A Gnome Named Gnorm (1990) — Stan Winston makes the doofiest cop pairing

“Hey, Slug Lips! Something wrong with you? Make her toes curl!”

Justin’s rating: Two unwanted gnome kisses out of five

Justin’s review: I always imagine that movie actors must dread going to their high school reunion, because everyone knows what shameful projects they’ve participated in over the years. I mean, why fawn all over someone for being in The Breakfast Club when you can make a few snide digs at a starring role in a gnome buddy cop movie — and feel better about your own miserable life in the process?

So I’m betting that Anthony Michael Hall skipped his reunion in ’90 while he retreated to his Fortress of Solitude (Holiday Inn off exit 95 in Burbank) and slowly regenerated his dignity. This was, after all, the year that he threw caution to the wind and starred in A Gnome Named Gnorm.

Hall plays Casey Gallagher, a goofball aspiring detective who looks 17 years old and acts nine. He’s got a backwards baseball cap! His drawer is stuffed with gag props! He hates wearing a pistol! He copycats his fellow cops’ dialogue! It’s no wonder that Casey’s got to be mothered by his partner Samantha (Claudia “I can’t wait to star in Babylon 5” Christian).

Hoping to get promoted to detective by cracking a big case, Casey blows it playing on a merry-go-round and having his fake jewels stolen before a witness is exploded. In the same boat is Gnorm (Rob Paulsen), an underground-dwelling gnome who brought his people’s special gems to the surface to recharge them (as must be done every 10 years or all the gnomes die). Those, too, get stolen. Since everyone wants their shiny bits back, Casey and Gnorm team up to crack the case.

Directed by legendary creature creator Stan Winston, A Gnome Named Gnorm is clearly targeting kids with a juvenile lead and just so much slapstick. Yet I can’t imagine any parent thinking that this was appropriate for children, seeing as how our titular critter is portrayed as a sexual deviant who is obsessed with women from a completely different species — you know, the same way you can’t stop leering at a rather shapely muskrat. There’s also a whole lot of naked male butts in outright defiance of the PG rating. You’ve absolutely got to be OK with all of this if you’re going to dip your toes into the weirdness of this film.

At least the animatronic puppet is — as might be expected with Winston on board — pretty well done. I’ve seen a lot of kids and scifi movies with absolutely terrible latex abominations, but Gnorm articulates enough to be pretty believable as a character. Today he’d be all sloppy CGI, but here practical effects and hard work make him pretty interesting to watch, especially when he walks around. As Stan Winston said, Gnorm was deliberately made to be too small for a human actor to fit into a suit so that your brain would have to accept that he’s something other than a Halloween costume.

I just wish that Gnorm was better written. Casey, too. It’s obvious that the movie wants us to think that this buddy cop pairing is hilarious, but the spark isn’t quite there. So I guess we have to settle for gawking at the unusual sights.

And by “unusual sights,” I mean witnessing both Jerry Orbach and Robert Z’Dar showing up in the same film. This almost triggered the apocalypse in 1990, but fortunately we did not cross the threshold of 666 people actually seeing this flick. I’m number 665, so… you know, please don’t check it out or the sun will start bleeding — and Gnorm will return to end us all.

Didja notice?

  • “And introducing Gnorm the Gnome as himself”
  • All the coolest detectives wear backwards baseball caps
  • Knocked out on children’s equipment — that’s our hero!
  • “Does this qualify as blowing it?”
  • He captured a gnome in a giant rat trap?
  • I want to hear the story of Casey’s giant Sonoco sign in his apartment
  • If you wanted to see Anthony Michael Hall stuff a giant sparkly diamond in his mouth, this is the movie for you
  • “Pooka, nice roundies! Nice popos!”
  • That little yellow cap is so ’90s it hurts
  • Gnomes like to eat packaging rather than food
  • “The G in gnome is silent!” “G-no it’s g-not!”
  • Gnomes can make you fall asleep and levitate you with their magic
  • Gnorm makes the ugliest fake baby
  • Casey being slid into a freezer on a meat hook was pretty amusing
  • Meat hook to the butt?
  • Trying to give CPR to a corpse. That’s new.
  • A cop’s oath of silence — backed up by spitting — is his bond
  • Elevators are “magic boxes”

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