Problem Child 2 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 2 (1991) – BMeTric: 60.5; Notability: 26

StreetCreditReport.com – BMeTric: top 0.8%; Notability: top 54.0%; Rotten Tomatoes: top 1.4% Higher BMeT: Cool as Ice, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare; Higher Notability: Hook, Hudson Hawk, Mobsters, Switch, Flight of the Intruder, Rock-A-Doodle, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, Life Stinks, Out for Justice, Necessary Roughness, The Marrying Man, The Five Heartbeats, Billy Bathgate, Driving Me Crazy, He Said, She Said, Oscar, Teen Agent, King Ralph, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Married to It, and 33 more; Lower RT: Cool as Ice, Mobsters; Notes: There we go, sub-5.0 is much more what I expected for these films. The 60+ BMeTric is beautiful, but somehow it got better critical reviews than the first film … who knows. Mobsters is an interesting film I don’t recall ever hearing about but it seems like we should watch.

Leonard Maltin – 1.5 stars –  The sequel no one asked for has Ritter adopting a second demon-child, ths one female and hell-bent on giving her stepbrother a run for his money. Any parent who lets and impressionable child watch this stuff ought to have his or her head examined! Followed by a 1995 TVM sequel.

(Uh … that isn’t the plot of the film? Trixie is the daughter of Ritter’s love interest and Junior and her have a prank war for completely unrelated reasons. Is this a true blue instance of Maltin not watching the film? Or maybe he just wrote it long after. It feels like something you’d gleen from only watching the trailer or something.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qmvf4Jr0AEg/

(Nope, the trailer seems fairly clear that Trixie is probably just Junior’s rival, not his step-sister (yet). How in the world did Maltin get it so wrong I wonder? Anyways, this trailer is terrible and I’m so very excited to watch this film again.)

Directors – Brian Levant – (Known For: Max 2: White House Hero; Future BMT: The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas; The Flintstones; Snow Dogs; The Spy Next Door; Beethoven; BMT: Are We There Yet?; Problem Child 2; Jingle All The Way; Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Screenplay for The Flintstones in 1995; and Nominee for Worst Director for Jingle All the Way in 1997; Notes: He is writing and directing and producing the new Police Academy film apparently. Directed a bunch of The New Leave it to Beaver series in the 80s.)

Writers – Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (characters & 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: Agent Cody Banks; Problem Child; That Darn Cat; Screwed; BMT: Problem Child 2; Notes: Apparently they didn’t want to write the film, but were offered a ton of money to do it because the studio wanted a sequel completed a year after the release of the first film.)

Actors – 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; Wholly Moses!; Skin Deep; BMT: North; Problem Child 2; Notes: Ended up married Amy Yasbeck who played his character’s love interest in both films (as two different characters).)

Michael Oliver – (Future BMT: Problem Child; BMT: Problem Child 2; Notes: Seems to work in music now. This is likely due to his half-siblings or maybe his step-father who seem to be involved in music.)

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; Guilty as Sin; Dirty Work; A Dog of Flanders; BMT: Ed; Problem Child 2; Chairman of the Board; Toys; Notes: Was married to Wanda Ottoni although they apparently separated in the 70s but never got divorced, and thus were legally married for nearly 50 years at the time of his death.)

Budget/Gross – $11–15 million / Domestic: $25,104,700 (Worldwide: $32,704,700)

(Not bad, but obviously once you cut your box office in half you probably aren’t completing the trilogy (in theaters at least).)

Rotten Tomatoes – 8% (2/26): Crude, rude, puerile, and pointless, Problem Child 2 represents a cynical nadir in family-marketed entertainment.

(It couldn’t possibly be a nadir since the previous film somehow got worse reviews. I’ve seen both of these films a ton in my life, and the second is loads worse so that is insane. Reviewer Highlight: I’m probably getting awfully moralistic, but couldn’t the geniuses who devise entertainment for tots have come up with something a bit more, uh, responsible? – Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly)

Poster – Sklogin’ Children Too: Mo’ Problemo

(Retread of the first one with Ben in the washer instead of the cat. I thought it was pretty good for the first one, but gotta do something different to keep the score up. C+.)

Tagline(s) – This summer, Junior has a brand new friend. (D)

He’s bad. She’s worse. (B-)

(The first one doesn’t really work without the poster and the second tagline beyond already being too long. So that’s off the table. The second is better. Short and knowing what the first movie is about you get the idea. Not terribly clever though.)

