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There's few experiences quite like watching Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie. I really, really mean that. Based on the then-popular series of always disgusting and sometimes disturbing trading card sticker sets, the film was almost an unparelleled failure, grossing under 2 million worldwide and becoming what has to be the most univerally panned movie of all time. It's just amazingly bad on every level, and if you've never seen it, believe me when I say that it's thirty times worse than anything you could imagine.
I was eight when the flick was released in 1987, and being heavily into the cards at that point, I couldn't wait to see the adventures unfold on the big screen. My mother took me to the theater one afternoon, and we exited no more than ten minutes into the madness. Quick tip: if you're making movies that are gonna be targeted towards little kids, you may wanna skip any scenes involving alligator monsters eating severed toes out of lunchboxes. The main problem with the Pail Kids' forage into Hollywood isn't that it's a terrible movie. Truly, there's been many commercially successful movies that were largely considered terrible. The folly found here lies in the fact that once you get past the toilet humor and the emphasis on everything scatological, you're left with a movie that few kids wouldn't be pretty damn creeped out by.
The Garbage Pail Kids, now represented in live action by a bunch of midgets in goofy suits, are some of the scariest looking creatures I've seen. Yes, they're supposed to be ugly - that's the gimmick. Still, even though they're portrayed as mostly friendly hero characters, the damn things are so eerie looking that few children were going to enjoy watching their exploits. This is something you'll see in the review down below, but when talking about the movie's massive failure, creepy creature effects were just the tip of the iceberg.
I'm not saying that all kiddie flicks need to have great stories, but it would've done wonders for GPK. When left to their own devices in a futile effort to fill enough time to get the bitch considered as an actual 'feature,' the plot relies on a total onslaught of bad taste: snot, gas, urine, vomit, acne, shit, violence - you name it, it's here in volume. Remember, the cards might've seemed harmless to those of us who collected 'em, but parents hated the things. My elementary school banned them entirely, and the series had quickly established itself as a controversial entity. That's fine for trading cards - kids would manage to get their hands on those no matter what adults thought. The same can't be said for the movie, and I can't think of many mommies and daddies who'd be willing to sit through this even if it wasn't such an obviously bad influence on their kin. The cut version is rated PG, but I'm sure most parents would've preferred that their kids watch the gamut of Elm Street movies before this piece of trash.
In fact, the movie left such a bad taste in my mouth, I threw away all my GPK cards the second I got home from seeing the ten minutes of it I could actually stomach. Considering that I was part of their target audience, that's a pretty sad commentary on the finished product. The proof? X-E, an 80s kid culture site with extensive reviews on obscure cartoons and crayons you've never heard of, and yet you'd have a hard time finding more than a paragraph about the legendary Garbage Pail Kids? Don't get me wrong - this is a freakin' gold mine for the bad movie enthusiast, but I don't think the producers were aiming to please a bunch of grown up geeks who'd watch their opus on a poorly dubbed cassette almost two decades later.
It's much worse than I can possibly describe without supplying a full review of the action within, so I'm going to do my best to do the flick justice without accidentally breaking my spirit by focusing attention on it for too long. I hope you guys appreciate the torment I'm putting myself through for this one - believe me, if given the choice, I'd much rather y'all e-mail me pictures of dog crap to review. See what this movie did to me? I'm already using words like 'y'all.' I hate Messy Tessie. Here's the review, with a bunch of bonus features to follow...
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The movie stars Mackenzie Astin, whom you might remember as smarmy hipster Andy Moffett from The Facts of Life. Okay, no problems there - he was a fairly substantial star at the time, all things considered. Astin plays 'Dodger,' a crafty kid who's gotten himself into trouble with the town's local thugs. The thugs like to steal his lunch money and handcuff him to sewer pipes underground, so at least the flick makes no vague standings on who's good and who's evil. Dodger practically lives at the old antique shop belonging to his elder pal, Captain Mancini. Mancini has a good heart, but suffers from a terminal depression over society's current trends and emphasis on physical beauty. I assume you can guess where this is headed.
