Friday, February 24, 2012

I'll Watch Anything: Doug Watches The Garbage Pail Kids Movie

Who is this movie for? Seriously. Is it you? If it's you, please say so.

As a child of the '80s, I -- along with most of my friends -- "collected" Garbage Pail Kids (GPK) cards, which is to say I had about two dozen of them one summer.

And, yes, I did own the "Doug" card -- Doug Plug, a cartoon of a dog peeing on a fire hydrant-shaped Doug. It was one of my most cherished possessions for part of one afternoon.

While never HILARIOUS, the cards were clever enough to keep me amused (in the derivative vein of Mad magazine), and just gross enough to nonplus most authority figures; namely, teachers (my parents, on the other hand, couldn't care less about these stupid, innocuous cards). Don't believe me? Here are two archival newspaper clippings decrying the impact these cards had impressionable children. Reagan's America!

Today, we consider GPK cards tame. Quaint, even -- a pop culture relic from 25 years ago. Honestly, I'm more offended these days by Bratz dolls than I am by vulgar caricatures of Cabbage Patch Kids.

I didn't see The Garbage Pail Kids Movie when it first came out in 1987. In fact, I've never seen the movie (before this past Sunday, that is). It was completely off my radar. And now I know why.

It is the WORST. And not in a good way.

Unlike Troll 2 (the legit "Best Worst Movie"), there's nothing redeeming about The Garbage Pail Kids Movie -- it is ugly and slow and uninteresting. And the acting, while BETTER (these are relative terms) than Troll 2, only serves to further drag the movie down. I can't even enjoy it on an ironic level -- the acting is too good (which is to say, not great, but not horrible) to laugh at, which would have at least given me something to do for 96 minutes.

Before the movie started, I had no idea what it was going to be about. Would it take place in a self-contained GPK universe? A fish-out-of-water story? Horror (the creature design certainly seems to imply as much)? A coming-of-age tale of three adolescent boys on a late-summer journey to see a dead body in the woods, only to discover that GARBAGE PAIL KIDS were the murderers?

No.
I won't bore you with a plot summary (you can easily glean that from the IMDb or Wikipedia). I'll just say that I had NO idea The Garbage Pail Kids Movie would be about the GPKs helping an adolescent boy win the heart of a slutty teenage fashion designer by creating unique (read: HIDEOUS) clothes for her to sell from the hood of her car outside a dance club. No idea.

So ... this movie is an allegory for child slave labor and the fashion industry, right?

Probably not. That's too much to expect from a movie produced by Atlantic Releasing Corporation and fucking TOPPS CHEWING GUM. Still waiting for their live-action Bazooka Joe joint ...

