Release Date(s)1987 (December 8, 2015)
Studio(s)Orion Pictures/MGM/20th Century Fox (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: D
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
What do you get when you take a piece of successful 1980’s merchandise, which is a set of trading cards that satirize Cabbage Patch Kids toys in the most adult way possible, market them to children, and then try and make a “feel good” kid movie with a message out of it? You get The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, a movie so poorly received that it is still regarded as one of the worst movies ever made.
For me personally, growing up in the 1980s and 1990s was kind of a glorious time. It was a time when political correctness, overbearing parental guidance, and the internet hadn’t yet taken hold and informed society as a whole. We still got our hands on some dangerous toys, unapologetic comics and video games, and movies marketed to us that clearly respected both the intelligence and the growth potential of children. Now I’m not trying to go off on a rant about the political climate of today; this is a movie review, after all, but it’s important to frame how significant something like The Garbage Pail Kids was.
The Garbage Pail Kids were nothing more than a set of stickers with young people doing horrific things to themselves and each other in very satirical ways whilst carrying very satirical monikers. They went so over-the-top that they felt a little subversive in retrospect. I loved them, and I had them plastered all over the door to my bedroom when I was a kid. Later on, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie came along, right when the cards’ popularity was waning. It all but guaranteed it to be a franchise that wasn’t meant to be.
The story of the movie is about what you would expect from a kids’ movie during that era: a group of aliens known as the Garbage Pail Kids fly to Earth from outer space, but the trash can in which they are magically sealed is being guarded closely by full-time junk dealer and part-time magician Captain Manzini. When a bullied young kid named Dodger shows up at his doorstep, he gives him a job in his shop, but with the proviso that the garbage can is never opened. This is easier said than done, of course, and once the Garbage Pail Kids are out of their pail, they wreak havoc by... making clothes for Dodger’s lady friend Tangerine. Wait, what?
Yeah, so I take back what I said about this being a typical kids’ movie. It has elements from kids’ movies, but it seems ill-advised to make a story about being ok with being different from each other and that we’re all special with these characters. Yeah, it’s a bit gag-inducing, but when I was a kid, none of this wretchedness seemed to penetrate. I was just happy to have a Garbage Pail Kids movie and was very excited to see it when my parents rented it from the video store. I hadn’t actually watched it since then, and re-watching it with adult eyes makes you realize just what a simple individual you are at that age and how blinded you can be to such a crappy movie. It’s happened to me many times, and it’s certain to happen again.
The thing is though, and some might disagree, but it’s a fascinating crappy movie. I’m well-documented as being a fan of good/bad movies, and this sort of fits that bill. That being said, learning of John Carl Buechler’s original story idea for the movie makes me wonder what could have been. He developed the special effects, but originally he wanted to direct the movie from the beginning. His idea was to do it as a horror movie, sort of in the same vein as Ghoulies, wherein the Garbage Pail Kids came from outer space and began killing everyone in really horrible, but funny ways. That sounds like a much more entertaining idea than what we eventually got. But due to the cards’ popularity with young kids, it’s actually not much of a surprise that they went in the direction that they did.
There are very few movies akin to the monstrous mess that is The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. It’s tonal inconsistencies, it’s lack of a concrete storyline with side plots coming in from every direction, the lack of what made the property popular in the first place, and the endless stream of “what the fuck” moments certainly make it one of the worst movies ever made. That being said, there’s something oddly charming about it. I suppose some of it is nostalgia as I actually enjoyed the movie when I was five years old, but that aside, it’s certainly not THE worst you’re likely to watch... far from it, actually.
The transfer found on Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of the movie is quite a pleasing one. Although it didn’t have much of a budget, the movie at least looks good all these years later, however super-dated in may be. Grain levels are consistent with a nice amount of detail, particularly with facial textures, background details, and special effects & makeup work. Color reproduction is quite strong, particularly when it comes to Tangerine’s character’s very vivid and over-the-top outfits. Black levels are fairly deep, although there is some occasional crush, which I attribute to the original photography. Contrast and brightness levels are also quite satisfactory. There are also no signs of artificial augmentation, but there is some light dirt left behind, as well as some minor white specs. For the audio selection, you get a single option, which is an English 2.0 DTS-HD track, derived from the original mono. It’s a surprisingly lively track without any major balance issues. Dialogue is very clean and clear, and both score and sound effects have some nice boost to them. Obviously, there isn’t much in terms of speaker to speaker activity as it’s a very front speaker-heavy mix, but it’s very good for what it is. There are also subtitles in English for those who might need them.
The extras selection on this release isn’t vast, but we do get to hear from some of the key members involved in the production in four separate featurettes, courtesy of content producer Aine Leicht. There’s The Effects of The Garbage Pail Kids, an interview with make-up effects creator John Carl Buechler and make-up effects artist Gino Crognale; On the Set with 1st AD Thomas Irvine; The Artful Dodger with Mackenzie Astin; The Kids Aren’t All Right, an interview with some of the actors who portrayed The Garbage Pail Kids; and the movie’s original theatrical trailer. All of this is well-worth checking out if you’re interested in the making, or rather unmaking, of this movie.
The Garbage Pail Kids Movie today, I suppose, is big, piping slice of nostalgia pie, at least for those of us who were around when it first came along. For everybody else, it’s a fascinating look at what not to do with a property like this. Thankfully, we have Scream Factory to thank if it gets any kind of a resurgence, and if so, then this Blu-ray release of the movie should do the trick.
- Tim Salmons