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 It’s kind of cool, actually, as it keeps this from being just some outdated, pointless, crude comedy relic.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: UHF (1989)

Also known as: The Vidiot From UHF (working title)
Release Date: May 26th, 1989
Directed by: Jay Levey
Written by: “Weird Al” Yankovic, Jay Levey
Music by: John Du Prez, “Weird Al” Yankovic
Cast: “Weird Al” Yankovic, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Richards, David Bowe, Victoria Jackson, Fran Drescher, Billy Barty, Gedde Watanabe, Emo Philips (cameo)

Cinecorp SAC, Imaginary Entertainment, Orion Pictures, 97 Minutes, 150 Minutes (rough cut)

Review:

“Oh, Joel Miller, you’ve just found the marble in the oatmeal. You’re a lucky, lucky, lucky little boy. ‘Cause you know why? You get to drink from… the FIRE HOOOOOSE!” – Stanley Spadowski

This was one of those movies I used to put on when I was an adolescent because it was pretty mindless, really fun and it featured a guy who I wish had made more movies: “Weird Al” Yankovic.

Known primarily for making parody pop tunes, Yankovic is a pretty talented guy all around and the fact that he wrote and starred in this “loser gets lucky” flick is impressive. Sure, this is a vanity project but Yankovic didn’t just phone in his performance and rely on a big studio to do all the work and foot the bill.

Now I can understand that this won’t be a film that most people will enjoy, especially in 2020, but it truly displays and showcases the guy’s immense creativity. This also feels like a practice run of what could have been if he continued to make motion pictures. In the long run, he’d just need to refine them a bit more and tell a more cohesive story.

That’s not to say that the story is hard to follow, it isn’t, but the film plays like a series of gags and skits with a really simple narrative just there to try and give them a larger purpose. And that’s fine for what this is.

UHF isn’t just a straight forward, ’80s comedy; it also features music videos by Yankovic, worked into the film through dreams and daydreams. His character here is a real dreamer and he spends a lot of time existing within the fantasy of his own head. Luckily, a lot of that is able to get out and into the real world, as he has to use his creativity to run his uncle’s failing UHF television station.

Over time, the station becomes a big hit, as Yankovic and his group of close friends are able to build something pretty remarkable.

Speaking of his friends, they are made up by a really good cast that includes a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards, a pre-The Nanny Fran Drescher, Victoria Jackson, Gedde Watanabe, Billy Barty and David Bowe.

I think that Yankovic fans will definitely dig the film. Others, maybe not so much. But this is still a lighthearted, positive film that has some hysterical moments. Granted, some of these gags wouldn’t fly today in our overly sensitive and easily offended modern society.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other loser gets lucky comedies: Brewster’s Millions, Chairman of the Board, Tapeheads, Freddy Got Fingered, The Pest, etc.