Keyword – slapstick comedy

Top 10: Thor: Ragnarok (2017), The Goonies (1985), Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (2017), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), Tom & Jerry: The Movie (2021), Iron Man (2008), Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)

Future BMT: 92.7 Date Movie (2006), 92.3 Son of the Mask (2005), 89.4 Vampires Suck (2010), 88.2 Street Fighter (1994), 87.3 Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003), 83.1 Inspector Gadget (1999), 82.9 Home Alone 3 (1997), 79.3 The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000), 78.8 Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000), 78.6 Superhero Movie (2008);

BMT: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge (2017), Movie 43 (2013), Super Mario Bros. (1993), The Lone Ranger (2013), The Cannonball Run (1981), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), Superman III (1983), Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (2005), The Cat in the Hat (2003), Fifty Shades of Black (2016), Epic Movie (2007), Wild Hogs (2007), Meet the Spartans (2008), Around the World in 80 Days (2004), Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985), Hudson Hawk (1991), Jungle 2 Jungle (1997), Made of Honour (2008), Mortdecai (2015), Out Cold (2001), The Love Guru (2008), Old Dogs (2009), Jingle All The Way (1996), Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (2005), The Master of Disguise (2002), Harlem Nights (1989), Big Momma’s House 2 (2006), Vampire in Brooklyn (1995), The Medallion (2003), Caddyshack II (1988), Problem Child 2 (1991), Miss March (2009), Furry Vengeance (2010), Are We Done Yet? (2007), Christmas with the Kranks (2004), Dudley Do-Right (1999), The Marrying Man (1991), Unaccompanied Minors (2006)

(It would peak around ‘97 and it has been a bit downhill since the mid 00s. Makes sense in a way, although who knows how scientific these numbers really are. Son of Mask is a huge one we’ve been semi-consciously avoiding.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 20) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Laraine Newman is No. 4 billed in Problem Child 2 and No. 4 billed in Perfect, which also stars John Travolta (No. 1 billed) who is in Wild Hogs (No. 2 billed), which also stars Tim Allen (No. 1 billed) who is in Jungle 2 Jungle (No. 1 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 6 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 4 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 1 + 1 + 6 + 1 = 20. If we were to watch Jack, and The Glass House we can get the HoE Number down to 16.

Notes – During a 2014 interview on Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast, screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski revealed that the studio was reluctant to rehire them, only doing so because they wanted to shoot a sequel before Michael Oliver could noticeably grow and, as the writers of the first film, could produce a script quicker than writers new to the story and characters of the franchise. Frustrated with the criticisms of Problem Child (1990), they deliberately increased the poor taste in the sequel, intending to make a Pasolini or John Waters film for children, and went so far overboard that the first cut received an R rating from the MPAA, a secret kept until their 2014 appearance on the podcast. Dubbing over Junior’s use of the term “pussy whipped” got the film a PG-13 rating on appeal but the studio was still so nervous that, at the last minute, they added the Woody Woodpecker cartoon Smoked Hams (1947) to the film’s theatrical release to reassure parents that the film was suitable for children.

In 1999, John Ritter married Amy Yasbeck in real life.

When Mrs. Dumore sees Ben in the bank, she says she plans to make him “Hubbie #7” and a bunch of pictures are shown of her previous husbands. Her other husbands are John Ritter in several costumes. (ha!)

Ben is still driving the Jeep he “borrows” from Roy in the first film when he goes to rescue Junior from the Bow Tie Killer.

Based on the landmarks the Healys pass on their road trip, it can be assumed that they’re moving from California (the first landmark is the Randy’s Donuts in Inglewood, CA) to Florida (the final landmark they pass is the Booby Trap club in Orlando, FL). (I’m not sure this is true, elsewhere it indicated they were in Illinois in the first film and Oregon in the second. But we’ll have to keep our eyes peeled).

The only actor to appear in all three films and the short-lived cartoon series was Gilbert Gottfried. Jack Warden appeared in all three films, but not the cartoon.

In the original movie, while Junior is watching news clips of the Bow Tie Killer on TV, he goes into a toy box and retrieves a bowtie to wear so he can emulate his hero. The bowtie is being worn on a My Buddy doll. This is referenced in the sequel during the carnival scene, when Ben wins a My Buddy doll and gives it to Junior.

Mortville, the town that Ben and Junior move to, is a reference to a town with the same name in which the John Waters film Desperate Living is set. (Absolutely incredible ref, WTF this is a kids film?)

