to come. Course, we'd already seen the things in two movies already, so I don't know why they put us through all the buildup again. We knew what they looked like, we knew what they did. It's likely that they kept the Critters' scenes limited because the crusty Indian who puppeteered them was nicknamed "Chief Hands Tire Fast" by his old tribe. If they had to hire a second person to make the Critters hop around, they would've went over their budget of three Omaha steaks owed to the nice old lady who lent out her video camera and a bottle of ketchup. I don't know what I'm saying, but I assure you that it's more interesting than what was going on in the movie.
Anyway, Annie and her little brother are entrusted to some old people upstairs, because Father Clifford is too busy drinking and sleeping to be a good parent. "Mrs. Menges" is played Frances Bay. Bay's had zillions of roles, but I'll always remember her best as the instigator of Sophia Petrillio's legendary demand for a pork chop refund and a nectarine discount. "Mr. Menges" is played by Bill Zuckert, supplying the character of "old man who believes in aliens because it is absolutely convenient for him to do so." Mr. Menges starts putting the puzzle together, pulling out old articles detailing the events seen in the first two movies. I wish this led to something, but it doesn't. Mr. Menges says and does enough in his first minutes onscreen to create the aura of being an important character, ultimately deciding that he'd convey more to the audience by standing silently in the background for the film's remaining sixty minutes. Old people are funny.
Finally, we're finished with the lousy exposition. Time for the Critters to make their presence known. They've hatched! Momma Peltzer GET OUT OF THAT HOUSE!
The Critters look slightly different this time around -- they're a bit bigger, and kind of smiling. With glowing red eyes and poisonous quills, the Crites are ready to attack. Their first target? Rosalie, the resident fat woman. You'll recognize her, though probably not for any particular role. Diana Bellamy's been playing fat ladies for decades, with guest spots on every sitcom imaginable, from "Family Ties" to "Home Improvement," and yes, even "Herman's Head." Fun, food. Babes.
Amazingly, the Critters don't finish her off. "Critters 3" is plagued by that old horror cliche where only the bad guys get killed, and the death toll is criminally low. The scene isn't without some merits, though. One of the Crites shoots quills at Rosalie's bunny slippers, leading up to a group attack where they bloody up her leg and leave the fatty screaming for help and candy. Annie saves the day, managing to ward off a horde of alien monsters while pulling a 8,000 pound woman up the staircase simultaneously. Go Annie. This leads to the aforementioned "bowling scene," and rather than explain it, I'll just point you to the clip following the review. Bowling for Critters. It happened.
So here's where we're at: the Critters have just about taken over the building, with the remaining tenants boarding themselves up in a top floor apartment. We've got Clifford and Fat Rosalie, wounded from Crite attacks. We've got the old Menges couple, wounded from being four hundred years old. We've got Annie and her brother. We've got style, we've got rhythm.
Josh and his evil stepfather arrive at the apartment building, unaware of the craziness waiting within. As it turns out, Josh's stepfather is the perpetuator of a terrible plot to throw the tenants out and replace the tattered building with a shopping mall. Josh voices his displeasure over having such a shitty stepfather. Confident that he made his point, Josh goes back to playing "Game Boy," complete with ridiculous dubbed "video game music" which sounded a lot more like Enya than Tetris to me.
No worries, though. The Crites make short work of Evil Stepfather, leaving Josh feeling all guilty for wishing him dead. That doesn't last long, and Leo ultimate teams up with all of the idiots upstairs. It's the age old battle of human versus Crite, and we've got a ringside seat. Praise Jesus.
In an effort to completely confuse you, I should mention that bounty hunting Charlie earlier presented Annie's little brother with a Nature Store crystal that glowed green whenever the Crites were near. Combining that with the missed frisbee throw, you now know the full extent of Little Brother's role in "Critters 3."
A fire swarms through the lower levels of the building, with our heroes trapped on the top floor. Meanwhile, the Crites kill time by invading the kitchen to eat beans and dish soap. Really. Seems like every flick in the series had a scene like this, with the monsters just going about their comedic eating business for ten minutes without trying to kill anyone.
Still, compared to the "feast scenes" in past "Critters" movies, this was pretty brutal. Even if you find the notion of an alien porcupine drinking dish soap funny, I don't think you'll hold that smile for sixteen consecutive minutes. He just keeps on drinking that dish soap forever and ever. Another Crite opts for a bowl full of beans, capping off the meal with a round of spirited flatulence. Hey look, that Crite is breaking wind! It's even funnier the eightieth time!
Most of the reviews I've read of this movie cite is as being "too short." In actuality, it's 86 minutes -- just four minutes shy of the standard for these kinds of flicks. The reason it feels so short is because there's zero payoff. You just mount and mount and mount, and bam, it's over. No massive action sequence, no huge Crite invasion -- it just goes and goes and dies. Take this next scene, for example...
Butchy Marcia, trapped upside-down by a wire outside the building, tries to swing her way to a nearby phone booth to call the police. On the first swing, she misses. On the second swing, she misses. Third swing, fourth swing, tenth swing and fifty-sixth swing -- she misses. If they wanted to kill ten minutes doing nothing, that's fine. Just keep showing the Critters farting and drinking dish soap. Anything but this.
