PG | | Comedy, Family
A young boy is just short of a monster. He is adopted by a loving man and his wacky wife. The laughs keep coming as the boy pushes them to the limits.
During a 2014 interview on Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast, screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski revealed that the story was inspired by the 1988 LA Times article "An Adopted Boy--and Terror Begins." The story is about a married couple suing an adoption agency because they were not informed that their adopted son had severe mental health issues with violent tendencies, and had been previously returned to the agency multiple times. While other writers pitched the story as a horror film in the vein of The Bad Seed (1956) or The Omen (1976), Alexander and Karaszewski thought it had potential as a comedy. They envisioned a dark, adult satire of the then-popular trend of films in which cute kids teach cynical adults how to love, as seen in Baby Boom (1987), Parenthood (1989) (directly spoofed by the film's poster), Look Who's Talking (1989), Uncle Buck (1989), Mr. Mom (1983), Kindergarten Cop (1990) and Three Men and a Baby (1987). The studio insisted on turning it into a children's film, which meant numerous reshoots and rewrites. All involved in the difficult production were disappointed, and anticipated that it would bomb. Alexander cried after the cast and crew screening. The film was a surprise hit, and Universal's most profitable film of 1990. Alexander and Karaszewski were so embarrassed that they tried to distance themselves from the film in its immediate aftermath, which proved difficult. Studios were initially reluctant to hire them or take them seriously based on their work on such a prominent disreputable film. In later years, they eventually came to work with executives who grew up watching the film on TV airings and were excited to be meeting "the guys who wrote Problem Child." Looking back, they still feel the film is "a mess," but take some pride in being involved with one of the "very few [PG-rated] children's films THAT black and THAT crazy," adding "and it's funny."
Hey, Martin! Let's go see the bearded lady.
Martin: No, I've seen too many of them in prison.
On the 2017 Blu-ray release of the film, following the credits role, the ratings bumper claims that the film is rated PG-13. Yet the package and the disc state the rating is PG.
The version that airs on the Hub network is based on the USA Network version that has the "bonus footage" added in the movie, but makes several additional edits. Amongst these are: Big Ben's reference to the "Japs" and the "Hirohito Corporation" are removed, and Big Ben's comments to Little Ben about artificial insemination are edited somewhat (though the line about taking his sperm to someone who knows what to do with it is still intact).
$10,026,900 29 July 1990