In the opening credits, we get to see the Garbage Pail Kids' space shuttle, not very surprisingly shaped like a garbage pail, crash-land on Earth. As it turns out, Captain Mancini got his hands on the pail, and it's now residing amongst the many knickknacks and Victorian door knobs in his antique shop. He warns Dodger never to open the pail, which might've been a demand of redundancy since the thing is just covered in disgusting toxic green sludge.
Things heat up when we meet Dodger's would-be love interest, Tangerine. Problem is, she's currently dating 'Juice,' the very same hoodlum who keeps beating up Dodger. Tangerine seems less than interested in the little kid's advances, but he refuses to give up since Tangy manages to take her shirt off no less than sixty times in the film's duration. As an added bonus, she wears the same dirty purple bra throughout the whole movie. Filthy skank. Just so we're clear, Tangerine's a bad girl who might end up being a good girl if she could stop doing such immoral, slutty things. Can Dodger sway her to the light?
Not quite yet - Tangy's boyfriend and the film's other assorted goons come into the antique shop and mangle Dodger for the 27th time. They even lock him in the sewer again, but before a stream of liquid shit can smack our unlikely hero, a group of strange little creatures save the day! Dodger's not quite sure what to make of it all, but he certainly appreciates the sentiment. Let's meet the Garbage Pail Kids!
Okay, put yourself in a kid's shoes for a second. You're telling me you wouldn't find these guys just a wee bit frightening? When I saw it, I remember the feeling of dread when they first walked onscreen. I was worried about what I had gotten myself into - it was sort of like fighting for the last spare rib on Chinese Food Night, winning, and realizing that this particular spare rib was chosen last because it was full of those gross pork veins. All right, it's not at all like that. Either way, the GPKids scared the popcorn out of my lap. They all shared an innate, Chucky-like quality - but it's made worse by the fact that there's really people in those suits, allowing for much greater mobility and a far heavier amount of creepiness.
Captain Mancini returns and explains that the world will never let the Garbage Pail Kids exist peacefully, and begs that they return to the pail. They refuse, so everyone makes the most of a bad situation by catching up on old times and throwing up all over the floor. Though gruff, Dodger sees the kids as a bunch of misunderstood friendly folks. That might be true, but it's not a reason for him to actually hang out with them. We get seven different kids based on some of the more popular cards - here's a closer look at some of the more notable ones.
Ali Gator is the surrogate leader of the pack, partly because he's got a cool haircut, but mostly because he's, you know, an alligator. Upon introduction, Ali immediately begins talking about his penchant for human toes. In fact, he pulls out a box and starts eating toes and eyeballs from it. For those keeping score, it was at this point that I made Mommy take me home. I don't think she was too disappointed.
Windy Winston is the second in command. You know, I've never really used the word on X-E as a matter of personal preference, but there's really no way to avoid it in this case. Winston farts. Farts farts farts, farts farts. That's all he does for the entire movie - farts left and right, up and down, loud and noxiously. It's not just implied, either - you get to hear 'em, and sometimes, you even get to see 'em by way of ridiculous special fogging effects placed in the general vicinity of Winston's scary black ass.
Next up, Valerie Vomit. Care to take a stab at her claim to fame? Yes, Valerie's super power is the ability to throw up on command. As a trading card, Valerie was easily one of the most putrid of all the Garbage Pail Kids - it depicted her cooking her vomit in a large saucepan as she was throwing it up. Yeah, that's what kids were into. Anytime someone talks about all the terrible things kids are growing up on these days, remind them of that. It could be much worse. Anyway, the live-action version of Valerie Vomit is somehow even uglier, looking like a mobile basketball star's bobblehead figure who just happens to upchuck at will. She doesn't do the deed till much later in the movie. I guess they wanted to provide a payoff scene to the three people who actually made it the whole way through.
If you don't believe it could get any worse, here's a few more of the stars you're forced to watch for the next 90 minutes...
Messy Tessie, the girl who plays with her snot. And my, she's really got quite a stockpile of the stuff. Tessie uses her snot to perform various acts throughout the film, including fixing televisions and affixing plastic jewels to the clothes she makes. NOPE, NOT KIDDING. Tessie also has the nasty habit shaking her snot-covered hands with everyone she meets. I'm really surprised the director of this flick never got to thank the Academy.
