Jarv’s Schlock Vault: The Garbage Pail Kids Movie
We can do anything by working together!
What. The. Fuck?
Seriously, and this isn’t rhetorical this time, what the fuck?
I’m honestly not kidding here, but can someone, anyone, please explain to your humble reviewer what the fuck this is? I, for some reason, had never seen this film before, but like almost every kid in the late 80’s I did have some of the cards and we did trade them in the playground and whatnot. For those that don’t know what the Garbage Pail Kids are, they were produced as a pseudo-satirical dig at the ubiquitous at the time Cabbage Patch Dolls and basically took the basic look of those repellent toys and amped the gross and ugly up to 11. Anyhow, in the late 80’s these cards were everywhere and the Topps Chewing Gum company that produced them decided to cash in on the completely unexpected craze by making a live-action film based on their *cough* loveable *cough* characters. I’ve watched some reprehensible shite on my meanders through the vault, but I honestly don’t think I’ve encountered anything as so obviously misguided as this. The Garbage Pail Kids movie is what happens when people without the foggiest idea how to make a film are let loose on an idea that should never have been filmed in the first place. This, for wont of a better expression, film represents a cultural nadir, and watching it is a truly a grim and horrible experience for the viewer.
Periodically absolutely terrible films from the late 80’s and early 90’s somehow manage to catch a wave of misplaced nostalgia. In most cases, they don’t deserve it, and were quite justly maligned at the time (looking at you Howard the Duck), but as the years pass and the initial memory of the cinematic atrocity fades, movie boards across the internets light up with people looking back at these disasters and somehow giving them an utterly unearned benefit of the doubt. I myself am hugely guilty of this, and am feeling rather scared of my eventual rewatch of the aforementioned useless space duck film. The Garbage Pail Kids is one of this class, as when I was doing a touch of research into it, trying to discern what the hell they were playing at, I blundered across loads of fondly reminiscing posts defending it with “It’s not that bad”. This is utter horsecobblers: it is that bad. In fact, it may even be worse than “that” bad. Basically, nostalgia seems to be selling a lot of people a dummy, because this is an astronomically dire movie.
The Garbage Pail Kids is such an enormously hateful film that I’m struggling to work out how to ease my way into the plot summary. Basically, this is it: Douchebag “Dodger” (Mackenzie Astin) has problems. He’s being harassed by local criminal hard-case “Juice” (Ron Mchlachlan), a classic 80’s bad guy with shades, bad jackets, smokes and whatnot. Quite what this 35 year old criminal genius is doing beating up a dorky kid for his lunch money is completely lost on me, but I suspect that this is not a mastermind on the same scale as Keyser Soze. To make matters worse, Dodger is in love with Juice’s girlfriend “Tangerine” (seriously), played by Katie Barberi, an aspiring fashion designer and all-round manipulative slagboat. He works in failed magician Captain Manzini’s (Anthony Newley) antique shop, and in a sequence of events too stupid to go in to knocks over a dustbin. Out come the “Children”, a set of misbegotten freaks too revolting for words. They’re led by Ali Gator (Kevin Thompson), an anthromorphised Alligator with a toe fetish. Basically, before I go on, the Garbage Pail Kids work in that one revolting feature is amplified beyond the level of absurdity. So we’ve got Valerie Vomit (Debbie Lee Carrington), the heart of the kids, as a girl who can puke, in a fashion that can only be described as pyrotechnic, on command. Next up in our parade of freaks is Greaser Greg (Phil Fondacaro), the muscle, who is a stylised version of a greaser. Rounding out the crew are Messy Tessie (Susan Rossitto), a little girl with a severe mucus problem, mobile fart gas bomb Windy Winston (Arturo Gil), Foul Phil (Bobby Bell) who is a 3 foot high baby with halitosis and Nat Nerd who is
Harry Knowles a stereotype dork complete with bladder problems. I can’t be arsed to look up any more of these actors.
Anyhow, in an effort to help Dodger out, the kids make him a jacket, because they reason, not without some justification, that a set of awesome threads will improve his chances of nailing Tangerine. Leaving aside the ickyness of an 18 year old girl shagging a 12 year old boy, and the film isn’t shy of having the poor cow manipulating him with her sexuality, I have to question their choice of garment. It’s, and I’m not joking, the kind of jacket last seen at a sleepover in Neverland. Inexplicably, though, this impresses Tangerine, and next thing you know Dodger has coerced his revolting little brood into becoming sweatshop labour. Which, by the way, they do quite happily to the tune of “We can do anything by working together” as they rob an actual fucking sweatshop! This is so, so wrong, and not in an entertaining way.
