Problem Child (1990) starring John Ritter, Jack Warden, Michael Oliver, Gilbert Gottfried, Amy Yasbeck, Michael Richards directed by Dennis Dugan Movie Review

Problem Child (1990)   2/52/52/52/52/5

Michael Oliver in Problem Child (1990)

Problem Movie

"Problem Child" has one major fundamental problem, what adult in their right mind would let their child watch this movie. You see "Problem Child" whilst technically a family movie is really aimed at young children with lots of daft comedy accompanied by the regular array of OTT caricatures. But all that daft comedy is based around a bad boy, a real bad boy who doesn't accidentally do bad things he does them intentionally and what parent would want to encourage their child to do bad things. It is not just what the child does because we have a parent pushed to their limit and thinking of murder, it is just a poor concept.

As a baby Junior (Michael Oliver) was left on the doorstep of a mansion but since then he has been passed from one home to another as his natural ability to be bad has made him unwanted, even the Nuns who run an orphanage wish they hadn't got Junior with them. So when Ben and Flo (John Ritter and Amy Yasbeck) show up at the adoption agency they are conned in to taking Junior home and it doesn't take long for this problem child to start wrecking their home and their lives. To make matters worse he has also been writing to a dangerous criminal known as the bow tie killer and when the killer escapes prison he comes looking of Junior.

Amy Yasbeck and John Ritter in Problem Child (1990)

Let's mention "Dennis" which came out 3 years later, it was about a mischievous boy who when he tried to do good he ended up causing misery, that idea works because the kid is not evil, he just gets things wrong. Unfortunately "Problem Child" doesn't get that and we are meant to be entertained by a child who intentionally goes out of his way to cause trouble from feeding soap flakes to a cat to sucking up a goldfish with a vacuum cleaner. To me that is simply wrong and whilst much of this comedy has an element of slapstick about it, the sort of typical children's movie slapstick where people end up hurt and frustrated I don't see what parent would want to let a young child watch a movie about a bad kid. Of course bad kid turns good kid but it happens only right at the end and everything before is about Junior being intentionally bad.

It is not just Junior because as the story plays out we have Ben and Flo pushed beyond desperation by his antics and what we get from them is also simply wrong. From Flo running off with another man to Ben standing with a pillow over the sleeping Junior it isn't funny and you almost need to be twisted to find it funny. Again I don't know what parent would want to show this to their children because whilst played for laughs it just isn't right.

What I will say is that "Problem Child" despite being a wrong concept from start to finish actually features some entertaining performances. John Ritter and Amy Yasbeck are intentionally OTT as Ben and Flo whilst Jack Warden is amusing as Ben's grumpy father. And then there is Michael Oliver who it has to be sad is at times a little unsettling as Junior and you could almost see him in an "Omen" movie.

What this all boils down to is that for me "Problem Child" is a flawed idea for a movie because I don't see how a movie about a child intentionally being bad is entertainment you would want a child to watch. The only thing which is good about the movie is the cast who despite delivering the regular sort of comedy are at least entertaining and in the case of Michael Oliver a little unsettling.