Problem Child Preview

“That’s a wrap,” Patrick calls in exasperation. Another day, another unscripted fist fight between Chris Klein and Angel. With CK now playing both Rich and Poe in this entry of the film, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of who is even fighting Angel and whether they are dealing with a love triangle or love square. It all won’t matter anyway if this continues as CK is getting perilously close to leaving the film and their production deal was predicated on their star’s return to the series. “Dastardly cyborgs,” Jamie says, pounding the desk in their trailer. They’ve tried every which way to get rid of Angel, but his contract is iron clad. Besides, despite not being able to act a lick his test audience scores are through the roof. “So Angel has to appear in at least 90% of the film, right?” Jamie nods along as Patrick thumbs through Angel’s contract trying to find a loophole in the wording, “and we’re not allowed to recast,” Jamie nods again, wincing at their predicament, “but they don’t say anything about additional casting, right?” Jamie looks confused, but there is a twinkle in Patrick’s eye. The next day a chorus of boos rain down on Angel as he makes out with Leighton Vanderschmidt. He looks uncomfortable as he eyes the latest addition to the cast, Rich and Poe Jrs., the previously undisclosed twin children of Rich and Leighton Vanderschmidt’s character. Soon Angel has agreed to rewrite his part and remove the love triangle. CK is satisfied and so are Jamie and Patrick, but Adam Banks looks wary on his latest visit to set. A fart-gag laden scene is being shot and the production has taken on a distinct PG-rated vibe “Aren’t these children going to be a bit of a… problem?” That’s right, we’re taking on a couple of problem children in Problem Child 1 + 2. The first film was a staple and is probably one of the most quoted films of our childhood. The second film… was not. Let’s see if either of them hold up in any capacity. Let’s go!

Problem Child (1990) – BMeTric: 48.9; Notability: 38

StreetCreditReport.com – BMeTric: top 2.4%; Notability: top 32.7%; Rotten Tomatoes: top 0.0% Higher BMeT: Rocky V, Ghost Dad, Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III; Higher Notability: RoboCop 2, Predator 2, Days of Thunder, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, Jetsons: The Movie, Air America, Young Guns II: Blaze of Glory, The Rookie, 3 Men and a Little Lady, Marked for Death, Rocky V, Stella, Revenge, Bird on a Wire, Ghost Dad, Another 48 Hrs., Mr. Destiny, The First Power, Desperate Hours; Notes: Impressive stuff, just shy of 50 BMeTric, and a genuine 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. If you told me this was a cult film and has like a 6.0 on IMDb I wouldn’t have been surprised. And it seems like it might genuinely be on its way there.

Leonard Maltin – 1.5 stars –  Botched comic twist on The Bad Seed has Ritter as an unlucky father who adopts devil-child Oliver. A promising opening leads nowhere as bad performances and crude jokes prevail. Followed by a sequel, a TV movie, and an animated TV series,

(Don’t worry, I’m already planning on partaking in the Problem Child animated series. It didn’t really occur to me that this film is based on horror/dramas of the kid-from-hell. It was always just Problem Child growing up.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxFT8zYZ3dU/

(Absolutely insane concept for a kids film. Basically, a psycho kid wreaking absolute havoc all played for laughs … but I loved it as a kid. Bizarre. I can’t wait to watch it as an adult.)

Directors – Dennis Dugan – (Known For: Happy Gilmore; Love, Weddings & Other Disasters; Brain Donors; Future BMT: You Don’t Mess with the Zohan; Beverly Hills Ninja; National Security; Saving Silverman; Big Daddy; BMT: Jack and Jill; Grown Ups 2; Problem Child; The Benchwarmers; Grown Ups; I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry; Just Go with It; Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Director in 2012 for Jack and Jill, and Just Go with It; and Nominee for Worst Director in 2000 for Big Daddy; in 2008 for I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry; and in 2014 for Grown Ups 2; Notes: Frequent collaborator of Adam Sandler. I’ve mentioned it in a note before, but his son is/was a major league baseball player with the Phillies.)

