Problem Child

First time watching this movie since VHS when I was 10. It’s pretty dark. Critics certainly thought so at the time. In 1990, one of those cyclical bouts of moral panic was gripping entertainment critics. This was also around the same time Bart Simpson shirts were being banned from schools. The outrage was clear; juvenile delinquency is NO laughing matter!

Being 10 I had no idea what the news rags were reacting to. I didn’t read the Times or the Tribune, etc. Seeing it now, the darkness of the story is not that far off from where comedy regularly goes today. I think what set off indignation from our esteemed print critics was actually the emotional beats. That a movie about an orphan who idolizes a thrill killer he sees on the evening news, writes to him, and has him arrive at his new adopted parents house and kidnap him and his adopted mom, would still attempt touching moments, makes the film feel kinda manipulative. The characters are all unlikeable, but it feels like the studio realized what kinda movie they were making and shoved in some standard-trope audience relatability beats. The movie should have just worn the ugliness as a badge, like a modern Jody Hill/Danny McBride ‘awful people’ character study. 

Anyway, it’s not bad. A slapstick comedy with a mean streak. I’ll take it any day over some safe forgettable comedy.

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