Problem Child (1990)


“I love the smell of spilled milk in the morning. It smells like victory.” – Junior

Number of Times Seen – 1 (18 Jul 2017)

Brief Synopsis – An infertile couple adopt an 8 year old who has been rejected over and over by foster parents because he is such a terror.

My Take on it – This is another film that I avoided for years because I just had no desire to see it.

Once again though, I was sorely dissatisfied with the end result because it seems to rehash so many scenes that we all know form other kids comedies, most notably Home Alone (1990).

There are some scenes that work better than others, but overall, it just isn’t as funny or as poignant as it could be.

The bright star here is John Ritter who does an amazing job as the lead and clearly outshines everyone else.

That isn’t such an easy task since the supporting cast features Amy Yasbeck, Michael Richards, Jack Warden and Gilbert Gottfried.

Some of the antics are funnier than others, but most fall into the ho-hum category because they don’t make enough of a lasting impression.

Bottom Line – Has its moments which work better than others but overall it’s just an average kids comedy in the vein of Home Alone (1990). Ritter is the bright spot here and it’s great watching him leave every other acting job in this film in the dust. Some of the antics work better than others but the idea that a kid could cause so much terror doesn’t come across as well as it should. Nice supporting cast with Yasbeck, Gottfried, Warden and Richards giving nice performances despite being out shined by Ritter.

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – 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.” (From IMDB)

Rating – BAFTA Worthy

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One thought on “Problem Child (1990)

  1. Pingback: Temporal Top Ten – 1990 |

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