Just in case you were still a little undecided on whether or not the people responsible for this movie should be castrated and lobotomized, here's Nat Nerd, a pimply faced wimp who responds to excitement and intrigue by pissing himself. According to the producers, this activity is made funnier by repeating it a hundred times at various interval. The oddest part? Nat is probably the least offensive of all the kids. That's right - acne-ridden Nat who urinates on the floor 100 times is the least disgusting Garbage Pail Kid.
Rounding out the cast was Greaser Greg, the GPKid from the 50s, and Foul Phil, a sweet little ugly baby troll with bad breath. I can't tell you how pleased I am by my decision to write about these guys for the next few hours.
As the plot (ha!) advances, Dodger befriends Tangerine and learns that she's making money on the side by going to night clubs and selling homemade shirts, usually crafted from drapes and trash bags. She speaks eloquently about her dreams to make it out of this sordid town and hit the big time in the fashion industry, but since she keeps making fun of Dodger and pulling him around by his earlobes, we can't consider her one of the good guys yet. Still, there's something inherently heroic about anyone who can pull off using a dried-out starfish as a hairclip.
Meanwhile, the kids can't resist the temptation to explore their new surroundings. They hijack a Pepsi truck, make lots of bad puns, and roast hot dogs on an open fire. Even though they're having a grand ole time, the night isn't without a mission: they're trying to find all their other Garbage Pail Kid friends, who assumedly are lost somewhere on the planet. In the midst of the search, Ali Gator takes a break at a local bar, leading up to a big brawl between the dankpit's biker gang and our lovable kiddies. For whatever reason, the biker gang decides that they like the Garbage Pail Kids after Winston farts all over them. Love is infectious and gaseous. This movie makes me want to drink poison while telling a firing squad that all their mothers are whores, simply to guarantee an end the pain.
After learning about Dodger's secret crush, the kids try to help him win the woman by sewing him a jacket, complete with shoulder frills and solder bullets. That's right, folks - of all the magical talents they could've given to the Garbage Pail Kids, they picked sewing. I guess I shouldn't be too critical - after all, Sly Stallone's special talent in Demolition Man was knitting, and believe it or not, that flick is way more respected than this one. Maybe that's what's really going on here. They didn't make this movie for money or recognition -- they just wanted all the other bad movies in the world to feel better knowing that there's something far worse out there. It works in every case, except Hook. Never Hook. Sorry, I'm trying to distract myself. Would you mind if I talked about chili pepper-shaped party lights for the rest of this article instead?
Dodger moonwalks (literally, and it's a sight) to Tangerine's basement apartment, and wouldn't you know it - she's floored with his new threads. In fact, she's so floored that she wastes no time in demanding that he provide at least a dozen similar outfits for her to sell. This romance - it's budding! Lovestruck and p-whipped, Dodger returns to the antique shop to ask his friends for the ultimate favor. Can the Garbage Pail Kids sew twelve more outfits by Friday night? What the fuck am I watching? Why is sewing a major plot point of the GPK movie?
The kids strike up a deal with Dodger - if he's able to find their missing friends, they'll happily sew him more clothes. It's an epic barter, but nowhere near as epic as the song-and-dance number we're treated to as the ugly creatures sew their hearts out. Yes, they SING SONGS, too. Bad songs. Really, really bad songs. Here's the chorus: "We can do anything by working with each other. All together now! All together now!" The whole thing would've been much more heartwarming if they weren't singing about sewing.
Finally, we learn the awful truth about what happened to all the other Garbage Pail Kids. See, within the continuity of this god damned stupid cesspool of a movie, anyone who's ugly is arrested and left for dead at the 'State Home For The Ugly.' We even get some scenes featuring mean cops throwing nets over less-than-attractive children. Captain Mancini confirms this as the truth, and then goes on an extended soliloquy about society's ignorant obsession with their looks. That's right - they're tried to make a poignant social commentary with the Garbage Pail Kids movie. You're supposed to learn a lesson about how a person's true worth only be found on the inside, but it's kinda hard to pick up on since there's a bunch of monsters playing with their snot and farting anytime things start to get serious.
