problem child

As Ted 2 arrives in theaters, now seems like a good time to offer a reminder that puerile comedy sequels have been a part of summer since the days when Seth MacFarlane was only bothering his friends with inane pop culture references and his sexist, racist, self-involved nonsense. Now he makes millions of it and inflicts it on the whole culture. Thanks again for rescuing Family Guy, Cartoon Network! Anyway, we used a four-star rating scale on our radio movie review show, but one star was generally as low as a film could go. We reserved the 1/2 star and zero star assessments for the truly awful stuff, those films that could be deemed beneath contempt. It was rare that I gave out more than a single zero star review in any given film year. That should help put what follows in context.

There are some things best left off the big screen. Count the preadolescent bathroom humor that fills PROBLEM CHILD 2 chief among them. The sequel to last summer’s surprise hit returns Michael Oliver to the title role of Junior Healy, a vicious little boy who concocts one nasty scheme after another. But they don’t stop there…since it’s a sequel, they have to up the stakes, and for that enter Ivyann Schwan as Oliver’s seven-year-old rival for worst kid in the world. Schwan is the little girl whose big prominence came as the highly intelligent daughter in the PARENTHOOD film and television series (editor’s note: the first, short-lived iteration on the television series). In PROBLEM CHILD 2, director Brian Levant taunts her into twisting and contorting her face into odd-looking expressions of anger and glee. But clearly that’s just so she’ll match the all of the other actors on screen, who bug out their eyes, move in giant sweeping motions, and deliver their lines with the subtlety of an air raid siren. And then there’s the screenplay that allows Junior to pull off nasty pranks designed to make you say, “My that carnival ride is going awfully fast,” and “Hey! That’s not lemonade!” They’re idiotic, disgusting jokes that even most kids will find achingly predictable. At its best, PROBLEM CHILD 2 is nothing more impressive than a sitcom played to the extreme: goofy looks from dad and punchlines from the kid. At its worst, it’s something far more distasteful: vile, repulsive comedy at its most unappealing level.

(Zero stars, out of 4)


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