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Problem Child (1990)

DVD Cover (Universal)
Genres / Traits:
Black Comedy, Children's / Family, Comedy, Family-Oriented Comedy, Bears
Director:
Dennis Dugan Dennis Dugan
Starring:
John Ritter John Ritter
Jack Warden Jack Warden
Michael Oliver Michael Oliver
Gilbert Gottfried Gilbert Gottfried
Amy Yasbeck Amy Yasbeck

5.4 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: July 18, 2011
It's time for something a little different today, so I decided, why not dig out a light-hearted comedy from my childhood? I remember seeing this one back when I was a kid and loving it, so when I saw that both this film and its sequel were available in a budget DVD pack, I wasted no time in picking it up. I'll be honest, I expected this one to play out like a lot of movies from back in the day do: I'll go in with fond memories, and by the time the credits have rolled, I'll once again be faced with how much my taste as a kid sucked. That didn't happen this time!

The story centers around Junior (Michael Oliver), a seven-year-old boy who may very well be the son of Satan. The kid just can not stay out of trouble even as a newborn baby, and as such, he winds up in an orphanage run by nuns. Living with the wives of God does nothing to calm him down, and in fact, he seems to get into even more mischief there. He gets into so much trouble, in fact, that the sisters go to their boss (Gilbert Gottfried) and lay down the law: either the kid leaves, or they leave.

Ten minutes later, his solution walks through the door in the form of Ben (John Ritter) and Flo (Amy Yasbeck), a yuppie couple who are looking to adopt a young boy due to Flo's inability to get pregnant. Do you see where this is going? Of course you do: they adopt little Junior and take him home, and of course, the boy gets into even more trouble there. Ben wants nothing more than to love his new son, while his dad (Jack Warden) and wife - who only wanted a kid for the social status to begin with - both see him as a pain in the ass and wants Ben to take him back for a refund. Meanwhile, Junior is looking forward to meeting his hero, a serial killer known as the bow-tie killer (Michael Richards) who has recently broken out of jail... and is en route to their house to meet the "hardened criminal" that he has been chatting with through letters.

Yes, this is a PG-rated comedy film with a child in the leading role, and honestly, this shouldn't be the kind of movie that I would be interested in. However, I remember seeing it back when it originally came out, and something about it caused it to click with me. Watching it again today for the first time in over a decade, I can easily see what did it: it's funny as all hell, it has great acting, and it's a charming little story. Mainly, the funny part though.

You see, the movie is genuinely funny. There are a few edgy moments and a little bit of salty language, but for the most part, this is a movie that you could watch with your kids and you'd both get a kick out of it. The humor is silly for the most part with a few moments of dark comedy thrown in for the adults, and though a few of the jokes may fall a little flat depending on your tastes, the vast majority of it will put a smile on the most jaded of viewer's faces. How can you not laugh when a kid runs around a baseball field clubbing the other players with his baseball bat? Can you honestly not appreciate the humor of a kid luring a bear to a campsite to screw around with the campers? And finally, only a man with a heart of stone could not feel a tug on the heartstrings when father and son bond together courtesy of Junior driving while father unloads a shotgun into a serial killer's car.

Aside from the humor, what really makes the movie work is the acting from all involved. I normally hate child actors with a passion, but Michael Oliver nails the role to perfection. He may have only been nine while filming, but he was able to draw more laughs with his line delivery than a lot of adults do. John Ritter is also perfectly cast and brings some of his Three's Company charm to the table, being able to switch back and forth between loving father, hilarious father, insane father, and yes, even the ass-kicking father. The rest of the cast is just as good, with Amy Yasbeck pulling out a perfect performance as the snooty yuppie, Michael Richards doing what he does best with his outing as an insane killer, and of course, Jack Warden is the perfect asshole.

I've had the DVD sitting on my shelf for a couple of months now, but I've been afraid to pop it in. I was afraid that my childhood opinions and my adult opinions would once again conflict with one another, but honestly, I can say that I loved Problem Child as much today as I did back when my parents rented the movie on new release day. 10/10.
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AttnDefDis #1: AttnDefDis - added 07/20/2011, 09:40 PM
I also loved this movie when I was a kid and rented it on "new release day". Ah, times have changed. At any rate, I had a similar experience as you with Stay Tuned (another John Ritter classic). A movie I loved as a kid, bought it, let it sit forever in fear and finally watched it. Though, I haven't seen Problem Child since I was a kid, I may give this one another shot. I remember liking the sequel as well. When Junior meets his match.
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