June Foray, who voiced the puppets in the puppet show before Trixie (Ivyann Schwan) took it over, did various cartoon voices for 60 years; in particular many Warner Brothers cartoons. She passed away in 2017 just shy of her 100th birthday.

The license plate on Ben’s car reads “JRS DAD”.

When LaWanda is reading various newspaper headlines that detail Junior’s actions in the first film, one of the headlines reads, “Union Carbide Plant Explodes.” This was not Junior’s fault, this is referencing the incident known as “The Bhopal Disaster” that occurred on December 2, 1984 at the Union Carbide Plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India, where methyl isocyanate gas leaked, exposing 500,000 people. It is estimated that 16,000 died from pesticide exposure.

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)

Mercury Rising Preview

Patrick and the Rambos climb through the air vents of The Square. The Rambos bodies are well-greased and gleaming as they slip and slide their way around. “Here,” the eldest grunts pointing through an opening and Patrick gasps as he sees Jamie being carried by Vampiro and some scantily clad ladies. Patrick puts on his glasses to take a closer look and confirms that they are some bodacious babes. Patrick looks to the Rambos for help but they’re already moving. They drop into an area filled with glass cages. The Rambos start knocking on a few of the cages. “My god,” Patrick whispers, “The Baldwins.” Stephen, William, and Daniel Baldwin peer out from deep in their cages but they don’t recognize those names. They are Brian McCafferty, J. J. Hendricks, and Weed. Patrick is truly through the looking glass on this one. “Where?” grunts the youngest Rambo and the Baldwins look on with fear. Weed’s teeth chatter as he points to the ground, “Here.” Suddenly the door opens.

Buford Vampiro and his Beach Bunnies lead the way with Jamie in tow. Things were already looking dire, but they get even worse when Sticks and Stones join them with… Alec Baldwin? But he introduces himself as Kudrow. Jamie shakes his head. They all seem agitated about Patrick, but Sticks and Stones insist that he’s somewhere here and they could use Jamie as a trap. Not likely, Jamie thinks as he flexes his biceps. They enter a room full of glass cells and Jamie is left alone. He sees even more Baldwins around… he must be in some kind of Baldwin jail. Jamie smiles. Do you know what’s better than waiting for Patrick to save him from jail… waiting for Patrick to save him from jail with a whole mess of Baldwins. That’s right! We are going into a Baldwin extravaganza for the Bring A Friend entry in the Bring A Friend cycle. We are partaking in the classic thriller Mercury Rising. Big time thriller for Bruce Willis and Alec Baldwin and I’m pretty excited because it’s about puzzles and we’re puzzle maniacs. As for the friends we tried to pick the worst of the worst from the other Baldwin bros. We settled on the truly terrible looking Dead Weekend for Stephen, Fallout (about space ships) for Daniel, and Backdraft 2 (yes they made a sequel) for William. Why are we doing this to ourselves? Let’s go!

Mercury Rising (1998) – BMeTric: 29.4 

MercuryRisingIMDb_BMeT

MercuryRisingIMDb_RV

(I remember when this came out. I don’t remember it being particularly poorly received … and 6.1 is pretty high for a 30 BMeTric film. 60K votes! That’s a lot.)

Leonard Maltin – 2.5 stars –  An autistic nine-year-old boy innocently cracks a top-secret government code; cold-eyed bureaucrat Baldwin orders him killed, while over-the-hill FBI agent Willis tried to protect him. Except for the boy’s autism, a routine suspense thriller, but well made and interesting throughout. Willis’s standard action hero character shows a softer side here, while Baldwin plays out-and-out heavy.

(Sounds like kind of a boring rote thriller, but with maybe a boring performance by Willis and an insane performance by Baldwin … which is basically all I could ask for.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-L7Gbh4u0I/

(Yeah looks potentially pretty boring. BUT … I do like both Willis and Baldwin, especially in 1998, so sock it to me. Let’s do it.)

Directors – Harold Becker – (Known For: Sea of Love; Taps; Malice; Vision Quest; The Onion Field; City Hall; The Big Town; The Black Marble; The Boost; Future BMT: Domestic Disturbance; BMT: Mercury Rising; Notes: He started out as a still photographer, and was mainly a commercial and documentary filmmaker through the 70s. Most of his feature films were made in the 80s. He’s 90 years old.)

Writers – Ryne Douglas Pearson (novel) – (Future BMT: Knowing; BMT: Mercury Rising; Notes: Apparently Art Jefferson, the character Bruce Willis plays, is part of a series he wrote. Mercury Rising is the fourth Art Jefferson book.)

