Problem Child (film)

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Problem Child
Problem Child.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDennis Dugan
Produced byRobert Simonds
Ron Howard (executive producer)
Brian Grazer (executive producer)
Written byScott Alexander
Larry Karaszewski
StarringJohn Ritter
Jack Warden
Michael Oliver
Gilbert Gottfried
Amy Yasbeck
Michael Richards
Narrated byMichael Oliver
Music byMiles Goodman
CinematographyPeter Lyons Collister
Edited byTom Finan
Daniel P. Hanley
Mike Hill
Production
  company
Imagine Entertainment
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date(s)July 27, 1990 (1990-07-27)
Running time81 minutes
93 minutes (with scenes from TV version)
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$10 million[1]
Box office$72,270,891[2]
 
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Problem Child
Problem Child.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDennis Dugan
Produced byRobert Simonds
Ron Howard (executive producer)
Brian Grazer (executive producer)
Written byScott Alexander
Larry Karaszewski
StarringJohn Ritter
Jack Warden
Michael Oliver
Gilbert Gottfried
Amy Yasbeck
Michael Richards
Narrated byMichael Oliver
Music byMiles Goodman
CinematographyPeter Lyons Collister
Edited byTom Finan
Daniel P. Hanley
Mike Hill
Production
  company
Imagine Entertainment
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date(s)July 27, 1990 (1990-07-27)
Running time81 minutes
93 minutes (with scenes from TV version)
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$10 million[1]
Box office$72,270,891[2]

Problem Child is a 1990 American comedy film. It stars John Ritter, Amy Yasbeck, Gilbert Gottfried, Jack Warden, Michael Richards, and Michael Oliver. The film was directed by Dennis Dugan. The film was the first of many produced by Robert Simonds.

Plot[edit]

The film opens with a woman leaving a bassinet on the porch of a fancy home; the baby, named Junior, promptly urinates on the woman who picks him up. From there, he is repeatedly discarded at various homes throughout many years by guardians who have grown tired of his destructive behavior—which includes throwing a rattle at the window, giving a cat soap to eat, using a vacuum cleaner to suck up the fish tank, and demolishing a mobile home with a bulldozer in retaliation for his favorite toys being stepped on—until he is eventually deposited at a Catholic orphanage, where he continues to wreak havoc on the strict nuns.

Ben Healy is a pleasant but brow-beaten husband working for his father Big Ben, a tyrannical sporting goods dealer who is running for Mayor. Recently, he has discovered that his father intends to sell his store and the land to a Japanese company rather than leave it to him; when he asks why, Big Ben reveals that it is because his son "stubbornly refuses to follow [his] example" by adopting an honest work ethic instead of a ruthless drive to usurp. He would love to have a son, but his selfish, gold-digging wife Flo has been unable to conceive. Ben approaches less-than-scrupulous adoption agent Igor Peabody with his dilemma, and Igor presents them with a cute 7-year-old boy, Junior.

However, Junior is hardly a model child; apparently mean-spirited and incorrigible, he leaves a path of serious destruction in his wake, and is even pen pals with Martin Beck, a notorious serial killer called the Bow Tie Killer. He sets his room on fire by using a clown lamp and he throws the family cat at Big Ben and he falls down the stairs. Junior messes up a camping trip with the neighbors by urinating in the fire, and manipulating a practical joke played on the kids by their father, Roy by luring a real black bear to the campground. He makes Ben believe a bear is attacking the campground when it is really Roy in a bear suit who gets hit with a frying pan. Hearing Junior laugh, Ben finds out the kid is responsible for making him hit Roy. Next day, at a birthday party, Lucy, the snobby birthday girl and her friends are very cruel to him and ban him from the magic show. Seeing Junior upset, Ben gives him his most precious possession, a dried prune that belonged to his grandfather (he thought it resembled Roosevelt), telling him it signifies a bond between two people. However, Junior wants revenge and sneaks a lawn sprinkler in her room, cuts off another girl's braid with scissors, puts a frog in the punch bowl, replaces piñata candy with pickles including the juice, throws all her presents in the pool, and replaces the candles on the cake with firecrackers.

Finally, Junior displays his effective but unethical method for winning in Little League where he strikes rival players in the crotch with a baseball bat after they tease him. Ben is having serious doubts about Junior, and decides to take him back to the orphanage. However, upon hearing he was returned thirty times, he decides to keep and love him, something no one has ever done. However, Junior becomes upset that his parents were going to send him back and despite Ben stating that he will not, drives Flo's car into her father-in-law's store, and Ben's bank account is wiped out to pay for the damage. He is on the verge of cracking until Beck (believing that Junior is the criminal J.R.) arrives at the house, posing as Junior's uncle, and decides to kidnap his faithful correspondent, along with Flo, for ransom.

While Ben first sees this as good riddance to his browbeating wife and the trouble making Junior, he soon notices signs that Junior is not the monster he appeared. In his drawer is the prune carefully wrapped up and through a series of pictures he drew, Junior depicts Flo and Big Ben as deformed monsters with hostile surroundings, but Ben as a happy person in a pleasant background, revealing that he really did value him as a father figure all along. Realizing that Junior's behavior was simply a response to how he himself had been treated, and that it has simply been bad luck that he has dealt with too many cruel and selfish people at such a young age, Ben undertakes a rescue mission to retrieve Junior back from Beck.

