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Problem Child is a 1990 comedy film. It starred John Ritter, Amy Yasbeck, Gilbert Gottfried, Jack Warden, Michael Richards and Michael Oliver.


Ben Healy (John Ritter) is a pleasant but brow-beaten husband working for his father "Big Ben" (Jack Warden), a tyrannical sporting goods dealer who is running for Mayor. Ben would love to have a son, but his obnoxious wife Flo (Amy Yasbeck) has been unable to conceive. Ben approaches less-than-scrupulous adoption agent Igor Peabody (Gilbert Gottfried) with his dilemma, and Igor presents Ben and Flo with a cute 7-year-old boy, Junior (Michael Oliver).

However, Junior is hardly a model child; mean-spirited and incorrigible, the child leaves a path of serious destruction in his wake, and is even pen pals with Martin Beck (Michael Richards), a notorious serial killer called the Bow Tie Killer. Big Ben ends up falling down the stairs, and the house catches on fire. He messes up a camping trip with the neighbors by urinating in the fire, and manipulating a practical joke played on the kids by their father. He then terrorizes his neighbor's birthday party, after Lucy, the snobby birthday girl, bans him from the magic show. Finally, Junior displays his effective but unethical method for winning in Little League (involves hitting rival players in the crotch with a baseball bat). Ben is having serious doubts about Junior, and takes him back to the orphanage. However, upon hearing he was returned thirty times, he decides to keep him and love him, something no one has ever done. However, distraught that his parents do not love him, Junior drives Ben's car into his father's store, and his bank account is wiped out to pay for the damages. Ben is on the verge of cracking until Beck arrives at the house, posing as Junior's uncle, and decides to kidnap his faithful correspondent, along with Flo for ransom.

While Ben first sees this as good riddance to his browbeating wife and the trouble making Junior, he soon notices signs that Junior is not the monster he appeared; through a series of pictures Junior drew, he depicts Flo and Big Ben as deformed monsters with hostile surroundings, but depicted Ben as a happy person in a pleasant background, revealing that he did value him as a father figure. Ben, realizing that Junior's behavior was simply a reaction to how he himself was treated, undertakes a rescue mission to get Junior back from Beck.

He then confronts his father (who is preparing to make a TV appearance for his Mayoral campaign) to loan him the ransom money. When he callously refuses, Ben activates the camera that puts Big Ben unknowingly on live TV, where he ends up revealing his true nature on the news, even mooning the camera. Afterwards, Ben steals his neighbor's car and hat (and drives it all over another neighbor's yard).

Ben catches up with Beck and Junior at the circus. Junior is rescued after escaping from Beck through a trapeze act. Beck drives away, but the Healys are now on his tail. After a collision, Flo (who was stuffed in a suitcase), flies over the wall, and ends up in the back of a truck loaded with pigs. Beck is arrested, but not before discharging a firearm, which hits Ben in the chest. Thinking he has died, Junior apologizes and tells him he loves him. Ben wakes up and realizes the bullet ricocheted off his good-luck prune he was holding in his pocket. Junior then removes his bow tie and throws it over the bridge, as a symbol perhaps that he has changed his ways, and then walks away together with his new father.

The film ends with Flo in the truck looking out from her suitcase, only to be met by the behind of a pig, and then the credits roll.



Two sequels followed:
  1. Problem Child 2 (1991) brought back the original cast in their original roles and picked up where the first film ended. Amy Yasbeck, however, was given a new role with a new dynamic totally opposite her original character.
  2. Problem Child 3: Junior in Love (1995), the final film, Gottfried and Warden reprised their respective roles as Mr. Peabody and Big Ben Healy.

Animated TV series

There was an animated TV series that aired in 1993. Gottfried was the only original cast member to be featured as a voice-over actor.

Special DVD release

Problem Child and Problem Child 2 were released together on DVD in the USmarker on March 2, 2004, as a package entitled Problem Child Tantrum Pack. These films were in the pan and scan format only. However, no home video release so far features the bonus footage shown on the USA Network's TV airings of the film.

Problem Child was re-released on the Family Comedy Pack Quadruple Feature DVD (with other comedy films like Kindergarten Cop, Kicking & Screaming, and Major Payne) in anamorphic widescreen (being the film's first widescreen Region 1 DVD release) on August 5, 2008.

Deleted Scenes

These scenes were absent from the theatrical and home video versions of the film, but were present in TV airings on USA Network.

  • Junior talking to a nun prior to his being adopted.
  • The Bow Tie Killer having a flashback before strangling the prison psychiatrist.
  • The Healy's old lady neighbor insulting them for Fuzzball having gone to the bathroom in her flowers (this explains the scene later in the film where Ben drives his car over the flower bed when en route to rescue Junior from Beck.)
  • Junior drawing a picture of Ben whacking Roy with a frying pan.
  • Junior piloting an RC helicopter to chase a paperboy and milkman (although cut from theatrical/home video airings, a picture from this scene appears on some home video boxes.)
  • Ben making it look like the backpack has $100,000 in it.
  • The Bow Tie Killer encounters a bearded lady at the circus, who claims she is an ex-girlfriend of Beck's.
  • Before Junior exits the house, Roy yells for Ben to hurry up.
  • At the circus, one of Junior's old nuns spots Ben running around.
  • In some television airings, the final scene where Flo looks out of the suitcase to see the pig's rear end is censored, or replaced by a scene of her looking to see a pig's face.


The film generated positive reviews from critics upon release. Hal Hinson of the Washington Post noted Dugan's "brisk, imaginative comic style".

"There are a lot of directors making comedies who know a lot less about how to do it than he does."


Problem Child is the movie that is playing at the movie theater in a scene in the movie Cape Fear.

Parts of the movie were filmed at Kaley Elementary in Orlando, FL. Kaley Elementary was also the school used in D.A.R.Y.L.

The only actor to appear in all 3 films and the cartoon series is Gilbert Gottfried. Jack Warden appears in all 3 movies but not the cartoon.

See also


  1. Family Comedy Pack Quadruple Feature, NEW NBC Universal Store Universal Studios New Releases, NBC Universal Store

External links

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