- Posted by John Squires
- On December 9, 2015
- 0 Comments
- garbage pail kids
With a little brainstorming, I’m willing to bet you could name a handful of toys and even board games that have been turned into live-action films over the years. The list of trading cards that have spawned movies, however, is so small you can count them on two fingers. There was of course Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! in 1996, but the very first card-to-film adaptation came nearly a full decade prior, back in 1987.
Directed by the late Rod Amateau, and based on the Topps trading card series that first hit shelves two years before, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie centers on Dodger, a bullied young boy who works at an antique shop. One day, during a scuffle with his cruel tormentors, a mysterious garbage pail is knocked over in the shop, unleashing hideous little creatures who end up aiding Dodger in his quest to fight back.
There’s no denying that the Garbage Pail Kids trading cards are a special relic from the 1980s, as evidenced by the fact that Topps is still producing them to this day. The brainchild of Art Spiegelman, the wacky cards served to spoof the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls that were incredibly popular at the time, and they introduced all sorts of disgusting children that went on to become bona fide pop culture icons.
As for the movie, well, it didn’t exactly result in the cash-flow that Topps had hoped. Reportedly made on a budget of $30 million, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie pulled in just $1.5 million at the box office and was a critical failure for the ages. It was almost instantly dubbed one of the worst movies ever made by all who saw it, and indeed it is so painfully terrible that it’s a wonder it didn’t kill the whole franchise.
A virtually plotless mess of truly nightmarish practical effects, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie isn’t so much a charming curiosity as it is a reminder that just because something is popular doesn’t mean it should be turned into a movie. Of course, recent duds like Battleship and Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever prove that we haven’t learned a thing in the years since, but this hunk of trash sure tried to warn us.
If there’s any artistic merit to be found here it comes courtesy of the effects work, which sees diminutive actors wearing admittedly impressive costumes inspired by some of the most memorable characters from the trading cards. The mouths and eyes of the oversized masks are controlled by animatronics, and one must at least give John Carl Buechler (Troll) and his team credit for their standout contributions.
Unfortunately, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie isn’t a horror film, despite Buechler trying his damndest to turn it into one. The character designs are pure nightmare fuel, and though the film was intended for kids, I can’t imagine a child having fun hanging out with such monstrosities. The ’80s were known for their horror films, but I’m willing to bet that GPK is responsible for more nightmares than any of them.
What’s most confounding about The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, however, is the storyline – or lack thereof. The film jumps all over the place, never really settling on anything that resembles a plot. Naturally, the title characters spend much of the film farting, peeing themselves, and just generally exercising no self control, but it’s the way in which they’re written into Dodger’s story that is truly bizarre and unsettling.
To make a long story short, Dodger is trying to impress a fashionable high school girl who happens to be dating the glam rock bully who won’t leave him alone, and when she learns that the Garbage Pail Kids are good at making stylish clothes, she quite literally transforms the antique shop into a sweatshop. Yes, Topps turned the adorably gross characters from their beloved trading card line into slave laborers.
The increasingly bizarre choices continue when it’s revealed that the film is set in an alternate reality wherein it is illegal to be ugly. Anyone who isn’t attractive is captured with a net and locked away, and it’s strongly hinted that the inmates are eventually compacted into trash. There’s just something mean-spirited and incredibly misguided about the whole thing, especially since it was a movie made for kids.
Packed with terrible messages and loaded with characters that feel like killer dolls ripped out of ’80s horror movies, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie is the sort of film that makes you question how it ever got made in the first place. It’s not fun and it’s certainly not funny, no matter the age of the viewer, and it’s no minor miracle that Topps was able to recover from this mess and press forward with the property.
It’s hard to imagine why Shout! Factory decided to add The Garbage Pail Kids Movie to their collection, but their Blu-ray release of the 1987 film is now available and is loaded with special features that are likely way more entertaining than the movie. The package includes interviews with actors Mackenzie Astin, Arturo Gil and Kevin Thompson, as well as effects artist John Buechler and first AD Thomas Irvine.
My advice? Stick to the trading cards.
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