Problem Child

NC - Problem Child.jpg

Release Date
September 16, 2020
Running Time
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(The Channel Awesome logo is shown, followed by the NC title sequence)

NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. The 90's was certainly the era of bratty kids, wasn't it?

(Pictures are shown of Dennis Mitchell in the 1959 Dennis the Menace TV series, George and Elroy Jetson in The Jetsons, a T-shirt depicting Bart Simpson from The Simpsons, John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Kevin McCallister in Home Alone, the cast of Bebe's Kids, and Hob in RoboCop 2.)

NC (vo): Long gone were the days of kids getting into trouble by accident. 90's brats got into trouble on purpose and were out to break whatever and whoever they wanted, reigning in a new decade of rebellious delinquents.

(Picture is shown of the poster for Problem Child.)

NC (vo): And at the beginning of this shift was the unbelievably immature, ridiculous, stupid-as-hell movie written by the guys who wrote... Ed Wood, People vs. Larry Flynt, and Dolemite is My Name? (pictures are shown of the mentioned films' posters over NC's dialogue)

(Graphic appears next to NC of Problem Child's score on Rotten Tomatoes going up to 14 percent.)

NC: Wow, that sent that score up.

(Problem Child logo is shown with music playing over it, followed by clips of the film.)

NC (vo): Released in 1990, Problem Child did not receive much love from critics when it came out. This isn't surprising, as... well... it's a really stupid movie. It's incredibly mean and violent, which would be fine if it wasn't so incredibly dumb and idiotic.

NC: But much to my everlasting shame... I kinda love it for that.

NC (vo): Okay, here's the thing. Everything said about this movie is true. It is hopelessly moronic and childish. But it's a movie about a snot-nosed brat that feels like it was written by a snot-nosed brat. Being a snot-nosed little brat myself in the 90's, I felt like this movie gave me all the crude, cartoony, meanspirited fantasies that a lot of children like me had at that age. This might be why the film was such a hit, resulting in a sequel (picture is shown of poster for Problem Child 2) as well as a cartoon series (picture is shown of Problem Child: The Animated Series) soon after. But is it actually good? How do I put this? I don't think the film cares. It's not setting out to impress, delight, and show off. It's setting out to mock, laugh, and get in trouble. Which, in some respects, it DID get in. People walked out at test screenings. It still sits at zero percent on Rotten Tomatoes. People even protested the poster for animal abuse. It lives in a sadistic adolescent world, and honestly, I think it's aware of that. But 30 years later, does that equal out to any value for adults?

NC: Let's look at this masterpiece of idiocy to find out. This is... Problem Child.

NC (vo): We open with our main character Junior, played by Michael Oliver, being left at a doorstep by his mother. Presumably with a note that says "feed him lots of milk". (picture is shown of the same note Nibbles is left with on Jerry's doorstep in the Tom and Jerry short "The Milky Waif") Or maybe not.

(Baby Junior pees on his birth mother's face.)

Junior's Mother: (gasps) Aaah!

NC (vo): Well, that calls for immediate abandonment! The credits roll as Junior is passed from house to house, each one falling victim to his chaos.

(Baby Junior throws his rattle at a window and shatters it.)

NC: Uh... that needs a recall.

NC (vo): I love that they drop him off via basket, despite him being too big as he gets older. It's even the same basket, like each house held onto it just in case they wanted to ditch him. It's that kind of meanspirited movie.

(One of Junior's adopted fathers steps on his toys.)

Junior: Oh, so you want to play rough, huh?

(A bulldozer is driven into the side of Junior's trailer home.)

NC: I like a comedy where half the footage can be deleted scenes from The Good Son. (picture is shown of poster for The Good Son, featuring Macaulay Culkin)

NC (vo): Meanwhile, two parents named Ben and Flo, played by Jason Ritter and Amy Yasbeck, go to a fertility clinic where they get some bad news told in the worst way.

  • (NOTE: Script error; Ben Healy is actually played by JOHN Ritter, not Jason Ritter. NC corrects this later in, though.)

Fertility Doctor: The test came back positive.

Florence Healy: That's good.

Fertility Doctor: No, positive is bad.

Benjamin Healy: No, positive is good. Negative is bad.

