People who actually liked Problem Child (1990) need to have their heads examined. Who would take the idea of watching a malevolent little boy wreak havoc on others and deem it funny? The movie is not funny, ever, in any way, beginning to end. It wants to be a cartoon, but the writers don't realize that slapstick isn't funny when people get attacked by bears, or hit with baseball bats. It may be funny in cartoons, but not in a motion picture.
The film's young hero is Junior (Michael Oliver) who, since he was a baby, has been placed at the front doors of foster parents for adoption. The families reject him, because Junior tends to give them a hard time.
He is then thrown into an orphanage, where he terrorizes the nuns, and writes pen pal letters to the convicted Bow-Tie Killer (Michael Richards). He is soon adopted by Ben and Flo Healy (the late John Ritter and his wife, Amy Yasbeck), who are dying to have a child, in order to be just like every other parent in their neighborhood.
Junior becomes a member of the Healy household, and "Little" Ben takes an interest in him, despite the fact that he destroys a camping trip by luring a bear onto the site, or throws a cat at his father "Big" Ben (Jack Warden), a bigoted politician.
I think that we're supposed to care for Junior so that we can root for him when he gets his revenge on people. His new mother, Flo, is a bitch, his grandfather is completely selfish, and one little girl--who despises adopted kids--is such a spoiled brat.
But what Junior does to get the last laughs isn't funny- -it's mean, cruel, and sometimes life-threatening.
And what is the film's message? That kids should resolve problems with violence and vandalism? That they should seek friendship by writing to convicted killers? They definitely don't what it's like to be a bad kid. Junior isn't a one--he's just a sadistic, little twerp. There used to be a time when it was bad for kids to beat up others. Now, everybody's laughing when Junior beats up kids with a baseball bat.
It's a shame that this movie has been marketed as a "family comedy." What's worse is that Problem Child is rated PG. What was the MPAA thinking when they saw this? There's a lot of profanity and mean-spirited pranks here, that one may wonder about the dividing between the PG and the PG-13.
Kids will enjoy this, but parents will be shocked at what is being depicted on screen. And to most people, Problem Child will be considered a "guilty pleasure" classic; a film that someone will shamefacedly admit to liking, even though the prevailing opinion, as put forth by more serious viewers, is that the movie is a piece of crap.
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