Rick Ducommun did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Art Weingartner in The 'burbs.
Rick Ducommun seemed to specialize in slightly comic supporting parts in order to add just a bit of humor to the supporting cast, for example as one of locals in Groundhogs Day. Ducommun's most notable role perhaps came in this film as one of the neighbors of straight man on a stay at home vacation Ray (Tom Hanks). Ducommun plays Art Ray's best friend and the neighbor who is definitely the most sure that there is something going wrong at the home of the mysterious Klopeks. This technically speaking is a fairly standard role for a comedy like this being the far more excitable best friend to our more sensible lead, a mainstay although I do ponder what was the exact first version of it but I digress. Rick Ducommun offers importantly a good version of such a character. He brings a great deal of energy to his performance fitting to Art's obsession with Klopeks. Ducommun makes the enthusiasm feel natural though, and succeeds in making Art endearing rather than off putting which a character like this can easily become in the wrong hands.
Ducommun creates an enjoyable tone for his performance in the early scenes where they are simply examining the Klopeks from a distance and Ray is actually quite skeptical about the notion that there is anything suspect about whatever it is that they are doing in their basement at night. Ducommun keeps Art's manner almost curiously light as he espouses his thoughts on what they definitely are doing, according Art anyways, as though he is a boy who is telling his favorite ghost story. Well Art does basically that when he tells the story of a soda jerk who murdered his family which Ducommun delivers as Art being more than anything a bit excited by the prospect that such a story is going on right across from his house. Ducommun keeps Art as a constant source of a foolish interest in the morbid reality he's just so sure of. Of course one of my favorite moments of his performance is actually when Art kinda turns things on its head when they are actually digging to find something. Ducommun is great as he shows Art basically loses all interest once the fun of the project is lost because there is a requirement for him to do some actual work.
Of course the meat of his performance is with the direct hijinks involved with Art trying to find or witness something out of the ordinary along with Ray. Ducommun and Hanks are quite good together in portraying there various sense of curiosity which is always a bit stronger when it comes to Art's reaction. They are both equally adept though in portraying there freak outs when either something goes wrong or they have found something. The best moment of these of course being when they think they've discovered the femur of their elderly neighbor where both of them scream in a hilarious unison. Ducommun manages just the right way to work his character though in that he keeps Art likable although he still also does make it so you quite understand why he'd eventually get on Ray's nerves particularly at the end when Ray's finally has had enough leading him to attack Art. Something I quite like the film actually though is that Art in no way learns a lesson by the end, and Ducommun expresses this so well in Art's final absurd monologue about how creeps should not mess with suburbanites. This a good sidekick performance, which I quite like, although don't quite love, unlike perhaps.....
What's marvelous here really is that Dern does not really take many steps to adjust his performance for a comedy. Dern might as well be in Coming Home in a way because the intensity he showed in that performance can be seen here as well, although I would argue to a far greater effect. In just some of the early scenes where we get Rumsfield's reaction along with the rest of the neighborhood Dern always manages to come out on top in terms of amount of humor derived through just how intently he glares as a new development appears. Dern is consistently brilliant in his depiction of Rumsfield's whole approach to taking on the Klopeks as he plays it as though Rumsefield is basically getting ready for some sort of black ops mission in the way he watches with the other men, as well as his very serious uncertainty after the other men suffer a bee attack due to attempting to knock on the Klopeks's door. I particularly enjoy just how impressed he is with himself when he has removed a window to break into a house and proudly announces that he did it the "military" way.
The insanity of it all continues of course as the men proceed with their plans which eventually leads them to take the ultimate action which is for Ray and Rumsfield to visit the Klopeks with their wives. Dern is just amazing throughout this sequence because of just how insane he shows Rumsfield to be as he supposedly just hanging out with the Klopeks for a friendly visit. Well Dern makes nothing friendly whatsoever about Rumsfield manner. He's always twisted in some way or another as he seems to be examining every bit of the home as though he's looking for defensive weaknesses or something. Dern keeps the same sort of crazed manner in the way he seems to be as imposing as he can be towards every Klopek member, turning his head in psychotic bent as though Rumsfield seems as though he's going to be interrogating every one of the weird brood. Dern is magnificent as he does bring potent sort of madness he's rather well known for but ups it perhaps just a notch in his depiction of Rumsfield method, I especially like when he questions Ray's manhood, when it appears as though he's backing out on the whole idea.
What works so well about Dern's performance though is when there are the moments where the fact that Rumsfield is not exactly in the military still and for all we know he might not actually have ever seen any action. There's is something incredibly funny about Bruce Dern giving such a driven performance even when Rumsfield at one point with Art is basically asking Ray's wife if Ray can come out and play. The conviction Dern brings to the whole tough vet makes it some comic gold when it perhaps slips for a moment. There is one moment in particular where Dern reveals probably the more truthful side of Rumsfield when he espouses his rather pathetic fears about climbing up a power line because its rather high. Eventual the film leads to when all three of the men concoct their plan to go through the Klopek's entire house while they are out. I have to admit I can't help but laugh throughout the sequence any time the film focuses on Dern and whatever he is doing. He really does not get to say much but every little thing that he does is just a hoot. He also nicely gets to top it all off with his masterful delivery of the immortal line "Hey... Pinocchio! Where are you going?" just before running off to capture one of Klopek's "proving" his obvious military might. I love this performance of Bruce Dern's as he pretty much make use of every second of his screen time to make one memorable character out of Lieutenant Mark Rumsfield.