Fertility Doctor: No, negative is good. You see, you are POSITIVELY infertile.

NC: This is the childish bad taste you're in for. If you're not laughing by now, you're gonna hate the hell out of this.

NC (vo): He continues to explain the problem using a model.

Fertility Doctor: (picks up uterus model) This is your uterus. (the model comes apart in his hands) The yellow thing is your ovaries. And this... You know what? It doesn't matter, because you don't even HAVE a yellow thing. And your green thing is brown.

NC: (covering his face) I'm sorry! I'm sorry! By the gods that curse me for having me like films like Ace Ventura, Happy Gilmore, and Maximum Overdrive (pictures are shown of the mentioned films' posters over NC's dialogue), this really makes me laugh!

Fertility Doctor: That purple thing is your cervix.

NC: (cracks up laughing and puts his face on his desk)

NC (vo): Meanwhile, we see Junior is dropped off at an orphanage where he takes pictures of the nuns naked...

NC: Still riding that 80's PG into the 90's.

NC (vo): ...and he gets some laughs from the kids showing how nasty the food is.

(Mother Superior pulls Junior by the ear.)

Junior: Owwww! Hey, lady, hands off the merchandise! I got to hear out of that thing!

NC: Okay, so Junior's performance in this is... perfectly obnoxious.

NC (vo): He makes big faces, smiles at his own jokes, always shouts his punchlines. Much like a real mean kid who thinks he's hilarious would.

Mother Superior: I want these pots so shiny I can see my face in them.

Junior: (picks up a greasy, messy pot lid) This one kinda looks like you.

NC (vo): Again, if you give in to the idea that this is a film about a bratty, attention-hungry delinquent written in the style a bratty, attention-hungry delinquent would write in, he works well. If you're not down for that, you might see him as an evil Ronald McDonald puppet you want to smack. (picture is shown of a Ronald McDonald hand puppet) But either way, he's giving his all. There's so many films where the child actors are wooden (picture is shown of Milly Farrier in Dumbo (2019)) or not focused (picture is shown of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) or are just saying things in a way that sounds cute. (picture is shown of Michelle Tanner in Full House) This kid knows he's a little shit in this movie and acts accordingly, matching the rest of the film's immature tone perfectly. He even looks up to mass murderers. Yeah. That's the side plot. He turns on the TV to find a psychopath named the Bow-Tie Killer, played by Michael Richards, is recaptured and put back in jail.

Martin Beck: I'm not a bad guy! I'm just misunderstood! Nobody cares about me but me!

(Picture next to NC is shown of the November 2006 incident in which Michael Richards shouted racist rants at hecklers during a stand-up set at Hollywood's Laugh Factory.)

NC: Oh, too easy. I need a challenge.

NC (vo): The nuns are so pissed off at Junior's constant attacks on them that they tell the head of the adoption agency, Mr. Peabody, played by Gilbert Gottfried...

NC: Yeah, this film was getting too quiet and subtle.

NC (vo): ...that he has to go.

Nun 1: He's evil!

Nun 2: He has a wicked mind! Look what he did in art class! Skeletons!

Nun 1: Headless corpses!

Nun 3: Monsters devouring human flesh!

NC: Has he been reading the Bible again?

NC (vo): Junior likes the idea of being kicked out and tries insulting Mr. Peabody to make it go faster.

Junior: (laughing loudly)

Igor Peabody: What's so funny?

Junior: You are, you stupid dick!

NC: Same rating as Frozen, folks! (picture next to NC is shown of poster for Frozen)

Peabody: Maybe...

Junior: (imitating Peabody) Maybe...

Peabody: ...what the child is trying to say...

Junior: (imitating Peabody) ...what the child is trying to say...

Peabody: that...

Junior: (imitating Peabody) that...

NC: (points a gun with his fingers and waves it back and forth) My god! Which one's the child, and which one's Gottfried?!

NC (vo): Well, being part of a pen pal program, Junior writes to the Bow-Tie Killer, who confuses it for another killer named J.R. I love how afraid even the guards are to be around this guy.

Martin: Hey, warden! Catch!

(Martin throws a dumbbell up at the prison warden on an upper level. The warden catches the dumbbell, stumbles backward, and goes over the railing.)

