Before he directed Happy Gilmore; Brain Donors; Beverly Hills Ninja; Saving Silverman; Big Daddy; The Benchwarmers; I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry; You Don’t Mess with the Zohan; Grown Ups; Just Go with It; Love, Weddings and Other Disasters; Jack and Jill and Grown Ups 2, Dennis Dugan was an actor, appearing as Captain Freedom on Hill Street Blues and being in everything from The Girl Most Likely To and Night Call Nurses to She’s Having a Baby and Parenthood.
The first movie he directed was Problem Child and you know, I totally came in cynically and found myself laughing at loud at several moments.
Ben Healy Jr. (John Ritter) lives a miserable existence. His father (Jack Warden) runs his life at work at the sporting goods store and only cares about running for mayor. What little existence he has at home is dominated by his wife Flo (Amy Yasbeck). All he wants is to give and receive love, dreaming of having a child, which ends up happening when Igor Peabody (Gilbert Gottfried) introduces him to Junior (Michael Oliver).
Igor has sold Junior as a perfect angel but that’s because he wants him out of the orphanage, as the title of this movie will tell you exactly the kind of person he is. In the first few minutes of the movie, we learn that Junior is pen pals with serial killer “The Bow-Tie Killer” Martin Beck (Michael Richards) and in the first day he’s in his new house, he breaks the cat’s legs when he sends his grandfather tumbling down the steps.
Writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, Dolemite Is My Name) had read a newspaper article where a couple learned their new adopted child had been brought back to the orphanage ten times. That sounds like a story of pure sadness, but they decided to make a comedy where Junior has been brought back thirty times.
Where the laughs came in for me is that this movie has no issues with going too far. A birthday party is ruined with explosives and that’s followed by Junior hitting every single player on the opposing baseball team in the balls to win the game. Maybe I was in the right mood, but I found myself laughing harder than I have in some time. I know it’s not the kind of movie that any critic in his right mind would enjoy. Luckily, I am not that critic. This is somehow a PG comedy that is as black as it gets, a movie where a woman cheats on her husband with a serial killer and debates murdering their adopted kid and yet, somehow, it’s actually hilarious.
Problem Child was a big enough movie to get two sequels and an animated series, as well as a Turkish remake, remix ripoff called Zipcikti. It’s also the movie that Max Cady loves beyond all human deceny in Cape Fear.
Perhaps the most lasting legacy of Problem Child is that this movie is where Ritter and Yasbeck met. They were married in 1999 until his way too early death in 2003.
My favorite thing about this movie are all the hints that Junior may very well be Satan. If you watch it with that in mind, it’s even funnier.
You can buy this Mill Creek retro blu ray from Deep Discount.