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MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Problem Child 2' Even More of a Problem

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The crashing guitar chords of George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” beat out their sinister vamp. The mean-little-devil features of 10-year-old Michael Oliver, as the infamous “Problem Child,” Junior Healy, break into a sadistic smile. It’s time for revenge, time for “Problem Child 2" (throughout San Diego County). We know somebody’s gonna get it.

Bad-little-kid stories have been endemic to American culture, ever since last century’s Peck’s Bad Boy.

But, the “Problem Child” series really reflects the new era of super-spectacular movie grossness, carnage and overkill. Junior became SuperKid, SuperBrat: unstoppable, demonic.

Here, SuperBrat strikes again. Junior lures the class bully into a corner, blinds him with chalk dust and tapes him to the blackboard. Junior pitches a meatball down the bodice of a bodacious pizza customer, starting a food fight. Junior throws dynamite into the school toilets, blowing his teacher off the throne.

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Are you laughing yet? No? Wait, there’s a piece de resistance , obviously modeled, in some demented way, on the climax of Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train.” Junior turns up the speed on a tilt-a-whirl ride, and then stands back and laughs, while all the terrified riders begin to vomit on each other. Soon all the spectators are barfing on each other as well; then the carnival ride explodes.

If you’re wondering why all this is supposed to be funny . . . so am I. I couldn’t figure out why “Problem Child"--a loud, lame shrieker of a movie about a 7-year-old hellion adopted by a sweetly liberal rich-kid dad (John Ritter) and his grasping wife (Amy Yasbeck)--turned into a big hit, and this movie is worse.

Not morally worse; just louder and dumber, more preposterous, unfunny and pointless.

The returning actors--Ritter, Oliver, Yasbeck (now recast as a sweet nurse), nasal child nemesis Gilbert Gottfried and Granddad Jack Warden--throw themselves into this witlessness with a will.

The MPAA, bizarrely tolerant of it all in “Problem Child,” has either wised up this time, granting the film a PG-13 instead of a PG, or was outraged by the sight of a teen-age couple, mysteriously wearing underwear, making love on a Healy mattress.

“Bad to the bone,” the vamp theme says; bad to the bone it is. But as someone once said, anything worth doing badly in Hollywood, is worth doing badly again--especially if it made money.

‘Problem Child 2'

John Ritter: Ben Healy

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Michael Oliver: Junior Healy

Jack Warden: “Big Ben” Healy

Laraine Newman: LaWanda Dumore

A Universal Pictures presentation of an Imagine Films Entertainment production. Director Brian Levant. Producer Robert Simonds. Screenplay Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski. Cinematographer Peter Smokler. Editor Lois Freeman-Fox. Costumes Robert Moore. Music David Kitay. Production design Maria Caso.

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Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

MPAA-rated PG-13.


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