Problem Child Review

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Junior, the titular problem child, is shunted from house to house before landing with a well meaning, but ineffectual couple. Chaos ensues.


Unlike his fellow small screen stars Bruce Willis and Ted Danson, John Ritter of TV's Hooperman fame has yet to make his mark in the movies. Despite the surprising success of this latest effort at the American box office, Ritter still remains the odd man out, forever searching for his Die Hard or Three Men And A Baby.

Problem Child, unfortunately, sure as hell ain't it, a pintsize and pipsqueak War Of The Roses, a dark domestic comedy that continuously shirks the courage of its convictions. By casting the creepily cute Michael Oliver as Junior, the putative "bad seed" of the title, the film straightaway blurs the black edges of its humour.

After being rejected by some 30 households, Junior is booted out of the St Brutus orphanage and placed with the dimmest couple in suburban Dallas. The wife's an acquisitive bore - as far as she's concerned, Junior's presence simply gains her access to upmarket neighborhood kiddie parties - while the husband's desperate attempts to reach out to the child make him seem more of a cretin than a caring parent figure.

Ritter plays his thankless role with a ready mix of smiles and tears and therein lies the nub of the problem. Just as the movie begins to work up a head of steam with devilish developments likely to offend social workers in Rochdale, it stoops to a soggy sitcom level of slapstick and sentiment. Similarly, the nudging soundtrack songs are unsubtly deployed, from George Thorogood's opening Bad To The Bone to Iggy Pop's Real Wild Child and Steppenwolf's old standby Born To Be Wild. Only Jack Warden, as Ritter's bitterly cynical dad, cuts through the goo, dismissing Junior's disruptive behaviour with the curt observation, "You've adopted Satan."

Pipsqueak comedy that does not have the courage of its own convictions.