Warden: (screams and falls)

NC: I have to say, this follow-up to the Seinfeld finale (picture next to NC is shown of the Seinfeld series finale, with Jerry, Kramer, Elaine, and George sitting in a jail cell) is more violent than I thought it would be.

NC (vo): Ben and Flo decide to adopt, and Peabody pushes Junior as the perfect child. I'll admit, I love the big selling point is that he wears a bow-tie, not knowing it was inspired by a serial killer.

(Ben carries Junior out of the orphanage. Junior makes insulting faces at the nuns and other children over Ben's shoulder.)

Ben: Hey, we must've gotten the pick of the litter. Look, everyone's come out to see him off.

(The nuns and children celebrate as Junior leaves.)

NC: (sniffles and wipes his eye) Just like when I left Catholic school.

Junior: Here, kitty, kitty.

(The Healys' cat yowls as Junior picks it up.)

Flo: No, no, Junior! Make nice with kitty!

NC (vo): (as Flo) He just got used to his cat sound effects that are in everything!

Ben: So what do you think, big guy?

(Ben and Flo lead Junior to his new bedroom, which is decorated with clown wallpaper, clown pictures, and clown toys.)

Junior: Well... there sure are a lot of clowns.

Ben and Flo: (laugh)

NC: And with this new miniseries (picture is shown of Stephen King's It (1990)) coming out this year, you're sure to love 'em even more!

NC (vo): They invite over his new grandpa, played by Jack Warden, and tell him there's a new bundle of joy in their lives.

Benjamin Healy Sr.: You and Flo cooked up a cute little kid for my campaign! (laughs, shakes Flo's belt buckle) You know, I thought you were gettin' fatter, mama!

NC: (as Ben Sr.) And here I thought doing that Mel Brooks film (picture next to NC is shown of the chastity belt in Robin Hood: Men in Tights) put the kibosh on that!

NC (vo): Junior sets the room on fire and blames it on one of the toys malfunctioning. The grandfather doesn't trust him.

Ben Sr.: "Accident", my ass! Get rid of him! It's the last time I set foot in this house!

(Junior picks up the cat, and it's thrown at Ben Sr.'s face.)

Ben Sr.: (screams)

NC: (laughing) I'm sorry! I-I get it! I get when people say they don't like this movie! It's completely understandable! ...But watch this on a loop!

(The scene of Ben Sr. having a cat thrown on his face is looped.)

NC (vo): Tell me those aren't the GIFs they play in heaven! Stephen Hawking's laughing his ass off at this!

(Ben Sr. is taken away by paramedics on a stretcher.)

Ben Sr.: Get rid of that kid! Get rid of him!

NC (vo): Ben is convinced that both occurrences were accidents and stands by that Junior is still a good little boy.

Ben: I want to be a great dad, and you know what? I will never be too busy to sit down and listen to what's on my son's mind over a nice cup of hot cocoa.

NC: John Ritter really is the perfect choice for this nice father being driven to insanity.

(Clips are played of John Ritter in Three's Company.)

NC (vo): For most of his career, Ritter was always seen as the nice guy, the goofball just trying to do good.

(Clip is played of John Ritter in Bad Santa.)

NC (vo): But as he got older, he tried out more edgy material, revealing he had a risque side that balanced out with his zany side, resulting in that uncle that told you old but still inappropriate jokes you couldn't help but laugh at. This was in the middle of him trying to find that edge so when you see him as the nice guy who lets everybody take advantage of him, you're waiting - and seemingly, so is he - for him to crack.

Little Boy: My dad was really proud!

Ben: Blow it out your ass.

NC (vo): Every second, it looks like he's about to go berserk. I keep thinking he's gonna make that face Bilbo makes when he tries to steal the ring from Frodo.

Ben: We're never gonna get rid of you. You're here forever.

(Bilbo's shrieking face from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is superimposed on Ben's head.)

Bilbo Baggins: (snarls)

(Junior rolls his eyes.)

NC (vo): He takes Junior camping, which leads to some great animal cries from his slingshot.)

(Several clips are played of Junior firing his slingshot and animals crying out off-screen.)

NC (vo): But he doesn't get along with the other kids, so he... pisses on the fire.