A few random notes I jotted down during the movie:
  • The GPKs apparently came to earth from outer space (YES) via a garbage pail-shaped spaceship! While featured prominently in the title sequence, this is NEVER BROUGHT UP AGAIN.
  • What '80s movie didn't feature green slime?
  • If the goal of director Rod Amateau (RIP) was to make a funhouse nightmare, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.
  • Humans have appeared, and they're only slightly less scary than the GPKs. And adult bullies terrorizing weak children in a public park during the day in front of everyone? Brilliant.
  • This kid Dodger (Mackenzie Astin, younger half-brother of Sean) is, by far, the best actor in the movie. This is not a compliment.
  • The fucking garbage can is constantly being referred to as a garbage PAIL. I mean, I get it, but UGH.
  • Captain Manzini (Anthony Newley, RIP), Dodger's boss/avuncular friend, is also a ... magician? Lots of black magic in this movie. Which is fine(?), but seems totally anathema to, you know -- whimsical trading cards.
  • First appearance of Tangerine (Katie Barberi), complete with neon turquoise skin-tight leopard dress. Too bad Juice (Ron MacLachlan) shows up to ruin their weird fun. Oh, he also ruins it by looking like a PUPPET himself.
  • The bullies knock over the PAIL, and more green slime pours out. "An elephant blew its nose!" shouts the butch female thug. Then the would-be murderers pour toxic waste on Dodger in a sewer. Fine family fun!
  • GPK reveal! They save the boy. And then scare him to death with their FACES.
  • These are the ugliest creature designs I have ever seen. The mouths don't even move when they talk. And the eyelids move too much. Balance, people!
  • "That pail be jail!" Words to live by.
  • What's creepier? The shop owner giving Dodger -- a BOY -- a bubble bath, or all the GPKs standing around watching him bathe? This just. Got. Sexy.
  • "We cannot choose the way we look, but we can choose the way we behave," and, "To be blessed with unusual features is a blessing!" The thesis of the film?
  • The GPKs are going to help the boy get the lady/get laid.
  • One of the GPKs (Greaser Greg?) steals a Pepsi truck (product placement?), and runs over Juice's car. Then all the GPKs eat too much and get hung over (food coma). Completely normal scary puppet stuff.
  • Does this boy have any parents? What happened to Captain Manzini? I know -- shame on me for applying logic to this shit show.
  • The GPKs dress the boy up like Michael Jackson (FASHION!) so he can woo Tangerine. She is BLOWN AWAY (in a good way, surprisingly) by his [horrible] taste. Reminds me of Lisa Turtle in Saved by the Bell -- she was the fashion plate, but only wore the WORST CLOTHES.
  • FIRST MUSICAL NUMBER?!?! YES!!!
  • Everyone sing it with me: "We can do anything by working with each other!"
  • But what's the end game? Are Dodger and Tangerine going to hook up? Dodger looks like he's 12, and Tangerine, while not an old lady, definitely looks like a ripe teenager who's been around the block (with Juice!) a few times. She's got a slack vadge, is what I'm saying.
  • Shocking IMDb-informed realization -- Dodger and Tangerine look YEARS apart in age, but are only, in fact, separated by 12 months. Still don't make it right.
  • How much did they pay for the rights to a Three Stooges short? And why did they feel the need to "make it better" by adding a calliope version of "Three Blind Mice" underneath it?
  • I was curious as to why only these seven GPKs (Greaser Greg, Ali Gator, Valerie Vomit, Foul Phil, Nat Nerd, Windy Winston and Messy Tessie) are featured in the movie -- there are hundreds of cards/crazy names. But then the movie answers that by stating that the other GPKs are in the "State Home for the Ugly." Again, totally normal.
  • Security guards -- dog catchers for the ugly -- roam the streets netting ugly children. Almost too normal?
Aaand ... this is about the time I zoned out. The last half hour of the movie consists of a fashion show, a big fight sequence, a "prison" break and rough bikers coming to the aid of the GPKs. All of this SOUNDS interesting, right? You would be wrong. I couldn't stop looking at my phone, wondering when this thing was going to end. It needs to be 30 minutes shorter JUST TO BE WATCHABLE.

In case you're not convinced that The Garbage Pail Kids Movie is reprehensible, here is a list of crimes committed by eponymous stars:
Breaking and entering
Causing a disturbance
Grand theft auto
Destruction of property (both public and private)
Vandalism
Theft
Assault
Underage(?) drinking
Public intoxication
Drunk driving
Cannibalism (assuming Ali Gator is "human")?
Public urination
Farting in the face of innocents

Finally, why is it that movies like this have zero interest in exploring why these crazy monsters exist, or even how they got here? They're only interested in making the creatures help the human with some ridiculous, inane task (fashion design). A similar phenomenon happens in Zookeeper, which Patrick rips apart in his review. Basically, a Zookeeper discovers that animals can talk, and INSTANTLY gets them to help him score a date with an eight (at best). Duh! What else even is there to do with talking animals?! Zookeepers be horny!

I don't know what changes could've saved The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. Trust me: every idea you and I have would make the end product immeasurably better than this wet fart of a film. HOWEVER, I argue that it never should've been made in the first place. The world doesn't need this!

"Rats and thunder, wind and hail / Send the kids back in the pail!"

++++

In the comment section, please continue to give us suggestions for future installments of "I'll Watch Anything." Thanks!