Lawrence Konner (screenplay) – (Known For: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; Planet of the Apes; Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; The Legend of Billie Jean; The Jewel of the Nile; Mighty Joe Young; Flicka; Future BMT: Desperate Hours; The Concierge; Mona Lisa Smile; BMT: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace; The Beverly Hillbillies; Mercury Rising; Notes: Wrote on The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire as he’s mostly done television work since around 2000.)

Mark Rosenthal (screenplay) – (Known For: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; Planet of the Apes; Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; The Legend of Billie Jean; The Jewel of the Nile; Mighty Joe Young; Flicka; Future BMT: Desperate Hours; The Concierge; Mona Lisa Smile; BMT: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace; The Beverly Hillbillies; Mercury Rising; Notes: He’s the long time writing partner of Konner, although he hasn’t done the same amount of television work, and mainly seems to work with Konner on features.)

Actors – Bruce Willis – (Known For: Pulp Fiction; Motherless Brooklyn; Split; The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part; The Fifth Element; The Sixth Sense; Sin City; Die Hard; Twelve Monkeys; Unbreakable; RED; Looper; Sin City: A Dame to Kill For; Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle; Moonrise Kingdom; Ocean’s Twelve; The Expendables; RED 2; Die Hard: With a Vengeance; Die Hard 4.0; Future BMT: Look Who’s Talking Too; Vice; The Cold Light of Day; The Prince; Extraction; Lay the Favorite; Precious Cargo; Breakfast of Champions; First Kill; Reprisal; Cop Out; Once Upon a Time in Venice; Acts of Violence; The Bombing; Marauders; Fire with Fire; Perfect Stranger; Striking Distance; Rock the Kasbah; Rugrats Go Wild; The Story of Us; Blind Date; Billy Bathgate; Loaded Weapon 1; Surrogates; Sunset; The Jackal; Last Man Standing; Tears of the Sun; Hostage; Glass; Grand Champion; Four Rooms; 10 Minutes Gone; BMT: North; A Good Day to Die Hard; Color of Night; The Whole Ten Yards; G.I. Joe: Retaliation; The Bonfire of the Vanities; Hudson Hawk; Mercury Rising; Death Wish; Armageddon; Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Screenplay for Hudson Hawk in 1992; Winner for Worst Actor in 1999 for Armageddon, Mercury Rising, and The Siege; and Nominee for Worst Actor in 1992 for Hudson Hawk; in 1995 for Color of Night, and North; and in 2019 for Death Wish; Notes: Apparently Ashton Kutcher (who married Willis’ ex Demi Moore) apparently was convinced his then-girlfriend January Jones had an affair with Willis on the set of Bandits in 2001 … they have a really weird relationship.)

Miko Hughes – (Known For: Tropic Thunder; Pet Sematary; Apollo 13; Kindergarten Cop; Wes Craven’s New Nightmare; Zeus and Roxanne; Future BMT: Spawn; Clockstoppers; Cops and Robbersons; BMT: Baby Geniuses; Mercury Rising; Notes: Still vaguely makes appearances, but not many. He was the son of a gynocologist in Kindergarten Cop who says a bunch of inappropriate stuff and has acted since he was 22 months old.)

Alec Baldwin – (Known For: Beetlejuice; A Star Is Born; Mission: Impossible – Fallout; Motherless Brooklyn; The Departed; BlacKkKlansman; The Aviator; Notting Hill; Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation; The Hunt for Red October; The Good Shepherd; The Royal Tenenbaums; My Sister’s Keeper; Rock of Ages; The Boss Baby; Concussion; Glengarry Glen Ross; Blue Jasmine; Rise of the Guardians; Working Girl; Future BMT: Aloha; Thomas and the Magic Railroad; Andròn: The Black Labyrinth; Hick; Along Came Polly; The Juror; My Best Friend’s Girl; The Getaway; Fun with Dick and Jane; Pearl Harbor; The Shadow; Running with Scissors; Heaven’s Prisoners; Elizabethtown; Blind; BMT: The Cat in the Hat; Pluto Nash; Mercury Rising; The Marrying Man; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor for The Cat in the Hat in 2004; Notes: He is going to have his sixth child soon. He had one child, Ireland, with Kim Bassinger, and now will have five children with his second wife.)