NC: ... (shrugs) Can't all be winners.

Camper: Oh, gross!

(Junior's urine douses the campfire.)

NC: Wow, was that a weak fire or is the Dirk Diggler of hoses? (picture is shown of Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights)

(Junior lures a wild bear to the campsite with a steak.)

Junior: I bet you've never been camping before. It's so much fun.

NC (vo): Junior lures a bear to the camp, but of course, Ben thinks it's just his friend in disguise.

Ben: (whispering) This is great! This is great! (laughs)

(The other campers are watching in fear from inside the car.)

Ben: He's not so bad!

NC: I'm kind of fascinated by how intriguingly disinterested this kid is.

(Scene zooms in on one camper inside the car who is licking his lips as he watches.)

NC (vo): (as camper) Yeah, we could die, but doesn't mean I can't enjoy the mustard on my cheek.

(The bear attacks Ben.)

Ben: HELP!

NC: So that's supposed to NOT be the guy in the bear suit, right?

(The bear tosses Ben at a tent.)

NC (vo): They put together that Junior was behind the scheme, and Ben tries to figure out how to punish him.

Ben: Children often misbehave to get attention, and we should resort to discipline only when other forms of positive reinforcement have failed.

NC: Like if I tell myself this is objectively a good movie, maybe I'll finally see it as that.

Parrot: (squawks) Dickhead.

NC: (blinks several times, crosses arms and turns away looking hurt) Leave me alone! I still like it!

(We go to commercial. After the commercial, scene is shown of Junior at a birthday costume party dressed as a bow-tie-wearing devil, with a pointy mustache and beard drawn on his face in black marker.)

NC (vo): So the family goes to a birthday party that requires Halloween costumes.

NC: Don't act like that's not a thing.

NC (vo): But Junior doesn't seem to fit in well.

Birthday Boy: He's the new boy, but he can't play with us. He's got cooties.

NC: Now come on. They almost have a vaccine for that.

NC (vo): Ben tries to make Junior feel better by giving him something special.

Ben: My grandfather gave this to me just before he died.

Junior: What is it?

Ben: It's a hardened prune. Grandfather became a little senile toward the end. He thought it resembled Roosevelt.

NC: All right, we may have found an heirloom more crazy than Walken's pocketwatch.

(Clip of Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction is played next to NC. Audio of Captain Koons (Christopher Walken) from Pulp Fiction is played over Ben.)

Captain Koons: The one place he knew he could hide something - his ass.

NC (vo): This has pretty much no impact on Junior as he sabotages the party, making everybody's life a living hell.

(The birthday cake explodes on the party guests.)

NC: (shrugs) I'd still eat it.

NC (vo): Flo demands that Ben gives Junior the discipline he deserves.

Flo: (hands Ben a hairbrush) Here. Be a man.

NC (vo): (as Ben) I'm gonna brush his hair so hard, Barbie would be jealous! (normally) He finds he can't spank him but does decide to take back his allowance.

Junior: The whole buck?

Ben: That's right. Now just hand it over.

(Junior opens a drawer with 10-dollar, 20-dollar, and 100-dollar bills in it.)

Junior: I wonder if he's got change for a 20.

NC: Ah, the sound of the last parent dragging their kid out of the theater not knowing what they got themselves into.

NC (vo): At a baseball game, Ben's father puts up a big sign which... surprisingly never plays into any pranks, because it looks like he's running for mayor. Which... also has a pretty weak payoff. (clip of Ben Sr. flashing his bare ass on TV is censored with the face of Tina Belcher from Bob's Burgers)

Ben Sr.: Really doesn't matter who wins or loses, just so long as Big Ben wins for mayor.

(The crowd at the baseball game laughs.)

NC: Oh, come on, man. You have no experience. You should clearly run for president. (pictures next to NC are shown of Kanye West and Donald Trump)

NC (vo): It looks like Junior is up to bat. And he takes the role a little too seriously.

(After hitting the ball with the bat, Junior runs across the field and swings the bat at players on the other team. The crowd is in shock.)

Ben: Are you nuts?!

(Junior attacks another opposing player with the bat, and the camera cuts away right before the bat hits. The crowd gasps.)

