Suburban Commando – Movie Review

Jamie Lithgow

(Image courtesy of

(Image courtesy of

This month we’re celebrating 30 years since Hulk Hogan won his first WWE Championship, and thus introduced the world to Hulk-a-mania. So, I thought I’d join in the festivities by celebrating The Hulkster’s acting career. Previously I’ve endured No Holds Barred, Hogan’s debut as a leading man. This WWE produced film is just as bad, if not worse, than people say. So, it was with some trepidation that I recently sat down to watch his 1991 effort; Suburban Commando.

For some reason I had never previously seen this film. In fact, despite spending much of my childhood watching crap action movies and wrestling, until I watched No Holds Barred I had never actually seen a Hulk Hogan movie. Anyway, let’s get into it and see what the film was about…

Hogan plays Shep Ramsey, an intergalactic spaceman warrior type chap. At the very start of the film he invades and blows up the evil General Suitor’s ship. Sounds good, except he also blows up President Hashima (we have no idea where or what he was president of) who was being kept hostage. Afterwards Shep’s boss recommends that the big man take some time off. The stressed out spaceman then breaks his spaceship by punching some buttons on a control panel, which blew the power or something. He is then instructed to find a suitable location to charge his ship’s batteries, and that location just happens to be suburban America.

Shep lands in what appears to be an old nightclub, suitably titled ‘The Landing Pad’. He has to charge his ship at 0.01% efficiency, because the bad guys (who’s spaceship was just blown up, with them inside) can detect when space gadgets are being used. At such a low efficiency it will take Shep 6 weeks to fully charge his ship, which is plenty time to develop a plot and establish some characters!

These characters come in the form of Charlie Wilcox (Christopher Lloyd) and his family. Charlie is an architect with a weak will who can never bring himself to ask for a raise from his twat-ish, yet ultimately hapless, boss. To ease the family’s money woes Charlie’s wife transforms his workshop into a small apartment, which took her all of a few hours. Can you guess who rents the room? That’s right, the movie is off and running.

As Shep tries to adapt to life on Earth there are some genuinely funny moments. He KO’s a paperboy, flips a car over, launches a skateboard into space and his initial run-in with a mime is hilarious. At this point Charlie becomes suspicious of his giant lodger and follows him. Charlie stumbles across Shep’s spaceship before using some of his gadgets to apprehend some crooks trying to attack a random woman. This moment gives the film a purpose because the bad guys can now locate Shep. A couple of bounty hunters – one of which is played by a pre-Undertaker Mark Calaway – are already on their way to capture our hero.

(Image courtesy of

Before he was a supernatural funeral worker, Mark Calaway was an intergalactic bounty hunter. That’s quite a CV.
(Image courtesy of

From here it is a simple case of cat and mouse, and of course the mice i.e. Charlie and Shep, defeat the cats. However the evil General Suitor shows up, despite being blown up earlier in the film. He takes Charlie and his family hostage in a bid to capture Shep. In true Power Rangers fashion there’s a fight, the bad guy transforms (into something akin to the aliens from District 9 and a crocodile) but is still defeated.

In defeating the bad guys Shep had to blow up his own ship. Never fear though, he managed to locate the bounty hunters cockroach shaped spaceship and head back to wherever he came from. Oh, he also took Charlie’s boss’ secretary with him, for some reason.

So that was Suburban Commando, and it was better than I expected. The plot was as you would expect from a sci-fi comedy; ridiculous. Still, other than General Suitor’s mysterious ability to survive massive explosions there were no plot holes and everything, for the most part, made sense. Moreover, there were some genuinely funny moments. Hogan is actually pretty good as a fish out of water and Beltz (that’s Charlie’s boss) is good value too. Christopher Lloyd obviously does a good job as well.

Now for the negative points, and there aren’t as many as you’d think. The film is, for lack of a better term, shit. However, it’s knowingly shit, which softens the blow as far as I’m concerned. However, what really lets the film down is the embarrassing, even by standards of the time, special effects. I use that term loosely by the way. Every scene set in space or in a space ship looks terrible. The sets look like those used in the 1970’s Dr Who series i.e. made from cardboard and plastic. The scenes where Shep is flying his spaceship are even worse. It looks like a poor quality cardboard cut-out superimposed on a moving background. Even worse than that is the special effects, or lack thereof, used on the freeze gun victims. Rather than appear frozen these extras seemed to have been covered in flour, and could still move. Yes, rather than freeze the extras digitally they were simply asked to play musical statues and stay as still as possible. Evidently many of them found this rather tricky.

However, all things considered Suburban Commando is not as bad as what you might think. It’s a comedy film which has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, and does deliver a few laughs. The fact that the film was originally written for Arnold Schwarzenegger (as Shep) and Danny DeVito (as Charlie) does indicate a reasonable standard of writing in the script – and would have made the Terminator inspired scene after Shep arrives on Earth that much better. The plot is straight out of Power Rangers, but it’s of secondary concern. The main selling point is seeing an intergalactic spaceman trying to fit into early 90’s suburban America, and in that respect it does deliver some decent entertainment.

The Verdict
Suburban Commando is one of those films that you might watch between Christmas and New Year, when loads of crap movies are broadcast. It’s daft and the special effects are abysmal, but it’s only 90 minutes long and does deliver a few laughs. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t suggest anyone go out of their way to see it. However, I wouldn’t tell anyone to completely avoid it either. What I would suggest is that you lower expectations and just go with it. At the end you might even share my opinion that with a better cast (Arnie & DeVito), and thus a bigger budget, Suburban Commando could have been a half decent family movie.

4 thoughts on “Suburban Commando – Movie Review

  1. Apparently this movie was originally going to be titled “Urban Commando”, and it would’ve starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito as Shep and Charlie, but they choose to do the 1988 film “Twins” instead.


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