Insomnia File No. 17: The Suburbans (dir by Donal Lardner Ward)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!


Last night, if you were still awake at 3:45 in the morning, you could have turned over to Starz and watched the 1999 comedy, The Suburbans!

And, in all probability, you would have fallen asleep before it was over.

This film tells the story of four guys who used to be in a band.  The name of the band was The Suburbans and, in 1980, they had a hit with a song called … wait … what the Hell was that song called?  See, this is an example of how slapdash The Suburbans was.  The whole point of the film is that they had a hit song but the movie goes off in some many different and random tangents that I can’t even remember what the name of this very important song was.  All I remember is that the song didn’t really sound like it would ever be a hit (no, not even in the 80s) and that the four guys really didn’t seem like they would ever be rock stars.

Anyway, The Suburbans only had that one hit and now, nearly twenty years later, all the band members are leading conventional lives in the suburbs.  Oddly, they all appear to live in the same suburb and they’re all still best friends.  Craig Bierko is the former lead guitarist, who is now a doctor of some sort.  Will Ferrell (yes, that Will Ferrell) is the former bass player who now works with computers.  Tony Guma is the overweight drummer who is at the center of a lot of scenes, presumably because Guma co-wrote the script.  Donal Lardner Ward is the former lead singer.  Along with starring in the film, Ward also directed it.  That might explain why, despite not being a very interesting character, everyone in the film is portrayed as being in love with him.

The Suburbans briefly reunite to play at Ferrell’s wedding.  A music executive (Jennifer Love Hewitt) happens to be at the wedding.  It turns out that she used to love The Suburbans and their one hit!  (The problem is that Jennifer Love Hewitt was only 20 when this film was made, which means that, when the Suburbans were famous, she would have only been a year old.)  She arranges for The Suburbans to reunite for a pay-per-view special and…

…and then a lot of stuff happens.  And I do mean a lot of stuff.  But what’s odd is none of that stuff adds up to anything.  Ward’s girlfriend (played by Amy Brenneman) is briefly threatened by Hewitt but, fear not — Donal Lardner Ward is the world’s greatest guy!  Occasionally, one member of the Suburbans might argue with another member of the Suburbans but fear not — they’re all great guys!

What’s funny is that, after spending 81 minutes with these characters and listening to their oppressively relentless quippy dialogue, you still don’t feel like you know a damn thing about any of them.  You never even find out how The Suburbans first got together or what inspired them to write their one hit in the first place.  Nor do you find out why they broke up.  They’re just sort of there and we’re supposed to care.

I guess I should mention that Ben and Jerry Stiller are both in the film.  They play Hewitt’s bosses and it’s painful to watch both of them.  Apparently, the director just said, “Ben, say something funny!” and the result was an endless scene of Ben Stiller saying whatever popped into his head.

(I should also probably mention that J.J. Abrams produced this movie.  Yes, that J.J. Abrams…)

If you track down the Suburbans on DVD, you’ll notice that the cover art is pretty much centered around Jennifer Love Hewitt and Will Ferrell.  What’s funny is that neither Hewitt nor Ferrel really get to do much in the movie.  (That said, Ferrell’s performance is enjoyably odd, even if it does feel totally out of the place.)  The entire movie is centered around Tony Guma and Donal Lardner Ward.  After all, they wrote and directed the damn thing.  So, I guess if you’re a Tony Guma fan, The Suburbans is the movie for you!

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger

42 responses to “Insomnia File No. 17: The Suburbans (dir by Donal Lardner Ward)

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