NC (vo): I have a feeling they cut away from the violence so they could keep this film PG. Not that there aren't a MILLION OTHER THINGS that should get a higher rating.

(Clips are played of the fertility doctor's uterus model, Junior's photos of the naked orphanage nuns, and Junior peeing on the campfire.)

NC (vo): But ironically, the crowd's reaction and the shot of the players on the ground actually seems MORE graphic somehow.

Ben: We've adopted Satan...!

(Picture next to NC is shown of the poster for Rosemary's Baby.)

NC: Yes! I knew this was a sequel!

NC (vo): Junior finds out he's about to be taken back to the orphanage. But when Ben finds out he's been returned THIRTY TIMES, he decides he doesn't want to be thirty-one.

Ben: It's easy to give up on a kid.

Flo: Damn straight it is.

Ben: But problems don't just... GO, Flo. You know?

NC: (motions the sign of the cross) God bless how stupid this movie is.

NC (vo): But Junior doesn't believe him and tries driving off with the car. Ben still gives him encouragement, despite almost killing him.

Ben: Look at you handle this baby! I'm so proud of you, son!

(Junior drives Ben's car through the store when Ben Sr. is hosting a campaign rally, with Ben hanging onto the roof of the car.

NC: Aw, he got one of the mannequins, too!

(Camera zooms in on Ben on top of the car, which is actually a mannequin.)

NC (vo): Oh, wait. That was supposed to be a real person.

NC: Well, on the big screen, I'm sure it's harder to notice.

NC (vo): After Ben pays for the damages, completely wiping him out, the film inevitably asks, "How dark can we go?"

(Ben stands over Junior, about to smother him with a pillow.)

NC: Oh, whose father hasn't tried that? (his eyes dart left and right) Right?

NC (vo): But it looks like the Bow-Tie Killer escapes prison, and I kinda love that this works.

(Martin sneaks past a couple of police officers by hiding his face behind a circus poster.)

NC (vo): And he makes his way to meet up with Junior who thinks he's a criminal. I mean, I don't know. A crime was ABOUT to be committed here.

Martin: (holding up Junior) I drove a thousand miles to hang out with a seven-year-old?

Junior: I'm gonna be eight in two weeks!

NC (vo): Junior says he's his uncle, which gets the parents excited that he might take Junior away. I just love that Ben all this time is holding on to the pillow...

(Camera zooms in on Ben, who is still holding the pillow he was about to smother Junior with.)

NC (vo): if he's still waiting for the right moment to kill this brat.

Martin: I haven't been with a woman in fifteen years. (starts making out with Flo)

NC: Uh, how dark will this go again?

Flo: Did you say fifteen years? (continues to make out with Martin)

NC (vo): Oh, okay, not that dark. The next morning, Ben finds the Bow-Tie Killer kidnapped Flo and Junior. And in keeping to the absolute rottenness of this movie, he's pleased as hell.

Ben: Goodbye, Junior! (throws a large toy block out Junior's bedroom window) I am so sad to see you go! A hundred thousand dollars?! HA!

NC: Made a kids' cartoon out of this, you say? (picture next to NC is shown of Problem Child: The Animated Series)

NC (vo): He discovers, though, that Junior drew a nice picture and held on to the prune.

(Emotional music plays as Ben holds the prune he gave to Junior.)

NC (vo): Awww, maybe he wasn't worth suffocating. The killer stuffs Flo into a suitcase... Oh, he didn't kill her. She's still alive. So that... totally makes sense. And he tells Ben to meet him at the circus.

Junior: I've never been to the circus before.

Martin: Yeah, well, I hate circuses. Nothing worse than a bunch of clowns trying to make you laugh.

NC: That was literally the sum-up on Rotten Tomatoes.

(Picture in front of NC shows Problem Child's 0% Rotten Tomatoes score. The "Critics Consensus" reads "Nothing worse than a bunch of clowns trying to make you laugh.")

NC (vo): Ben comes to save him, but Junior kicks his own way out of his clutches.

Martin: Come on, let's have some kicks.

Junior: Good idea!

(Junior kicks Martin in the testicles. Martin makes a funny face of pain and falls over.)

