Garbage Pail Kids Movie: Collector's Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Shout! Factory
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (16th January 2016).
The Film

Parlaying a popular concept from one medium to another is a tricky gamble, even when sales might indicate success is virtually assured. Topps’ Garbage Pail Kids line of trading cards was a worldwide phenomenon, selling millions around the world and drawing the ire of countless parents in the process. Riffing on then-popular Cabbage Patch Kids, these little tykes specialized in gross-out gags. The original run spanned fifteen series, beginning in 1985, and new editions and re-issues have been produced as recently as 2014. In its heyday, every kid on the playground knew the Kids and traded them among friends, which is what ultimately led to the cards being banned on most school campuses. The series was so successful that Topps felt it was wise to commission a feature-length film.

How wrong they were.

Tonally off kilter and wholly lacking in anything resembling a coherent script, “The Garbage Pail Kids Movie” (1987) is a film that unquestionably deserves to be called one of the worst ever made. Setting aside the atrocious acting and laughably poor writing, the main draw – the Garbage Pail Kids – look horrific and perform on-screen even worse. How this made it past pre-production and into actually shooting is a question that may never be answered, but once the first reel of dailies rolled how did no one in Topps’ top brass demand the project be nixed entirely? This isn’t even “Troll II” (1990) bad because at the very least that film is entertainingly horrible; there isn’t a single scene in “The Garbage Pail Kids Movie” that works. Not a one. If not for the panache of co-star Anthony Newley the film would be totally lost. Still, as it stands this is a Guantanamo Bay-level exercise in torture.

Dodger (Mackenzie Astin) spends most of his days either working at Captain Manzini’s (Anthony Newley) antique shop or getting beaten up by the local toughs, led by Juice (Ron MacLachlan). He may be an orphan because he’s never seen at home and never speaks of his parents, choosing to spend the bulk of his time with a wifeless, aging, flamboyant antique dealer. Hmm… Poorly stored within Manzini’s shop is a garbage can, but this isn’t any old garbage can because once the lid pops off the Garbage Pail Kids are set free from… well, who the hell knows where they’re from. Manzini seems to know the Kids, but Dodger has to become acquainted with the bunch, which includes Greaser Greg (Phil Fondacaro), Windy Winston (Arturo Gil), Messy Tessie (Susan Rossitto), Valerie Vomit (Debbie Lee Carrington), Foul Phil (Bobby Bell), Nat Nerd (Larry Green), and Ali Gator (Kevin Thompson). They’re gross, some of them smell and all of them look like weird, creepy dolls come to semi-life. Movement and expression are not strong suits. Dodger gets help from the bunch in his courtship with Tangerine (Katie Barberi), Juice’s sorta-girlfriend who has her own amateur clothing line. The Kids make clothes (because they apparently know how) and sing and eventually wind up going out on the town, causing a ruckus with the “normies” (normal people). Juice and his goons find the Kids and take them to the State Home for the Ugly, leaving Manzini and Dodger to break them out so they can all… head to the fashion show? Man, this movie sucks.

This film could not have been worse, even if the entire 97-minute runtime was just a slideshow of the Topps trading cards set to music. John Carl Buechler, who typically produces some excellent creatures and effects, was unable to breathe any semblance of life into the Kids. The oversized heads are emotionless and ugly, while the pint-sized actors inside struggle to bring out the characters’ personalities. Even the voice acting is horrendous by any standard. And who decided these were the best Kids to put in the movie? The only ones who are even vaguely memorable are Greaser Greg (take a shot whenever he says “Ayyyyy” and you’ll die) and Ali Gator. The best option for bringing the Kids to life in a pre-CGI age would have been via animation, which did happen the same year (it never aired in the U.S.), and this feature film proves going practical was the worst decision.

As bad as the Kids are, the humans manage to be even worse. Mackenzie Astin’s dad, the legendary John Astin, tried to get his son out of making this movie after reading the script. Astin is by no means a good actor, but he looks positively Shakespearean next to the likes of Juice, Tangerine and the rest of the street urchin crew. It’s impossible to overstate how poor the acting is outside of Newley, who seems to know he’s in a piece of sh*t and decided to just run wild anyway. If there is a scrap of decency to be seen here, it’s entirely nestled within Newley’s performance. He doesn’t save the movie – nothing could – but he’s the one bright bulb on a dead strand of lights.

If your movie is going to be bad at least make it fabulously terrible. “The Garbage Pail Kids” never got that memo. This is truly one of the worst movies I have ever seen, and there is nothing redeemable whatsoever to be found during the interminable 97-minutes of dreck. If you were a fan of the card series, my suggestion would be to sit on the couch, stare at them lovingly and make up a film in your mind. Pretend this one doesn’t exist. Rumors of a remake have been bandied about since 2012 but, really, these kids work best on cards. Ironically, or perhaps fittingly, this feature belongs in the garbage.

Video

The 1.85:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded image is far from eye candy, though it is likely a decent upgrade over the previous DVD release. Colors are averagely saturated, never offering any sort of pop or vibrancy. This is an ugly movie. Black levels look slightly hazy, never quite making it to pitch black. Film grain is natural, though it is often heavy. The image is rather flat, too, with no style to the cinematography. Detail is decent, nothing more. This is in line with how low-budget 80's productions tend to look in HD when little goes into fully re-mastering the image, and nobody can blame Scream Factory for not putting in the effort.

Audio

The stereotypically 80's score is delivered via an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track. Composer Michael Lloyd’s score doesn’t attempt to fit with the film at all, coming across more like a “cold” score done without having seen a frame of footage. And the theme, which is like a cheese grater to the brain, repeats ad nausea. Dialogue is, unfortunately, clean & clear, so you have to suffer through every bad line reading. The sound design is minimal, offering up little in the way of dynamics or discreet effects. Subtitles are available in English.

Extras

How did this film get a Collector’s Edition?!? Sadly, there’s no deriding commentary included, but the disc does feature a handful of interview featurette along with the theatrical trailer.

“The Effects of “The Garbage Pail Kids Movie”” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 11 minutes and 46 seconds. John Carl Buechler was at one point going to direct the film, which would have been more of a horror picture, but Topps wanted something more light-hearted and kid-friendly, so Buechler stuck with producing the ultra-creepy masks and costumes instead. He praises the actors within those costumes and not much else.

“Interview with Assistant Director Thomas Irvine” (1080p) featurette runs for 6 minutes and 22 seconds. He offers up some simple recollections and not much more.

“Interview with Actor Mackenzie Astinfeaturette (1080p) runs for 27 minutes and 16 seconds. Try making it through this entire piece, in which Astin says “ah, ah, ah” between words so often you’ll go mad.

“Interview with The Garbage Pail Kids” featurette (1080p) runs for 21 minutes and 21 seconds. A few of the film’s tiny actors show up to discuss their time on the film, which sounds like it was a mixture of torment and terrific fun. All have great praise for Rod Amateau’s direction.

The film’s theatrical trailer (1080p) runs for 2 minutes and 2 seconds.

Packaging

The single disc comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keep case. The cover art is reversible. First pressings of the disc include a slip-cover.

Overall

To reiterate: this film should have been tossed in the trash and hidden from future generations. It isn’t even so bad it’s good; this is a bad movie through and through with no redemptive qualities.

The Film: D- Video: B- Audio: B+ Extras: C+ Overall: C-

 


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