Film Review: Problem Child 2 (1991)

Release Date: July 3rd, 1991
Directed by: Brian Levant
Written by: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Music by: David Kitay
Cast: John Ritter, Michael Oliver, Amy Yasbeck, Jack Warden, Gilbert Gottfried, Laraine Newman, Ivyann Schwan, James Tolkan, Martha Quinn, Zach Grenier

Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 91 Minutes, 93 Minutes (extended)

Review:

“Junior’s getting worse, we can’t even figure out what he did to that dog!” – Ben Healy

If you like Problem Child, you’ll probably like Problem Child 2, even if it’s not as good. If you don’t like the first film, then just skip this.

This is not a bad film in spite of it’s 4.9 out of 10 on IMDb, it’s just a film made for its audience, which isn’t made up of many people, especially nearly thirty years later.

This is a goofy, crude comedy but it’s that type of crudeness that worked really well for me when I was a kid. Even know, it’s over-the-top moments like the carnival ride vomitpocaplypse still play really well. It’s intentional hokiness is still funny. In fact, I was actually impressed by it, seeing it all these years later, as I couldn’t believe how far they pushed the bar and how much time and effort went into that massive gross-out gag.

The story is also good in that it isn’t really a re-tread of the previous film. Sure, at it’s core it is primarily about a kid that likes to be a total dick but it introduces a good foil for him. It also changes the setting, focuses a lot on John Ritter’s Little Ben looking for a new woman and it also focuses on the importance of family and friends.

Plus, I absolutely love Jack Warden and Gilbert Gottfried in these movies and they give us some really good shit, here.

Problem Child movies are simple, mindless, fun films. This one is no different in that regard. I think it lacks some of the heart of the original but the end sort of pulls you back in, as the characters you care about seem to find what they were looking for and what they need.

Ultimately, these weren’t movies that were made to be classics, they were just made to entertain people in a time where everything wasn’t offensive and we could laugh at bonkers, absurd shit.

The film is juvenile but it’s supposed to be. Back in the day, that worked for me. Seeing it now, it still works, as it brings me back to that place. But with that being said, I wouldn’t expect this to mean much to a person watching it for the first time in 2020.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor and crappy sequel.

Film Review: Problem Child (1990)

Release Date: July 26th, 1990 (Dallas premiere)
Directed by: Dennis Dugan
Written by: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski
Music by: Miles Goodman
Cast: John Ritter, Michael Oliver, Amy Yasbeck, Michael Richards, Gilbert Gottfried, Jack Warden, Dennis Dugan (cameo)

Imagine Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 81 Minutes, 93 Minutes (extended version)

Review:

“We’ve adopted Satan!” – Little Ben Healy

This is another movie I liked a lot as a kid. However, I didn’t think that I’d enjoy it as an adult. I was wrong.

Problem Child weirdly impressed me, as there is real heart to the story when you look past all the absurdity and goofiness of the picture. Sure, it’s hokey, cheap and what many would consider low brow but it’s also a really human story about a terror of a kid that just never knew love and finds it in the one person that truly doesn’t want to just throw him away.

The film is also infinitely made better by just how good the entire core cast is.

John Ritter was perfect as the all-American guy that just wanted to be a dad and was willing to take this kid in and try to be a good father figure to him in spite of the kid’s antics and terrible track record.

Amy Yasbeck was superb as the mother character, who didn’t really want the kid as much as she wanted the neighborhood status that came with being a middle class suburban mommy.

We also get Jack Warden, as the asshole, selfish grandfather that cares more about his mayoral campaign than his family, and Michael Richards, as a deranged serial killer that the kid idolizes and wants to run away with. Gilbert Gottfried also shows up in a few scenes and he’s perfect, simply playing himself in the most Gilbert Gottfried role of all-time.

I was really impressed by Michael Oliver as the kid, though. He’s just a natural when it comes to comedy, timing and facial expressions. He also has a great, evil laugh that makes his character even better. Most kid actors wouldn’t have been able to do half as well as he did and I’m surprised that he didn’t do much beyond the first two Problem Child movies.

