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George and Lenny

Gremlins
by Monkey Boy

When I was a kid, for reasons I can't for the life of me begin to remember, I was extremely fascinated by Gremlins 2: The New Batch. When it came out in theaters and commercials played constantly, I was just a youngster and I remember being actually frightened by a lot of the elements in the trailer. Of course, when I saw it on VHS a little while later, I realized it was actually more madcap comedy than scary movie (the same can't really be said for the first film, which was genuinely frightening in a lot of ways). I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and always wanted toys of the different gremlins, as well as their mogwai predecessors. For a long, long while, I was forced to settle for Sunsoft's NES game and a couple of PVC figurines available at Hallmark stores.

NECA came along and changed all that some years back, releasing some really nice figures from both Gremlins flicks, including the Brain Gremlin and Mohawk, two of the more prominent creatures of the second film. While fans called for more and NECA teased us with images of a large deluxe set featuring Mohawk's chemically induced evolution into a giant spider creature, it seemed after that first series that NECA was done with the license.

Fast forward a couple of years and they began to test the waters by re-releasing some of the earlier gremlins, along with scaled-down minifigures. Apparently enough interest was shown, because skip ahead a few more years and finally, new Gremlins figures are hitting stores. While numerous figures have been revealed, both furry and scaly, the first set of this new surge is all mogwai.

The first series features Gizmo of course, along with George and Lenny, two of Gizzy's "new batch" of tormentors that sprung from his own back after water dripped onto him. While the two are never named in the film, it's clear why they're called George and Lenny: just like the characters in Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men, one is small, cunning and irritable; the other is large, strong and light on brains. I picked up the two cohorts, passing on Gizmo because I plan on getting the Rambo-esque "Combat Gizmo" available in the next series of mogwai alongside Daffy and Mohawk.

While sold separately, reviewing the two figures together just makes sense, for a couple of reasons. First, they're clearly a team. Second, they share much of the same sculpt (which will be the case with most of the mogwai figures). NECA is no stranger to re-use, however, and they know how to make two figures that largely share the same parts look distinct and different.

The shared parts appear to include the main body, the legs, the arms, and the bulk of the head. Each figure has a unique separate face piece, as well as distinct ears. Lenny, the taller of the two, gets a separate body piece glued to the top of his central torso piece to enhance his height. Both figures were handled by Jason Frailey, NECA's go-to guy when Kyle Windrix is unavailable, and he nailed the sculpts. Both likenesses are spot-on, and the texture of the fur and wrinkled appearance of the skin look great.

The paint, credited to John Wardell and Geoffrey Trapp, is nice, if not particularly remarkable. The best parts are the areas where skin is exposed, where a nice subtle wash is used to bring out detail. The fur on both is primarily brown with black and white patterns. I seem to remember George being entirely black and white in the movie, but apparently that's just my faulty memory. The patterns of color on the fur are done well, though you may want to compare different examples at the store to make sure you get the most symmetrical, as several of the Georges I saw had some issues with the eyebrow area. The white also seems to scrape off fairly easily, as several figures in-store had varying levels of brown showing through on their cute li'l tummies. The eyes feature large black pupils ringed with yellow and red. They're nice and sharp, but there's something funny about them...

They move! Possibly in an effort to justify a somewhat high pricepoint, the figures have a bit of an "action feature." Rotate a small trackball on the back of the mogwais' heads and the eyes will move up, down, back and forth. It works okay, and is fairly unobtrusive, but the eyes are kind of loose in the head and will occasionally settle in a non-focused dazed position, with one of the eyes being somewhat lazy. It's fairly easily correctable, but it's a bit unsettling. The Gizmos I saw on the pegs all seemed to have irises that were way too large, with almost no white visible when the eyes were looking forward. George and Lenny, thankfully, do not have this issue.

In addition to the eyes, both figures have balljointed ears, necks, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and peg-and hinge hip joints. The elbows and wrists, though balljointed, are fairly limited, but the necks have a great range of motion, and the moving ears are a nice touch. The hips have some decent range, but your mogwais won't be sitting down anytime soon.

Sadly, the mogwais don't come with any accessories. There was a memorable scene in the film when the little critters wreak havoc in a food court snack bar, so you'd think they could at least have some little assorted candies or something. Not that it would make or break the figures, but it would certainly help to ease the pain of the high price.

When I was a kid yearning for Gremlins 2 toys, these are pretty much exactly what I had in mind. It's nice to finally get them, even if my love of the franchise has somewhat waned in the nearly 20 years that have passed since I first saw the film. The sculpts are awesome, the articulation is about as good as one could hope for, the paint is decent, and the eye gimmick is interesting, if a bit wonky. However, the lack of accessories and the high price are difficult to ignore. However, if you're like me, the mere prospect of having a full display of mogwais and gremlins to menace poor Gizmo may make the argument null and void.

-- 09/17/11


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