He then confronts his father (who is preparing to make a TV appearance for his mayoral campaign) to loan him the ransom money. When he callously refuses, Ben activates the camera that puts Big Ben unknowingly on live TV, where he ends up revealing his true nature on the news. Afterward, Ben steals the car of his neighbor Roy and goes to rescue Junior.

Ben catches up with Beck and Junior at the circus. Junior is rescued after escaping from Beck through a trapeze act and calls Ben 'Dad' for the first time. Beck drives away, but the Healys are now on his trail. After a collision, Flo (who was stuffed in a suitcase) is thrown into the air and lands in the back of a farm truck loaded with pigs. Beck is arrested, but while being led away, he grabs an officer's sidearm and fires at Junior, but Ben shields Junior and takes the shot. Thinking Ben is dead, Junior apologizes for all the bad things he did and tells him he will never be naughty again and he loves him. Ben wakes up and tells Junior he loves him, too, and realizes the bullet ricocheted off the good-luck prune he was holding in his pocket. Junior asks Ben if he really believed that he was going to stop misbehaving, but Ben tells Junior he wants him to be himself. Junior then removes his bow tie and throws it over the bridge, perhaps as a sign that he has changed his ways not to be like Martin, but be himself. Junior is then carried home by his new father. The film ends with Flo in the truck looking out from the suitcase, only to be met by the rump of a pig.

The title track to the film, performed by The Beach Boys, plays over the end credits.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The movie was filmed on location in the state of Texas, from October to November 1989. The cities that were used for filming were Dallas, Farmers Branch, Fort Worth, Irving, and Mesquite.

Reception[edit]

Problem Child received negative reviews upon its release and currently holds a 5.1 out of 10 on Internet Movie Database (IMDb).[3] Although the film was rated PG, it is still heavily censored when shown on television due to the remarks made about adoption, which critics saw as insensitive.[4] Problem Child was not screened for critics prior to its release.[5]

Hal Hinson, writing for the Washington Post, noted "Dugan has a brisk, imaginative comic style; he sets up his gags well, so that there's still some surprise in the punch lines when they come. Essentially, the problem here is the same as the problem in Gremlins 2. It's basically about tearing stuff up, and after a while you grow tired of seeing variations on the same joke of a cute kid committing horrible atrocities."[6] On the film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, it received a critics' rating of 4% based on 24 reviews, and an audience rating of 43%.[7]

Gilbert Gottfried was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor for the movie.

Sequels[edit]

  1. Problem Child 2 (1991)
    It brought back the original cast in their original roles and picked up where the first film ended. However, Amy Yasbeck was given a new role with a new dynamic totally opposite to her original character. It also included more toilet humor than the first film.
  2. Problem Child 3: Junior in Love (1995)
    The final film, Gottfried and Warden reprised their respective roles as Mr. Peabody and Big Ben Healy. Eric Edwards also reprises his role as Murph (he also played Bertha, Murph's sister). However, the roles of Junior and Ben Healy were recast. Annie, Trixie, and LaWanda Dumore do not appear in this film, nor are they mentioned.

Animated TV series[edit]

There was an animated TV series that aired in 1993. Gottfried was the only original cast member to be featured as a voice-over actor, making him the only cast member involved in all 3 movies as well as the cartoon (Jack Warden was in all 3 films, but not the TV series).

Box office[edit]

The movie debuted at No. 3.[8] It went on to be a commercial success at the box office, grossing $53 million domestically and $72 million worldwide.

TV version[edit]

12 minutes worth of deleted footage were featured in most, if not all, TV versions of the film. None of the following scenes have ever been on DVD.[9][10] The first TV version of the film aired on Sunday September 15, 1991, on NBC-TV.

And the bad language in the TV version was dubbed with nice works like Jerk, Pighead, Take a hike and Oh my Gosh their daffy.

Home media[edit]

The movie was more successful on home video.[11] The VHS version adds an extra bit just before the end credits, in which Junior interrupts the film, to tell the audience that he'll be back next summer for Problem Child 2. Then he disappears and a loud noise is heard, followed by Ben shouting "Junior!", Junior laughing, then the end credits roll. The VHS version was released on January 31, 1991.

Special DVD release[edit]

The first DVD release was released by GoodTimes Entertainment on May 1, 2001. Problem Child and Problem Child 2 were released together on DVD in the US on March 2, 2004, as a package entitled Problem Child Tantrum Pack. These films were presented in open-matte full screen only.[12] However, no home video release thus far features the deleted footage shown on TV airings of the film.

Problem Child was re-released on the Family Comedy Pack Quadruple Feature DVD (with other comedy films like Kindergarten Cop, Kicking & Screaming, and Major Payne) in anamorphic widescreen (being the film's first widescreen Region 1 DVD release) on August 5, 2008.[13]

References[edit]

External links[edit]