Depicting the down side of adoption, PROBLEM CHILD is a comedy in which an unsuspecting suburban couple adopt a seemingly adorable child that they think will enhance their lives. Going to an adoption agency, Ben and Flo are told they might have to wait seven years for a child, unless they would be willing to consider a certain seven-year-old named Junior. They look at a picture of him, exclaim “Oh, what a darling bow tie!” and decide to adopt. Little do they know why the orphanage is so willing to part with him (he terrorizes the nuns there), or that the reason he wears a bow tie is to look like his pen pal in the state penitentiary, the “Bow Tie” killer.
When they pick up Junior, the whole orphanage comes out to cheer him off, happy to be rid of this wild, little destructive monster who ties up nuns and throws food on them. Ben says, “We must have gotten the pick of the litter. Look how popular he is.”
The rest of the movie is a hodgepodge of mischievous scenes in which Junior creates mayhem for his adoptive parents. He sets his room on fire, urinates on children, switches candles for firecrackers on a birthday cake, and slams a bat into a boy’s groin during a Little League game. All of these incidences are portrayed as funny and acceptable.
In spite of all the havoc that Junior wreaks, Ben tries very hard to love an unloved boy whom nobody wants. Looking on with horror, Ben finally mutters, “We’ve adopted Satan.”
The orphanage, however, is unwilling to take Junior back, having had him returned 37 times previously. At this point, the “Bow Tie” killer arrives, who escaped from prison earlier in the film and has been looking for his pen pal. Junior pretends the escapee is his uncle. Ben and Flo think “Great! We’ll pass the kid off on his uncle.”
However, the psycho killer seduces Flo, then kidnaps both her and Junior. At first ecstatic to be rid of them both, Ben is later moved to go after Junior when he comes across a warm and loving depiction of himself that Junior has drawn. After a wild escapade and auto chase, Ben rescues Junior, the killer is recaptured and nagging Flo ends up in a suitcase on the back of a pig truck headed to who knows where. With Ben proving that he loves Junior, Junior is reformed and happy to be with Ben. Both are happy to be rid of Flo.
As one might infer, positive family values are undermined or confused in numerous subtle and deceiving ways. For instance, selfish Flo reasons if they had a child, they would be included in the prestigious social activities of their ritzy neighborhood. Another scene early in the movie has Ben’s dad disinheriting Ben for being too loyal and too good a son instead of clawing his way to the top. Most heinous of all is to crate Flo off as part of a happy ending.
Even though Ben is determined to be a good father and recognizes that Junior needs loving, the seemingly positive message of loving a very unlovable character is negated when one considers that such love is not unconditional and free, but rather given to prove a point. In an age where the number of unloved and abandoned children is soaring, is this an appropriate way to respond to the issue? Absolutely not, and is especially repugnant in that the film’s intended audience is children.
Furthermore, nuns are portrayed as mean, ugly tyrants, who at times use vulgar language. The act of praying is demeaned in a comical light as well as a personal confession in a Catholic church. Junior takes secret photos of nuns, one which shows brief breast nudity. Your child may not have a problem, but if he sees this picture, he surely will.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Perhaps have your children instead read Ephesians 6:1-3. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’ which is the first commandment with a promise — that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”
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Several profanities and obscenities; adultery and sexual innuendoes; rear male nudity; scatological humor (e.g., urinating on children, flatulence); lying and deception; and, a ridicule of nuns (who are portrayed as crude and hateful) and Catholicism.