18 comments:

  1. Watch as I totally blow your mind; one of the creators of Garbage Pail Kids was cartoonist Art Spiegelman, who had already created Wacky Packages as part of his 20 years at Topps. Meanwhile, he was working on things like the RAW anthologies and, oh, writing the Holocaust biography of his father, Maus.

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  2. That viewing experience sounds... painful, like biting on a super-cold ice cream and having a 'brain freeze' on your head and mouth that doesn't go away for 90 minutes. Thanks Doug, you took one for the team and it's appreciated; you're a life saver, literally. ;-)

    Suggestions. I still think watching 1985's 'THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN' on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sJPgzBtE14 - Part 1 of 10) would yield an entertaining 'slice of 80's' and 'WTF were they thinking?' column depending on who does the commenting (Erika's take, for example, would be a lot different than JB's or Alex's). The movie kind-of predates the media sensation environment of the YouTube/social media era without either YouTube or the social media and a whole lot of 'it's the 80's so this is cool' attitudes, car chases, background tunes and fashions that really make the movie feel older than its 26 years.

    If anybody at the site is up to some deep hurting and real pain of the cinematic kind the untouched-by-MST3K-riffers version of 1966's 'MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdBchFDwWY0 - 68 min. total) is one hell of a show of commitment to the premise that people here WILL WATCH ANYTHING. WARNING: watching "Manos" without Joel and the Bots tagging along will make you hate life a little more than you already do and look at the world through sepia-colored glasses. It makes "The Garbake Pail Kids" movie look like "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and I'm not even half-kidding... this is the real deal skull-and-cross-bones nadir of incompetent filmmaking that reaches a point so low it actually becomes watchable by virtue of your inability to believe it was made at all. A bonafide classic of the 'WTF were they thinking' world of sleazy low-budget cinema.

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  3. For a better slice of totally 80's cheese I suggest ''Night Of The Comet''. This movies is soooo 80's it even features of girls shopping while Cindi Lauper's ''Girls Just Wanna Have Fun'' plays in the background.

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    1. That should read ''a montage of girls''. My typing's all screwd-up lately.

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  4. I love Night of the Comet! "The Mac-10 machine gun was practically designed for housewives."

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  5. All of the F This Movie staff should watch The Legend of Billie Jean. Remember: "FAIR IS FAIR!"

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  6. I would suggest anyone of the crew to watch 1994's "Milk Money" where a boy and his two friends find a woman for his widowed father (Ed Harris) where they ran across a prostitute (Melanie Griffith) and suggest that she should be the one for him.

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  7. In defence of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie I actually remember watching this movie around the time it came out (I was about 8) and I thought it was pretty fucking rad. So, you know, it might be one of those movies that ONLY plays to 8-12 year old boy sensibilities and if you didn't catch it then, well, you'll die an old bitter man who never got to appreciate this wonderful classic. Fart.

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  8. are we all forgetting that a large percentage of hollywood was coked to the eyeballs in the 80s? nuff said

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  9. Well, you guys finally went too far with your '
    F'ing. Michael Eisner's company is remaking 'The Garbage Pail Kids' Movie in 2012: http://www.deadline.com/2012/03/michael-eisners-tornante-company-behind-feature-adaptation-of-garbage-pail-kids/. And it's all your fault Patrick/Doug, it's obvious Eisner saw your recap, saw how cheap the rights to the franchise were and said 'why not?' That plus CG effects are cheap means REALLY UGLY AND FAKE 'Garbage Pail Kids' in the horizon.

    Nicely done gents. :-P

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  10. Extremely late to the party, here, but I'd just like the author of this post to know that reading this review of the movie was far more entertaining than actually making it.

    And that is a compliment.

    -M.A.

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    1. I think we might be in the presence of the great Mackenzie Astin here! I really was a big fan growing up - The Garbage Pail Kids Movie came out when I was 8 and I watched the hell out of that thing - you were a bit of a hero of mine. Sorry to hear it was a drag to make - I'll try not to feel too disillusioned!