Writers – Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (written by) – (Known For: Man on the Moon; 1408; Ed Wood; Big Eyes; Goosebumps; Dolemite Is My Name; The People vs. Larry Flynt; Future BMT: Problem Child 2; Agent Cody Banks; That Darn Cat; Screwed; BMT: Problem Child; Notes: Won two Emmys for American Crime Story. Alexander started out as a music editor on small horror films, and Karaszewski wrote a biography of the Marx Brothers.)

Actors – Michael Oliver – (Future BMT: Problem Child 2; BMT: Problem Child; Notes: Was on a 2011 episode of Loveline with Gilbert Gottfried which was apparently the first time the two had talked since the filming of the second film.)

John Ritter – (Known For: Sling Blade; Bride of Chucky; Bad Santa; Nowhere; Real Men; Stay Tuned; Noises Off…; They All Laughed; The Other; Tadpole; Nickelodeon; Hero at Large; Panic; Clifford’s Really Big Movie; Americathon; Montana; I Woke Up Early the Day I Died; The Prisoner of Second Avenue; Hacks; Shadow of Doubt; Future BMT: Problem Child 2; Wholly Moses!; Skin Deep; BMT: North; Problem Child; Notes: Won an Emmy for Three’s Company, but was nominated for four series in total (Hooperman, Ally McBeal, and 8 Simple Rules… for Dating my Teenage Daughter were the other three). Tragically died in 2003 due to cardiac arrest from a misdiagnosed heart defect.)

Jack Warden – (Known For: 12 Angry Men; Heaven Can Wait; The Great Muppet Caper; Sunset Blvd.; All the President’s Men; Shampoo; While You Were Sleeping; The Replacements; Death on the Nile; From Here to Eternity; Being There; The Champ; The Bachelor Party; The Verdict; Donovan’s Reef; Mighty Aphrodite; …and justice for all.; Used Cars; Beyond the Poseidon Adventure; Bulworth; Future BMT: Problem Child 2; Guilty as Sin; Dirty Work; A Dog of Flanders; BMT: Ed; Chairman of the Board; Toys; Problem Child; Notes: Nominated for two Oscars for Shampoo and Heaven Can Wait. Boxed under the name Johnny Costello in his youth.)

Budget/Gross – $10 million / Domestic: $53,470,891 (Worldwide: $72,270,891)

(That is a lot more money than I would have expected for this film. Like … that is a legit haul, so obviously they were going to make a sequel! I just can’t get over that they got reasonably close to being a $100 million comedy.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 0% (0/29): Mean-spirited and hopelessly short on comic invention, Problem Child is a particularly unpleasant comedy, one that’s loaded with manic scenery chewing and juvenile pranks.

(I do remember it being mean-spirited, in particular just how insane the beginning is with Junior continually being returned to the orphanage. Reviewer Highlight: The rest of the kid’s tricks are too unimaginative to be much fun — though with jokes this lame you won’t have to worry as much about your children getting any bad ideas. – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly)

Poster – Sklogin’ Child

(Apparently this poster was a bit controversial in its depiction of Junior putting the cat in a washing machine, which doesn’t happen in the film. Font’s good, spacing and cartoon aspect of it is fun, only problem is the gaudy 90’s color scheme. B.)

Tagline(s) – Attila the Hun. Ivan the Terrible. Al Capone. They were all seven once. (C-)

(This is like a who’s who of the least offensive choices they could have used for the tagline… thank god. Takes far to long to get to the punchline and waters down whatever they were going for.)

Keyword – orphanage

Top 10: Blade Runner 2049 (2017), Deadpool 2 (2018), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), Clifford (1994), Orphan (2009), Up (2009)

Future BMT: 50.9 The Boss (2016), 50.1 Friend Request (2016), 44.0 Fred Claus (2007), 42.2 Pan (2015), 39.4 The Princess Diaries 2 (2004), 33.6 Suspect Zero (2004), 32.1 Clifford (1994), 28.9 Original Sin (2001), 28.8 Igor (2008), 26.9 Grimsby (2016);

BMT: Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), Silent Hill (2006), The Snowman (2017), Epic Movie (2007), Zoolander 2 (2016), Problem Child (1990), Double Impact (1991), Silent Hill: Revelation (2012), Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (2005), Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991), Solarbabies (1986), Alone in the Dark (2005)

(I’m surprised by how consistent the plot it, you would think once the tropey version of orphanages went out of fashion it would vaguely die out as far as cheap laughs are concerned. My god, Clifford (1994)! Another film I’ve seen an inordinate number of times starring a bad child which comes across as crass and mean-spirited.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 19) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Jack Warden is No. 2 billed in Problem Child and No. 5 billed in Toys, which also stars LL Cool J (No. 7 billed) who is in Rollerball (No. 2 billed), which also stars Chris Klein (No. 1 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 2 billed) => 2 + 5 + 7 + 2 + 1 + 2 = 19. If we were to watch Jack, and The Glass House we can get the HoE Number down to 15.