After a few more minutes of nothing, Charlie arrives and blows the Critters to bits. That's how the story ends. The guy just waltzes in, shoots the creatures, and 90 minutes of shit is wrapped up all nice and tidy with a ten-second one-sided gunfight. Only those who haven't seen "Critters 3" would consider this a negative. Believe me, you'll be very thankful that the movie's over, no matter how stupid the ending is. Thank God for Charlie and that beautiful gun.
The Crites have been vanquished, once again. That's really all anyone needs to know, but they waste another few minutes on goodbyes and other assorted gibberish...
Annie and Josh make plans for a date, with Josh's mother showing no signs of remorse over her late and very much eaten husband. Having seen the guy nail lines like "I'll show you how to be a ruthless businessman yet, Sport!," I can't say that I don't understand her apathy. The kids neglect to seal the deal with a kiss. Does that mean Leonardo DiCaprio's first onscreen kiss was to that kid in "This Boy's Life?" About five feet away, Charlie bids farewell to Little Brother. It'd have been more heartfelt had either character spoken more than two lines or been onscreen for longer than three minutes during the movie.
Clifford, having saved Annie from certain Crite doom at the last second, redeems himself as a worthy father. Literally, the dude spent 96% of the film's duration either in a quill-induced coma or sleeping just because he wanted to. It's like trying to rewrite "Return of the Jedi" so that Death Star higher-up "Admiral Piett" turned up at the end of the film to assert more importance and heroism than any other character. It's also stupid since Clifford has reddish hair much like "Clifford the Dog," and it's grating to know that "Critters 3" landed any pop ties that actually made sense.
Oh, Rosalie's just fine, too. All of the mistreated tenants are granted free hotel stays while the building is rebuilt; oddly the film's idea of an ultimate happy ending. Woo hoo -- free hotel stays! That sure takes the punch out of that whole almost-eaten-by-aliens bit. Better than Lotto! I still can't believe that they didn't kill off Rosalie. Of the trillions of movies featuring small, evil creatures that feed in groups, there's always a fat lady getting eaten. This was like watching a She-Ra episode without the Loo-Kee Lookout. Something was missing, and it could've easily been remedied with one shot of Rosalie screaming while handpuppets bounced on her tits.
As the ending credits roll, Charlie returns and finds two stray Crite eggs, containing the only remaining Crites. Before he can destroy them, lead bounty hunter "Ug" (big hero from the first two movies) sends a holographic message ordering Charlie to drop his weapon. As they're the last of the Crite species, they must be preserved. A space capsule falls to Earth, with Charlie in disbelief that he's gotta save the Crite eggs and deliver them in outer space. By the time we get up to "Best Boy" on the credits roll, the meaning of this strange scene becomes all too clear. They're going for another one. "To Be Continued."
"Critters 4," made in the same year, took the action away from Earth and added a new cast, including Angela Bassett and Brad Dourif. I own the cassette, as embarrassing as that might be, and will review it the next time I'm in the mood to watch furry demons fart, eat dish soap, and not eat fat people.
Overall: 5 out of 10, I guess? The first two are more annoying to watch, but they're still infinitely more watchable, even if that doesn't make sense. "Critters 3" felt more like an in-joke for the production team, gleefully half-assing a movie that had no need for a full effort. The joke will be lost on most audiences, especially these days. Anybody who rents "Critters 3" in 2004 is only doing so for the misguided rumor that a young Leo DiCaprio gets mangled and eaten by aliens. It doesn't happen. Don't believe the rumors.
Okay, so there's this really fat woman in "Critters 3," and you'll spend the entire movie waiting for her to die. But she doesn't. And we hate the movie for it. Oh well, at least they attacked her, and shot poison spines at her bunny slippers. (942 KB)
Here's the closest thing "Critters 3" has to a "famous scene." The Crites have taken over Random Generic Building, enjoying their new kitchen by eating beans and drinking dish soap. Then they fart a lot, but I was too prissy to include that in the clip. (1.6 MB)
At the end of the credits, Charlie is reunited with bounty hunter "Ug" by a holographic phone call ordering him to protect the last two Crite eggs. Don't know what I'm talking about? Don't feel bad. Nobody else will, either. (2.1 MB)
"Critters 3: this was released in 1991. I did enoy this movie. Leonardo Di Caprio starred in this movie. He was only 17 years old when he starred and played a part in this movie. I enjoy watching critters as i think it gets you in the mood when the humour comes. I give this one 10 out of 10."
"This is the third entry in the CRITTERS series. This one is still funny. It has a good cast, good acting, and characters that you really feel for. The special effects are ok. Funny and like-able. 3 stars out of 5."
"I think that Critters 3 is a good movie and i think it's the best one out of the all critters movies. here is my top 4
1.critters 3 2.critters 2 3.critters 4.critters 4
I don't think that there will be another critters movie and i think they should not make another."
"Compared to one and two,this is roten.It only has one charicter from the first two,and there is no,zero comedy here,at leas the first two had some humorous points,but this tries to be pure horror,not even Sci-fi,and fails misserably!The Critters rarely hurt anyone,let alone kill!In fact,I can't remember anyone diying,exept an old buzzard of a grandpa!And this jewel that tells of danger,not only was it ignored in 4,but could have been done without,still,it has some pretty good action,and a weird ending leaving itself open for a sequel,not something for a night of fun for the family!"
"Critters 3" failed on many levels. Can't really iterate the excessive stupidity. "Crites" is an acronym for that last sentence. How about that?