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    2. This is the coolest thing ever, right? I'm not crazy?

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    3. Ha! I've been found out.

      The internet is amazing. Truly. I still can't even fully comprehend the gargantuan Google-hole I fell into late (late!) last night, but I'm so damn glad it brought me here. No joke, the post is fantastic. Captures perfectly, in my mind, the sheer what-the-fuckery an unsuspecting viewer endures in getting through the film. Kudos to Brave Doug, for his wordsmithin' and for his stamina.

      If memory serves, the NY Times, the Grey Lady herself, also saw fit to use the word "reprehensible," in describing this, this… thing released upon our youths. "Utterly reprehensible," they said then. If nothing else, the film has held up.

      Sol O. - I embellished a bit there, for effect. I mostly had a ball making the movie. Sure, the sewer sludge was cold and it was late (late!) at night in the San Fernando Valley, but I was starring in a movie, for Amateau's sake. And at 13, I was exactly foolish enough to think I was working on something that might actually be good. Live and learn. And live some more. And then fall into a Google-hole late one night and learn some more. Nice to finally meet you.

      Mr. Bromley - It's a damn fine site you've got here. I tooled around a bit early (early!) this morning and enjoyed myself immensely. Keep up the good work.

      -Mackenzie

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    4. Super, super cool.

      I desperately wanted to see the movie when it was in theaters, but my parents wouldn't take me because they don't love me. Or do they?

      Thank you, Mr. Mackenzie Astin, not just for stumbling across the site and actually reading the piece, but also for looking around and (especially) taking the time to comment. It's rare that we get actual celebrities around these parts, especially ones who have worked opposite THE Valerie Vomit.

      Any time you want to write that tell-all expose about the true working conditions at Over Our Heads, drop me a line.

      Thanks again!

      P.S. The Last Days of Disco is THE BOMB.

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  11. True stories:

    Debbie Lee Carrington - the actress who portrayed Valerie Vomit - has had herself a completely bitchin' career. Aerosmith videos, Seinfeld episodes, and much, much more. We should all be so lucky. (Also, she was pretty hot back in '87. Especially under all that foam latex.)

    When Edna's Edibles became Over Our Heads, we got through the entire first day of rehearsing on the brand-new set without anybody saying anything about the fact that the spiffy new neon sign was facing inwards, so that "Over Our Heads" could be read clearly on camera. I figured they were probably just trying it out that way. When I got to work the next day, the day of the taping, it was still facing inwards. I finally mustered up some courage and pointed it out to the prop guy. He looked at the sign, his shoulders drooped, and he went right over to tell the stage manager. She looked at the sign, her shoulders drooped, and she radioed up to the control room. The director and two producers came down, looked at the sign, and tried like hell to figure out how they'd gotten three hours from rolling tape on a brand new novelty shop whose signage was only visible to the people inside the store. I swear, I swear to whatever deity suits your fancy, I stood back from this group of professional adults and said in a loud, clear voice, "Musta gone over our heads."

    The Last Days of Disco was the first time I'd worked in New York City. I'd been there plenty, but only as a skyscraper gawking tourist. It is a wholly different animal when you've got somewhere you're supposed to be. It's also a wholly different animal when you're 23 years old and you realize that the bars are open 'til 4 and a total stranger will drive you home for ten bucks. I quote the great Chris Eigeman, who turned to me on the last day of shooting and said, "Christ, Mack, you smell like a goddamned brewery!" Next time you watch the film, keep a keen eye on the scene where he and I are headed to JFK. We're in an old Checker cab, without A/C, and with the windows rolled all the way up so we can get a clean dialogue track. It was late summer. It was high noon. Every time they cut back to me in the scene I'm sweatier and sweatier. By the time Eigeman gets to JFK I am soaking fucking wet. My stupid hair is matted to my dad gum forehead.

    Drenched.

    Good times.

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    1. Not to discourage anyone from watching TLDoD or getting the fine Criterion Collection version, but here is the clip for "The Increasingly Sweating Adventures of Mackenzie Astin"

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DH9nqX9sYUs

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