Notes – Throughout the film, Ben reads several self-help books on parenting. Each book features a photo of the author on the back cover. The author photos are John Ritter in various costumes. (Nice, I like the joke)

An ad campaign for this film included “reviews” from a number of famous movie villains: “Four-star fun for the whole gang!” – Al Capone “Two thumbs up!” – Captain Hook “10 out of 10! Junior had me in stitches!” – Frankenstein “This kid gives ME nightmares!” – Freddy Krueger “Junior is a real cut-up!” – Leatherface “I wish he were MY son!” – Darth Vade r”Don’t have a cow! Just see this movie, dude!” –Bart Simpson

During a 2014 interview on Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast, screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski revealed that the story was inspired by the 1988 LA Times article “An Adopted Boy–and Terror Begins.” The story is about a married couple suing an adoption agency because they were not informed that their adopted son had severe mental health issues with violent tendencies, and had been previously returned to the agency multiple times. While other writers pitched the story as a horror film in the vein of The Bad Seed (1956) or The Omen (1976), Alexander and Karaszewski thought it had potential as a comedy. They envisioned a dark, adult satire of the then-popular trend of films in which cute kids teach cynical adults how to love, as seen in Baby Boom (1987), Parenthood (1989) (directly spoofed by the film’s poster), Look Who’s Talking (1989), Uncle Buck (1989), Mr. Mum (1983), Kindergarten Cop (1990) and 3 Men and a Baby (1987). The studio insisted on turning it into a children’s film, which meant numerous reshoots and rewrites. All involved in the difficult production were disappointed, and anticipated that it would bomb. Alexander cried after the cast and crew screening. The film was a surprise hit, and Universal’s most profitable film of 1990. Alexander and Karaszewski were so embarrassed that they tried to distance themselves from the film in its immediate aftermath, which proved difficult. Studios were initially reluctant to hire them or take them seriously based on their work on such a prominent disreputable film. In later years, they eventually came to work with executives who grew up watching the film on TV airings and were excited to be meeting “the guys who wrote Problem Child.” Looking back, they still feel the film is “a mess,” but take some pride in being involved with one of the “very few [PG-rated] children’s films THAT black and THAT crazy,” adding “and it’s funny.”

According to Dennis Dugan, the test screenings were disastrous, with 70 percent of the audience walking out, verbal complaints from viewers, and a score of only 30. The studio forced two weeks of reshoots, including a retooled ending and the addition of key scenes like the girl’s birthday party.

Dennis Dugan had never directed a feature film before, so he decided to make his pitch to Universal executives a memorable one. He stood on the studio president’s coffee table and passionately proclaimed, “You’re looking at me like I’m f*cking nuts, and this is what we want. We want this kind of chaos.” Three hours later, Dugan learned he had the job.

During production, both John Ritter and Gilbert Gottfried were allowed to ad lib, making Universal complain at Dennis Dugan for shooting too much footage for Gottfried’s scenes

The poster for the movie was a spoof of the poster for Parenthood (1989). Imagine Entertainment produced both films and Dennis Dugan, who directed Problem Child, acted in both films.

Universal originally wanted John Landis to direct this film. But Landis turned it down as he had no interest in making kids movies. They then approached Joe Dante to direct after directing The ‘Burbs (1989) for them. Dante read the script and liked it. But he turned it down as he was about to work on Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990).

The doll that Junior takes the bow-tie from in the orphanage is a “My Buddy” doll that is missing its striped shirt and tennis shoes. When sold in stores, the doll never originally came with a bow-tie.

Dennis Dugan: as the All-American Dad who buys his son a canteen.

Awards – Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor (Gilbert Gottfried, 1991)

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