On the surface, this is a cheap comedy that is mostly just a series of gags with a thin narrative holding it all together. However, within that thin narrative, the movie still finds a way to connect with the audience in an emotional way. It’s kind of cool, actually, as it keeps this from being just some outdated, pointless, crude comedy relic.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequels, as well as UHF for some great pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards shenanigans.

 

Film Review: Chairman of the Board (1998)

Also known as: Untitled Carrot Top Project (working title)
Release Date: March 13th, 1998 (limited)
Directed by: Alex Zamm
Written by: Al Septien, Turi Meyer, Alex Zamm
Music by: Chris Hajian
Cast: Carrot Top, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Larry Miller, Raquel Welch, Mystro Clark, M. Emmet Walsh, Jack Warden, Estelle Harris, Bill Erwin, Glenn Shadix, Taylor Negron, Cindy Margolis, Butterbean, Little Richard, Fred Stoller

Trimark Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

“I’m telling you guys there’s not enough radiation in those TV dinners to make somebody a walking night light.” – Edison

If you ever needed proof that Rotten Tomatoes is full of shit, this movie holds a 13 percent rating by critics on their site. Well, I guess that could also just be a damning stat for the film critic profession in general because it means that 13 percent of them liked this noxious turd.

That being said, at least this is better than The Pest but that’s not saying much.

Carrot Top, a man that somehow got famous for prop comedy, the worst discipline of all comedy, was given this as a vehicle to further his career and make him a superstar. It failed, quite gloriously. Luckily for Mr. Top, he was able to still sustain a pretty successful comedy career in Vegas.

I guess what’s most surprising about this film is that it actually has a lot of fairly well-known actors in it. I’d have to assume that none of them actually read the script or they somehow bought into Carrot Top being the next big thing in entertainment.

The story is just like every other story that sees some lovable loser inherit a corporation or a large sum of money from a stranger or person they met for five minutes. It makes sure to borrow every single trope that we’ve seen a dozen times in similar films but then it sort of just smears shit all over them.

But to be fair, Carrot Top showed some charisma, even if his material wasn’t funny. He didn’t write the script and I think this was just thrown into his lap with his agent yelling, “You’re fucking doing it!” Even though I’m not a fan of his regular work, I felt kind of bad for him as this material wasn’t made to work with anyone in his role.

I can’t call this a forgettable film as it is so bad that it will always haunt you. But at least it’s that type of bad that needs to be seen to be believed and its faults make it worthwhile if bad movies are your thing. I’ll probably never watch it again but I wouldn’t mind eventually seeing a Rifftrax version of the film.

Rating: 3.25/10
Pairs well with: Freddy Got Fingered and The Pest.

Film Review: Donovan’s Reef (1963)

Release Date: June 12th, 1963 (Philadelphia premiere)
Directed by: John Ford
Written by: James Edward Grant, Frank S. Nugent
Music by: Cyril Mockridge
Cast: John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Jack Warden, Elizabeth Allen, Jacqueline Malouf, Cesar Romero, Dorothy Lamour, Mike Mazurki, Patrick Wayne, Dick Foran

Paramount Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“Well, there is our Mike Donovan. Three children and not one marriage. Oh, I do not say that he’s the first man to put the cart before the horse, but three carts and no horse? Huh?” – Marquis Andre de Lage

John Ford and John Wayne made a lot of really good movies together. Some of them had Lee Marvin in them too. Well, this is one of them but sadly, it is the last of them.

This also has Jack Warden and Cesar Romero in it too though, as well as Elizabeth Allen, Dorothy Lamour, Mike Mazurki, Patrick Wayne and Dick Foran. Plus, it is shot in beautiful and luscious Hawaii at the height of the Tiki subculture’s popularity in America.

Donovan’s Reef is a really good and lighthearted movie. It’s a lot more playful than what Ford and Wayne collaborations typically were. Sure, they’d have some tiny comedic moments but this is really a straight up romantic comedy that just so happens to have a male lead with real gravitas.