NC: (throws hands in disbelief) I'm actually shocked the film was mature enough not to put a sound effect over that crotch shot. It actually feels a little weird without one. Dare I say not right.

NC (vo): I'm sorry, but I gotta put on in to balance out the universe. Don't worry, I'll make it especially hard and crunchy.

(True to NC's word, a loud and hard crunch sound is played over the shot of Junior kicking Martin in the testicles.)

NC: Sorry, there's no such thing as a quiet kick to the balls.

NC (vo): Junior runs away with the money and stumbles into the middle of the show.

Martin: I'll get you now! (swings after Junior on the trapeze)

NC: (sarcastically) How ever did this guy get recaptured? He's so good at keeping a low profile. He... very randomly decides to run away. I guess he... didn't want the money? Eh, it was worth it for this.

(Clip plays of Martin looking goofy as he makes his getaway.)

NC (vo): (as Martin) To hell you with, Hobbs! (normally) But Ben and Junior chase him down.

Ben: (shooting at Martin with a shotgun) Faster, son, faster!

Junior: Go get him, Dad!

NC (vo): (as Ben) I almost killed my son with a pillow! You think shooting Stanley Spadowski is gonna cost me any sleep?!

(During the car chase, Martin's car flips over onto its roof.)

NC (vo): They stop the car, Flo goes flying into another vehicle, the killer is arrested, but... again, how dark are we willing to go?

(Martin grabs one of the arresting officers' guns and shoots Ben.)


(Ben falls backward in slow motion.)

NC (vo): (as Ben) My only regret is... Stay Tuned...

Junior: I'm sorry for all those bad things I did! If you come back, I promise I'll never do anything naughty again!

NC: I'm starting to see why there weren't many emotional moments in this.

Junior: Daddy! Come back! I love you!

NC: (looks genuinely lost) Um... here's a pig farting on Flo.

(Flo partly opens the suitcase to see a pig's scrotum dangling in front of her. The pig flatulates. Flo closes the suitcase again.)

NC: It's not much better, but it feels more familiar.

(Ben takes the prune out of his shirt pocket. The bullet Martin fires is lodged in it.)

NC (vo): Of course the prune is what stopped the bullet!

NC: (shrugs) Movies!

NC (vo): And I have to give Ritter credit for how seriously he said this.

Ben: I'll be all right, officer. He got me in the prune. Okay.

NC: There should be a BAFTA Award for that line delivery alone!

Junior: Now you're not gonna hold me to all that stupid junk I said about being nice, are you?

NC: We need a sequel, don't we?

NC (vo): The film ends literally teasing "na-na-na-na-na" to us.

(Over the "THE END" title card, a song plays with children going "naaaa-na-na-naaaa-naaaa".)

NC (vo): Which is honestly the most appropriate note this film could go out on.

NC: And that was Problem Child. ...It's not the WORST film these writers have worked on. (picture next to NC is shown of the poster for That Darn Cat (1997))

NC (vo): This movie is one of the most immature things you could watch. It's crude, raunchy, dumb, and like I said, feels like a nasty little boy wrote it. But it's such an unfiltered and raw way that nasty little boy wrote it, I can't but be drawn in by it. It's like someone gave that little toady from A Christmas Story millions of dollars to do whatever he wants. I can't act like that's great filmmaking, but it is fascinating to witness. I hate admitting that as this is such a ridiculous, attention-hungry film, but I remember when I was a ridiculous, attention-hungry kid. And I feel like this captured the energy, imagination, meanness, and sure, childish stupidity of that age. It's bad in the same way a rotten kid plays a prank at a schol play. You don't encourage it, but you are secretly giggling covering your mouth. Look, I can't defend this as something that's very redeemable. I don't even know if I'd recommend it to that many people. But what I can say is if you remember yourself at your brattiest, when you were being punished, when whatever you thought of, no matter how stupid, was the funniest thing in the world to you, this movie captures that. And I'm sorry, I can't help but feel that's something to sort of admire. It's loud, obnoxious, and does a ton of things that make no sense, but so did you when you were little. And if you're curious to revisit that in the most rotten of ways, God help me, this might just be the film for you to check out.

NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. (gets up and leaves)

Channel Awesome Tagline: Parrot: (squawks) Dickhead.

(The credits roll)

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