The late 1980s saw a rise in the popularity of the child’s toy The Cabbage Patch Kids. In response to this Topps Cards produced a line of collectible cards that parodied their more popular cousins and were known as The Garbage Pail Kids (latterly The Garbage Gang in the United Kingdom). They became a huge success in their own right and in 1987 a film was commissioned to cash in on the success. In the same way that the Garbage Pail Kids were a grotesque version of the popular Cabbage Patch Kids, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie is an equally as grotesque an interpretation.
Bullied teenager Dodger (Mackenzie Astin) escapes his latest round of beatings by running to his place of work, Manzini’s Antique Shop. There, the kindly ˜magician’ Manzini (Anthony Newley slumming it like a good’un) helps his young ward, but when left alone, the bullies enter the shop to beat up Dodger once again. In the ensuing scuffle, the garbage pail is knocked over. Having been handcuffed to a rail, Dodger has sewage poured over him by the bullies, until he is saved by odd little people called the Garbage Pail Kids.
Those familiar with The Garbage Pail Kids will all have their favourite characters and drawings and I can guarantee that not one of them is in the film. Instead we get Windy Winston who farts, Valerie Vomit who¦ well vomits and Foul Phil who is a creepy as Hell giant baby. The fact that the most iconic character Adam Bomb failed to make the cut speaks volumes to the lack of risk taken in the selection. I appreciate it may have been difficult to incorporate a child whose head explodes into a nuclear mushroom cloud, but if you’re not going to try, then don’t bother making the film in the first place.
The acting across the board is dreadful, as you’d expect, but the dialogue has some wonderfully choice moments, such as the girl gang member stating “those are my kind of guys… real psychos” and then laughing as seemingly grown men kick the living shit out of a small boy. Stay classy. Meanwhile, the character names almost surpass the Garbage Pail Kids themselves with the female lead called Tangerine (who is a massive bitch by the way) and her gangland boyfriend called Juice. At least the male gang members have the good grace to line their performance with a healthy does of homo-eroticism. I wonder if the writers were stoned at the time and had a sudden urge to eat a lot of fruit?
Like a cross between Mannequin and an episode of Noel’s House Party, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie is truly terrifying example of big budget film-making. It cost $30m to make and triumphantly failed to reach $2m in box office returns. Having seen it, it’s not hard to imagine why. Everything from the awful acting, woeful and technically inept direction to the terrifying and grotesque animatronics that ˜create’ the kids themselves, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie manages to be too grim and creepy for its target audience and too childish and useless for adults. It is suitable for no one. Still the cards are quite cool.