Budget/Gross – $60 million / Domestic: $32,935,289 (Worldwide: $93,107,289)

(That is pretty rough given the budget, an out and out disaster financially.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 17% (6/35)

(I’ll have to make a consensus! Here goes: Boring without much action between the two leads. Only a scenery chewing heel-turn by Alec Baldwin saves this from complete disaster. Reviewer Highlight: If a 9-year-old kid can break your code, don’t kill the kid, kill the programmers. – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

Poster – Mercury Sklogging (B+)

mercury_rising

(Gah! If only they had some interesting font. Otherwise I think this is what we’re looking for. We got the stars of the film presented in an artistic way with a bold color scheme… maybe a little hint at what the film was about would also help. Not bad though. Patrick’s Shallow Fake: I think this is the best one I’ve done. The color on the face isn’t quite right, and neither is my eyeline. Great fake tagline from Jamie though. A-)

Tagline(s) – Someone knows too much. (D)

(Terrible. So vague. Almost sounds like they did it as a joke but then forgot to replace it before printing the poster. At least it’s short.)

Keyword(s) – autistic child; Top Ten by BMeTric: 64.0 The Darkness (I) (2016); 29.4 Mercury Rising (1998); 24.4 Dear John (I) (2010); 16.1 Silent Fall (1994); 15.6 Redwoods (2009); 10.6 Triangle (2009); 9.6 Hurry Sundown (1967); 8.6 Tully (2018); 6.8 X+Y (2014); 6.1 El faro de las orcas (2016);

(It is plausible this is the best example of this keyword ever made! I’ve never seen The Darkness though, so maybe an autistic child is a major part of that film as well … Wait, doesn’t Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close feature an autistic child?)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 16) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Bruce Willis is No. 1 billed in Mercury Rising and No. 1 billed in The Whole Ten Yards, which also stars Natasha Henstridge (No. 4 billed) who is in Ghosts of Mars (No. 1 billed), which also stars Jason Statham (No. 3 billed) who is in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Seige Tale (No. 1 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 4 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 1 + 1 + 4 + 1 + 3 + 1 + 4 + 1 = 16. If we were to watch Last Man Standing, and The Glass House we can get the HoE Number down to 10.

Notes – Actor Miko Hughes spent time with many autistic children at a special school to understand how to portray an autistic child. Bennett Leventhal, head of the child psychiatry department at the University of Chicago, spent six weeks before the shoot tutoring Hughes at a school for autistic children. Leventhal, a big doctor on autism, complimented Hughes at the film’s premiere and said “Even I believed you.”. (Good for him, it was a much more unknown thing at the time I feel like)

The plot bears a striking resemblance to a real event in history as reported by Bruce Watson on DailyFinance’s Website on 24 December 2009: ‘…In December 1955, Sears Roebuck ran a newspaper ad with what they claimed was Santa’s direct number. Unfortunately, the phone number they offered was one digit off; instead of Sears, it linked to a top secret line at CONAD, the Continental Air Defense Command. When Colonel Harry Shoup, the command’s director of operations, answered the phone, he expected to hear about a missile strike against the US. Instead, he got a little kid who wanted to talk to Santa. Although the conversation ended with the child crying and Shoup fuming, the Colonel eventually came around and began giving the children updates on Santa’s travels through the night sky. The following year, CONAD offered a new, non-secret, phone number that children could call. In 1958, when CONAD became NORAD, the new command continued the tradition…’ (Holy shit, I’ve heard of that! That is a crazy origin story if it is true)

Alec Baldwin appeared in this film due to a contractual obligation to Universal Pictures. Baldwin had previously backed out of a film for Universal and signed an agreement promising the studio another film. Years later, this film was presented to him and he did it to avoid further litigation.

The wine that Art opens in Kudrow’s basement is Chateau Petrus from Pomerol (identifiable by the red seal at the bottom left corner of the label), is probably the most expensive Bordeaux red wine, and contrary to what Art said in the movie, even young Petrus costs much more than 75 dollars per bottle. (Fun fact)

This movie marks the second time Bruce Willis has battled a soldier believed to have died years before the events of the movie take place. The first was “Die Hard 2” (1990).

Chad Lindberg, who plays James, would go on to appear in The Fast and the Furious (2001), another movie from Universal Pictures, three years after this movie was released. Also, like his character in this movie, Lindberg’s character in The Fast and the Furious, Jesse, also gets killed. (Ha!)

Awards – Winner for the Razzie Award for Worst Actor (Bruce Willis, 1999)