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Problem Child (1990) Poster

(1990)

Trivia

Jump to: Director Cameo (1)
In 1999, John Ritter married Amy Yasbeck in real life.
Throughout the film Ben reads several self-help books on parenting and each book features a photo of the author on the back cover. The author photos are John Ritter in various costumes. This was mirrored in Problem Child 2 (1991) when Lawanda Dumore's photos of previous husbands are all John Ritter in costumes.
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" about a married couple suing an adoption agency after 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, envisioning a dark, adult satire of the then-popular trend in films where 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. Mom (1983), Kindergarten Cop (1990) and 3 Men and a Baby (1987). However, the studio insisted upon turning it into a children's film, a conversion which necessitated numerous reshoots and rewrites, leading to a difficult production that left all involved disappointed and anticipating that it would bomb. The film defied these expectations, becoming a surprise hit and Universal's most profitable film of 1990 but was still so embarrassing for Alexander and Karaszewski (Alexander even cried after the cast and crew screening) that the two 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 but, in later years, they would eventually come to work with executives who were young children when during the film's initial release, grew up watching its frequent 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" (citing the scene where Flo commits adultery with an escaped serial killer while her husband is catatonic and contemplating murdering his seven-year-old son in the next room as an example) adding "and it's funny."
The role for Junior was originally meant for Macaulay Culkin. Ironically, Culkin would go on to play a devilish child in The Good Son (1993).
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 Vader
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.
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Colby Kline, who plays Lucy, is the daughter of Richard Kline, who provided additional voice for this film and co-starred with John Ritter in Three's Company (1976).
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When Ben steals Roy's Wagoneer, he intentionally drives over some flowers in a neighboring yard. This is due to deleted footage that involved a subplot of the woman who owned that house getting fed up with the Healy cat going to the bathroom in the flower bed. Although every other trace of this subplot is removed from the movie, this scene was left in (the deleted footage appears on edited TV versions of the movie, but isn't on the DVD).
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Numerous references are made throughout the film to Junior being the Devil, or like the Devil. An inscription on the orphanage wall stated that the Devil is close at hand when a child smiles, Big Ben refers to Junior as the Devil when he first sees him, he wears a Devil costume to the girl's party, and Little Ben claims "We've adopted Satan!" Furthermore, the circus seen at the end of the movie is called Diablo Bros. Circus; Diablo is the Spanish word for Devil.
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Jack Warden agreed to be in the film after Dennis Dugan offered him half his net profits (a percentage negotiated beforehand of the net profit to a movie). Warden was so touched by the gesture that he agreed to take the role, but refused to take any of Dugan's potential earnings.
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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.
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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.
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Dennis Dugan's directorial debut.
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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.
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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
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There was a bit in the "It's My Party" montage, where Lucy is getting sawed in half by the clown. Junior replaces the fake saw with the real saw, which ends up cutting off Lucy's dress, revealing her underwear. This was soon cut, as it sparked worries about being too risqué.
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In the scene in which the campers are 'attacked by a bear', if you're a John Ritter fan, you may recognize the music, it was taken from his low budget movie with Jim Belushi, "Real Men" (1987).
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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.
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Chevy Chase, Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Dan Aykroyd and Rick Moranis were all considered for the role of Little Ben Healy. But Chase turned it down due to him shooting National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989). Rick Moranis and Dan Aykroyd were too busy doing Ghostbusters II (1989). Dreyfuss and Russell wanted too much money and Russell was busy doing Tango & Cash (1989).
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A group named "In Defence of Animals" organized protests against a poster for the film that showed a cat in a dryer. They also complained about a scene in which a cat's legs are hurt by Junior.
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Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski pitched the film to several studios including, 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros and Columbia Pictures. 20th Century Fox executive Barry Diller hated the script and allegedly called it "a trainwreck of a children's movie". Columbia and Warner Bros didn't think the film would be a good hit. Alexander and Karaszewski even pitched it to Disney. Disney executive Michael Eisner greatly disliked the script and refused to green light it. Eventually the duo eventually got Universal Studios to green light the project.
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When Ben and the Bow Tie Killer do their money exchange, the killer refers to Ben insultingly as "Big Daddy." Director Dennis Dugan would go on to direct a film called Big Daddy in 1999.
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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).
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Junior and Flo never have any dialogue with one another in the film. There are scenes where Flo talks to Junior after he makes exclamations/does things, and one scene where Junior says something to Flo running past her, but the two never have a conversation in the entire film.
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Big Ben mentions the "Hirohito Corporaton" as the company he is selling his store to. Interestingly, the closing credits have numerous listings for Hirohito Family characters, which implies that at one point, they may have been intended to play a larger role in the film.
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Richard Donner was considered to direct this film. But he turned it down as he was busy directing Lethal Weapon 2 (1989).
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John Ritter and Michael Richards are both well-known for their physical comedy on their respective sitcoms, "Three's Company" and "Seinfeld", skills which are on full display in this film.
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Director Cameo 

Dennis Dugan: as the All-American Dad who buys his son a canteen.
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Goofs | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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