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Problem Child

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Problem Child
220px-Problem Child.jpg
Behold, a complete disgrace of a motion picture filled with annoying characters, shockingly unfunny writing and wasted potential.
Genre: Comedy

Black Comedy

Directed By: Dennis Dugan
Written By: Scott Alexander
Larry Karaszewski
Starring: Michael Oliver
John Ritter
Michael Richards
Gilbert Gottfired
Jack Warden
Amy Yasbeck
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Release Date: July 27, 1990
Runtime: 81 minutes
Country: United States
Box Office: $72.2 million
Sequel: Problem Child 2

Problem Child is a 1990 black comedy film distributed by Universal Pictures. It would receive two sequels, 1991's Problem Child 2 and 1995's Problem Child 3, as well as an animated TV series in 1993. It was directed by Dennis Dugan (in his directorial debut) and written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski.


A young boy who is just short of a monster is adopted by a loving man and his snooty wife, and pushes them to their limits.

Why It's A Huge Problem

  1. Poorly written and unoriginal story that has been done tons of times in other movies prior to this, the story is just really out of balance and not structured well, the story also suffers from tons of plot holes and continuity errors. Speaking of the story being poorly written, there are sometimes where it makes absolutely no motive, one example is the scene where Junior ruins a birthday party and the baseball scene which add up nothing to the plot and just feel like unnecessary filler scenes, despite the fact that in the baseball scene Lil' Ben finally reveals Junior's true side.
    • On TV it's somehow even worse because when the movie airs on TV they added in tons of pointless deleted scenes that also don't add up anything to the story of the movie.
  2. The humor is below average, as it relies on low brow Toilet humour, unfunny slapstick and adult humour, one example is the opening scene where Junior (as a baby) pees on a mother, and the infamous scene where he extinguishes a fire by peeing on it. The humor can even go so far and it still doesn't make it up for how unfunny it is.
    • Speaking of the humoUr there are some scenes that go off so far, to the point where it becomes more insulting and mean spirited than funny, such as the aforementioned baseball scene where Junior beats everyone up, or when he throws a baseball bat to Big Ben's car window.
  3. There are tons of shameless product placements, such as Daihatsu, Cabbage Patch Kids, Icee, Milk Duds, Hello Kitty, Pepsi, etc.
  4. Unlikable and poorly written characters:
    • Junior is a generic troublesome kid, with no motive or manners at all, he just wants to cause everything for his own selfish desires, sometimes he can even come across as a more mean spirited and unfunny rip-off of Dennis the Menace.
    • Flo is a typical nagging wife, she is also shown to be very disrespectful, for example when she said she wanted a divorce it felt very forced.
    • Igor Peabody is an annoying comic relief, he didn't even warn Lil' Ben and Flo about Junior before they adopted him his voice can even get grating and annoying, then again it is Gilbert Gottfried.
    • Big Ben is really unlikable as he doesn't show to care much for his son yet he was shown also to be the only one for a while to know Junior's true side after he first met him, yet Lil' Ben didn't believe him.
    • The Bowtie Killer is a generic run of the mill villain, that doesn't have any goal other than find Junior.
  5. It has tons of animal abuse that is more cruel and upsetting than actually funny.
    • In fact, the poster got protests as seen above, as it shows a cat in a washing machine. There is even a scene where Junior splinters the cat's legs.
  6. Executive Meddling, originally the movie was going to be a horror movie about an evil child, similar to the likes of The Omen (1976) And The Orphan (2009) , however Universal forced the writers to make it a comedy instead.
    • Because of this you can clearly tell that the movie can't decide if it wants to be a family or an adult humor it fails at both, as for an adult movie it feels to childish and steep while as for a family movie there are so many scenes that can be considered inappropriate such as the scene where Big Ben shows his butt on TV and Junior calling Peabody "a stupid dick".
  7. In the bear scene you can tell that between every shot it switches between a real bear and a costume.
  8. The birthday scene where Junior ruins the party looks more like a B-roll footage.
  9. False advertising: As mentioned above the poster shows a cat in a washing machine, but that never happens in the actual movie.
  10. Igor Peabody didn't even warn about Junior. When Ben and Flo we're going to adopt him, yet even Big-Ben realized and his son Lil-Ben didn't trust him either.
  11. Bland effects at least most of them.
  12. While awesome, Kerry Von Erich barely gets to do anything and only appears for a short while.
  13. Flo telling Ben that she wanted a divorce was very forced, not to mention being in a suitcase when saying that.
    • While being on that subject, how did she even survived being shoved into the suitcase!?

Redeeming Qualities

  1. One of the prison inmates is played by former WCCW, USWA, and WWF wrestler "Texas Tornado" Kerry Von Erich of the famous Von Erich Wrestling Family. While he doesn't do much, he's actually pretty good with what he has.
  2. The soundtrack is decent, especially "Bad to the Bone" which is the movie's biggest highlight.
  3. Junior apologizes at the end to Lil' Ben.
  4. All of Junior's victims get what they deserve due to being very mean to him.
  5. Lil' Ben is the only character in the movie that comes across as likable.
  6. The acting is OK from a superb cast.
  7. Some of the effects are good for a movie from the early 90s.
  8. John Ritter and Michael Richards both give good performances and don't phone it in.


The film was panned by critics despite being a box office success. The film has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes with a critic consensus that reads "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." Metacritic assigned the film a score of 27 out of 100 based on 12 reviews, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews." Despite the negativity, Problem Child ended up being the most successful movie by Universal at the time and it also gained a cult following amongst audiences. It also has a 1/5 on Common Sense Media with the consensus, "Antics of a diabolical child are neither valuable nor funny."

Awards And nominations

Gilbert Gottfried (as well as for The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Look Who's Talking Too) was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor, but lost to Donald Trump in Ghosts Can't Do It.



  • Co-writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski got the idea for this film from a newspaper article they read about a couple who sued an adoption agency for giving them a boy with a violent history without informing them beforehand.
  • Alexander and Karaszewski originally envisioned the film as both a black comedy and an adult satire of the then-popular trend in films where cute children teach cynical adults how to love.
  • The studio wanted John Landis to direct the film, but Landis declined as he wasn't interested in directing a kids/family film. Joe Dante was also approached, but despite showing interest, he turned it down due to conflicts with Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Richard Donner was also considered to direct, but he declined as he was busy in post-production work on Lethal Weapon 2.
  • Amy Yasbeck returns in the sequel as Nurse Annie Young.
  • Macaulay Culkin auditioned for the role of Junior.
  • Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase, Richard Dreyfuss, Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Kurt Russell, and John Travolta were all considered for the role of Little Ben Healy. But Chase turned down the role due to him shooting National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Aykroyd and Moranis were busy making Ghostbusters II, Martin turned down the role to work on My Blue Heaven, Travolta was busy doing Look Who's Talking Too, Dreyfuss and Russell both wanted too much money, and Russell was busy doing Tango and Cash.
  • Kirstie Alley, Kim Basinger, Carrie Fisher, Mary Steenburgen, and Catherine O'Hara were all considered for the role of Flo Healy. However, Alley turned it down due to her shooting Look Who's Talking Too, Basinger was busy doing Batman, Fisher was filming Sibling Rivalry, O'Hara was called in to work on Home Alone, and Steenburgen turned down the role due to commitments with Back to the Future Part III.
  • Christopher Lloyd was supposed to play the Bowtie Killer, but turned down the role because of his commitments with Back to the Future Part III. Ironically, Lloyd would play a similar character, Switchblade Sam, in the 1993 film adaptation of the American Dennis the Menace comic.

External links


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