The thing is, I love seeing Wayne be funny and playful and kind of hamming it up. He doesn’t lose his machismo and if anything, it’s that machismo that makes his lighter roles work so well. For instance, Rooster Cogburn isn’t remotely close to the quality of its predecessor True Grit but Wayne is so damn good in it, playing opposite of Katharine Hepburn in an “odd couple” sort of situation. This is like that in the way that Wayne isn’t afraid to step outside of being the quintessential badass of his era.

I also love Lee Marvin’s character in this and the rest of the cast is damn good too. Cesar Romero was friggin’ delightful. And the young Jacqueline Malouf was perfect and sweet in her role. I truly enjoyed Elizabeth Allen’s role in this though, as she was the perfect pairing for Wayne’s wit and for the romantic stuff. She was the typical “rich white lady thrown into an exotic culture” archetype but she evolved beyond that and gave the role a lot of personality.

This is a beautiful film to look at. Hawaii is majestic and it is on full display in this movie.

Donovan’s Reef was actually much better than I thought it would be and I’m glad I checked it out. It’s definitely something I’ll probably revisit many times in the future.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Other Ford and Wayne collaborations. For the Tiki aesthetic, The Road to Bali which also features Dorothy Lamour. Also, Diamond Head, which was also filmed in Hawaii and features Elizabeth Allen.

Film Review: 12 Angry Men (1957)

Release Date: April 13th, 1957
Directed by: Sidney Lumet
Written by: Reginald Rose
Music by: Kenyon Hopkins
Cast: Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden, Jack Klugman, Joseph Sweeney, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, Edward Binns, George Voskovec, Robert Webber

Orion-Nova Productions, United Artists, 96 Minutes 

12_angry_menReview:

Being an avid film buff my entire life almost feels like complete bullshit when I haven’t seen 12 Angry Men until now.

In my defense (pun intended), I’m just not a big fan of courtroom dramas. I usually find them tedious and rambling and a complete bore to watch. Although, for some strange reason, I loved watching Perry Mason reruns with my granmum in the 80s. That was probably just more about bonding time and I was waiting for the Cubs game to start in the afternoon.

Regardless, I have always heard that 12 Angry Men was one of the absolute best movies ever made. I have also heard about how great of a director Sidney Lumet is but I haven’t seen enough of his pictures, outside of my film studies classes in high school. I am trying to rectify that injustice.

12 Angry Men is fantastic. Considering that IMDb’s Top 250 has it ranked as the fifth best film ever made, says a lot. It has an 8.9 rating on IMDb, as well as 5/5 on Amazon, 4/4 by Roger Ebert, a 94 percent by Google users and a 100 percent by critics with 97 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. How many films can claim accolades like that?

The film follows twelve jurors who sit in one room, for the entire film, as they discuss a murder case. At first, everyone except one man (Henry Fonda) thinks that the verdict of guilty is an obvious one. As the movie rolls on, Fonda’s Juror No. 8 defends his stance and challenges all the other men. This leads to ninety minutes of fantastic debate about the case and the facts and what it actually means to serve on a jury. It exposes the men and their true feelings and examines their biases, their character and their morals. It is probably the most important film on the subject and I honestly feel, should be required viewing in every high school civics class.

Sidney Lumet shot this film very straightforward without any bells, whistles or special flourishes. It almost plays out like a documentary, at times.

The acting is magnificent and everything about the film feels truly organic. Henry Fonda, who I have always loved, is at his absolute best. Jack Klugman, who would later go on to star in The Odd Couple and Quincy, M.E., has never shined brighter. Ed Begley, Lee J. Cobb and Jack Warden were damn near perfection as the very vocal opposition to Fonda and those he rallied to his side.

12 Angry Men is truly a film devoid of flaws. I’m not really sure why the hell it was remade in the 90s for television. Although that version has some high critical praise, as well. Maybe I’ll watch it someday.

With as many motion pictures as I have seen in my life, it is extremely rare to find something so immaculate. 12 Angry Men is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the greatest films I have ever experienced.

It is also just as important today, as it was in 1957.

Rating: 10/10