Jan 14, 2009

Problem Child

Films of the past had the blissful opportunity to be taught a lesson in extremely unappropriated humor. I mean sure, we have Apatow making stoner comedies with Seth Rogen mentioning his Jewish ancestry every 20 minutes but a level of crass comedy seen in Problem Child is somewhat of a relic. A jaded doctor tells a bourgeoisie woman that she will never have children by explaining the architectural faults of her fallopian tubes by fumbling with props equating in a visual aid that one would cry over.

With Problem Child, John Ritter adopts a child who poses as an angel but he is constantly described as the devil. This child is a thief, arsonist, potential murderer, and a lying little shit. Junior is a hellion at best, one that needs to be described inexplicable tortures. I'm not one of a child-abusing nature but this little bastard is one of the most irritating screen characters ever produced from the bowels of comedy. On the other hand, the terrible things that he does that's transformed into comedy? That takes the masterful hand of someone who can make a film right. That brings me to the conclusion that Problem Child is a fluke in Dennis Dugan's career, having seen that he directed You Don't Mess With the Zohan!


Paternal terror is a genre that has been mainly dominated by demonic children and possessive ghosts. For instance, my mother cannot watch Poltergeist anymore cause of the violence and horror directed towards children. It's a trend that many adults find themselves conforming to against their own will. Once you have kids, horror's dead to you, save for a few troopers out there who allocate horror, children, and children who love horror in their entertainment diet. Consider this paragraph a shout-out to these folks. Apart from films like The Good Son, Problem Child is one that really fleshes out the ideas of children ruining the parents lives.

The imperial authority that John Ritter attempts fallibly over little Junior is eventually scrapped for faulty discipline theories on love and acceptance. This leads to a boost in tantrums thrown out by Junior. Well, not exactly tantrums but a head full of revenge and very eager to dish it out amongst smarmy 7 year old girls who have their heads stuck in bullying, isolating boys with "cooties", and other childish segregation's. The perfect idea of a nuclear family is begrudgingly cast out when Ritter's wife Flo cheats on him with a serial killer in his kitchen and then ventures to elope with him. Unbeknownst to the whore figure, she's being taken for ransom. Yet another woman that cast of security and love for a bit of danger. Rest easy, she gets what she deserves in the end.


Problem Child is an excellent 90s comedy that has a similar approach as Beethoven but with a progressing love path near the climax in which two male figures cast out the woman in their lives for a more comforting homely environment. From excellent performances from Gilbert Gottfried and Michael Richards, Problem Child is a principle film of an era when having children say "dick" and "damn" and other words was still considered kosher. This is a comedy that doesn't appear to have gotten stale over the years and even employs a slight misogynistic ending.



Fox said...

Goddamn dude! I can't stop staring at the NOW picture of "Problem Child". Great write-up. You guys are on an incredibly roll this week!

Anonymous said...

Ah man ... you've solved the question I've been asking myself for years: "What does that little kid from Problem Child look like now?"

Imposter Jason said...

Wow. Excellent review. Side note: I've really been enjoying your site because of the range of films that you cover. Awesome stuff.