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Subj: Post-Halloween Roundup: Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988)
Posted: Sun Nov 08, 2020 at 09:00:31 pm EST (Viewed 216 times)
Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988)
We begin watching a local TV host on the Dollar Movie which is also a radio call-in show. If you call with the secret word of the day you get a prize, and in this movie it's not a surprise that the ending to Return of the Killer Tomatoes hinges upon the villain saying the secret word and getting distracted by a shower of confetti which allows the heroes to defeat him. It's hard to worry about spoilers in a movie where the plot doesn't matter.
The Dollar Movie host would rather watch a bikini girls movie but the station forces him to run Killer Tomatoes instead. As the movie opens, we meet Dr. Gangrene (John Astin) who was apparently behind the tomato uprising in the first movie. Now he has figured out how to use music to transform tomatoes into humans who look like Rambo and even come equipped with machine guns. He vows to take over the world this time.
We get a remix of the theme song from the first movie which tells us little nuggets like Herman Farbage was not actually killed taking out the garbage as previously thought, and is now getting his own TV show. We see clips from the first movie which leads into headlines about how tomatoes have been banned by the government. Wilbur Finletter (Stephen "Rock" Peace), the hero of the first movie, has retired from the military and sets up a pizza shop with nephew Chad (Anthony Starke) and Chad's friend Matt (George Clooney). Since they can't use tomato sauce they tend to top their pizzas with peanut butter or boysenberry syrup.
Chad delivers a pizza to Gangrene's house and meets his lovely assistant Tara (Karen Mistal) who is secretly a tomato person, apparently bred by Gangreen to learn over 600 sexual positions and also cook and clean. They fall for each other and eventually they team up to try and stop Gangrene's plan, but it's really just a framework to hang non-stop, usually fourth-wall-breaking jokes upon.
Richardson, the press secretary and villain of the first movie has been recast with Rick Rockwell, whom I think was a standup comedian but is mostly remembered from the Fox TV special "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire." Richardson is now being held at the Oliver North Detention Center which is divided into two wings for "really bad people" and "White House aides." His group mostly play golf and he moans that "I was a big deal in the first movie!"
Gangrene gets himself an assistant named Igor (Steve Lundquist) who is not hunchbacked or odd-looking, he dresses in a suit and really wants to be a local TV anchor. He drives around in a garbage truck with a hand-painted TV station sign on the side.
Tara finds one of Gangrene's discarded experiments, a Fuzzy Tomato she calls F.T. which is about as lifelike as a Tribble. Chad has to get over his prejudice against tomatoes when he discovers F.T. and finds Tara sitting with the little fuzzball gobbling down garden nutrients, which is when he learns her secret.
Matt sets up a "win a date with Rob Lowe" contest with himself as the consolation prize. "Just make sure you're over 18" he adds. Some of the topical jokes of the time probably don't hold up but there is so much coming at you all the time, like a Zucker/Abrams movie, both verbal jokes and odd signs and weird notions. There's the return of the obnoxious reporter, played by John De Bello, who asks a woman about a tomato sighting at a restaurant but he can't stop insulting her long enough to hear her story.
There's a running gag that the movie is out of money so they have to start doing obvious product placement. It's similar to the joke in Wayne's World a few years later but this time the joke lasts for the entire remainder of the movie. For example, Chad and Matt are having a conversation and a hand reaches in from offscreen a places a box of Corn Flakes in front of them, blocking their faces.
Finletter suits up in his paratrooper gear again and brings back the disguise artist Sam Smith and a scuba guy, both from the first movie, both recast I think. They all head to Gangrene's to finish the movie. The thing is, Gangrene has a full army but he never goes anywhere or does anything with them. I wonder if he even had a plan?
We end back with the Dollar Movie which has been taken over by carrots, the twist villains at the end of the first movie, this time grown into human-sized carrot soldiers. I assume this will be a running gag in all the movies?
The writing/directing/producing/acting trio of John De Bello, Stephen Peace and Costa Dillon hadn't done much cinematically since the original Attack of the Killer Tomatoes other than poorly-received fratboy comedy Happy Hour. But a 1986 episode of children's cartoon Muppet Babies which featured Fozzie Bear reliving the Killer Tomatoes attack (with footage from the first movie) was so well received that the production company behind that show decided to create both a sequel movie and an animated series. I'm not which one was conceived first but the movie came out in 1988 and the cartoon in 1990. They both feature the same main cast of characters, Wilbur and Chad Finletter, Tara, F.T., Dr. Gangrene and Igor. Only John Astin reprised his character for the cartoon.
The movie was successful enough to launch two more sequels after this, Killer Tomatoes Strike Back! and Killer Tomatoes Eat France!.