Having got over that, and picked my jaw back up off the table, the film moves into the difficult second act. The kids are understandably fucking bored, so put on disguises and go out on the town to create shenanigans and whatnot. Which basically means donning trenchcoats, berets and bad sunglasses and crashing a 2AM showing of the 3 Stooges, and Ali and Winston starting a fight in “The toughest bar in the world”. Which, incidentally, ends when Winston launches an air biscuit into the face of a biker, causing the barman to irrationally proclaim that the kids are alright because they’re so brave. Jaw, meet table. Again.
Anyhoo, Manzini had a reason for not wanting the kids to go out. Apparently, ugly is on the inside and they could genuinely be locked away in “The Home for the Ugly”. He believes that the kids are interstellar garbage can flying mutants from planet X (which the film, to be fair, did set up in the opening credits), and the rest of the Garbage Pail Crew are already ensconced in this terrible place. Incidentally, they were, but in a totally throwaway line at the end of the film, it turns out they were, and I shit you not, brutally crushed to death and thrown in the tip.
So, the kids finish their clothing in time for Tangerine’s show, and Juice has them locked up in the aforementioned home, and Dodger into the bin. Dodger has learned a valuable life lesson here, and finally stops following his penis’ less than helpful advice. Funny how a bit of time in the trash makes him realise that he’s sold his friends out and he needs to change his life. He then recruits the local bikers from the world’s toughest bar to bust the kids out. Incidentally, in another jaw-droppingly dreadful what the fuck moment, the other inmates of the pen are helpfully recognisable by signs such as “Too fat” or “Too bald”. That they’re also (in no particular order) Ghandi, Abraham Lincoln, Santa and Weird Al Yankovic isn’t the point. Once rescued, the kids then destroy Tangerine’s fashion show and ride off into the sunset. Incidentally, it was intentionally left open to allow for a TV series that thankfully never saw the light of day. Oh, and Dodger tells Tangerine to fuck off, because he doesn’t think she’s pretty any more.
This film almost defies rational criticism, simply because almost everything in it is so, so ill-conceived. None of the running gags are funny, and in the case of Nat’s weak bladder are actually annoyingly unfunny. There’s so much that’s insanely gross in the film, and so much shoddy writing that I hardly know where to begin. Take, for example, Tangerine’s sexual manipulation of Dodger. This is every bit as gross, unfunny, and unsettling as it sounds, and yet someone at the time thought it would be a good idea. That last sentence is one that could easily be applied to practically everything in the film- who thought that an Alligator with a toe fetish would be a good idea? or Phil asking every woman he meets if she’s his mother, or Tessie using snot to try to fix the TV, and so forth. The entire film is one painfully reprehensible awful idea stacked on top of another and watching it is a trail of endurance.
Then there’s the fact that for some reason the film had midgets under heavy latex playing the kids. This makes them look grotesque, and not intentionally, and I feel extremely sorry for the dwarves having to rock around in the obviously heavy prosthetic shit that they have to wear. In the case of Val, who is clearly meant to be the most sympathetic of the kids, it’s impossible to work out what the hell she’s doing, because the head almost moves independently to the body. She’s, incidentally, also the most toned-down of the kids with her explosive stomach only making an appearance in the very finale of the film.
Overall, this is rancid shite of the worst kind. It’s not getting an Orangutan, although it’s damned close, because the sheer what-the-fuck-ness of the film precludes that. The Garbage Pail Kids movie was a massively ill-conceived idea, a trainwreck of unfeasible and unworkable scenes delivered with no little imagination but a complete lack of competence. This is horrible, awful, painful watching and in a weird kind of way is almost required viewing- in that everyone should see it once to see precisely how far wrong cinema can go. Obviously it is absolutely not essential, because nobody should have to sit through this. Furthermore, I can’t see who the film is for- it’s grotesquely inappropriate, and therefore not for children, but simultaneously lacks almost any value or interest for adults. Just utter shit, basically.
The Garbage Pail Kids is a dreadful, awful movie, and I am now going to go and drink until I’ve killed enough brain cells to eliminate my short-term memory so that I can return to a happier time when I hadn’t seen it.
Oh, and by the way, the remake has been greenlit. Something to look forward to, then.
Until next time,