The heroes plan to break the rest of the GPKids out of the jail, but not before taking care of much more important matters, namely handing Tangerine a bunch of ugly clothes so she can put on a fashion show. The priorities involved here seem a tad off-kilter, but I think I speak for all of us when I say that I absolutely don't give a shit.
Tangerine finally meets the kids, and she's less than enthusiastic about her new pals. After taking the bags of clothes, we learn that she's still a bad girl after all - still hanging out with the same thugs, still being slutty, and still wearing the same purple bra. Taking the unknowing Dodger with her to the fashion show, she makes sure to lock the Garbage Pail Kids in the antique store's basement for a sadistic purpose we'd soon learn more about.
By the way, Messy Tessie gets snot all over Tangerine at least five times in that scene. And Winston passes wind on her. And Ali Gator tries to eat her feet. Are we really supposed to blame Tangy for turning on 'em?
Evil Tangerine hatched an insidious plan. By locking the kids in the basement, her goons are able to kidnap and sell them off to the State Home For the Ugly. Once inside, we find out that all the other Garbage Pail Kids were murdered, and our heroes are next on the kill list. They're locked up in a cage alongside some of the world's other uglies: Santa Claus (too fat), Ghandi (too thin), and a clown, because he's 'too funny.' Trust me, it's much worse than it sounds. Captain Mancini eventually infiltrates the prison with help from that biker gang the kids earlier befriended, ultimately freeing them and everyone else from their cages. Now they're ready for REVENGE!
Yeah, I know this review is too long. Just imagine what it's like to actually watch what I'm reviewing. I've spent happier afternoons trying to pick pubic hairs out of diner salads.
Dodger, obviously, is pained to learn that Tangerine has been playing him for a fool. He's even more pained when Juice and the other villains beat the crap out of him again. After the fashion show gets underway, it looks as though Tangy is gonna get away with all her bad deeds - the public loves the new clothes, and have absolutely no idea that a bunch of grotesque muppet children are the ones actually responsible for the designs. That dirty Tangerine! She's ripped off the Garbage Pail Kids' sequin patterns!
Fortunately, the kids arrive just in time to put a stop to all this tomfoolery. How? Well...
Winston gets rid of the audience by farting all over them. For a full minute, complete with a look of focused intent on his face. The others do their share, too - the gator kid bites everyone, Foul Phil does some football tackles, and just when you thought you've seen it all, Valerie Vomit throws up all over those nasty thugs. There's some things in this world that simply cannot be described by mere words, so check out these video clips to see the action for yourself. There's no sound on the clips, so use your imagination. Make fart noises and gurgly vomit sounds as you view 'em, it's basically the same effect.
In the end, the kids successfully ruin Tangerine's fashion show and save the day. I think this is the first and only film that nails a happy ending by way of farts and vomit. If nothing else, Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie was a pioneer.
Later, Tangerine apologizes to Dodger for all her bitchy behavior, and asks if they can still be friends. He refuses, proclaiming that he no longer finds her pretty. Catch the irony there? Captain Mancini deduces that playing an enchanted song will get the kids back into the safety of their garbage pail, but they smartly take a powder before getting trapped in there again. They certainly left things open for a sequel, so we should be thankful that movies which net a profit of four bucks don't get to have sequels. The End.
Overall: What else needs to be said? My main gripe with the flick isn't with its content, moreover the blind and blatant stupidity on the part of the producers. This had 'bad idea' written all over it, and to assume that the movie was perfectly suited for impressionable little kids was just plain ignorant. The film caused quite an uproar in it's day, and probably did more to hurt the Garbage Pail Kids franchise than anything else. That said, if you enjoy offbeat movies, you won't find one better than this. True videos are rare, and even poor dubs such as the one I got can cost up to and over thirty bucks. I wouldn't rule out the possibility of a DVD release in the future, though. There's gotta be six or seven Mackenzie Astin fans out there who need satiation.
(click the cards to see the full-sized versions)
Due to the cards' popularity, it should come as no surprise that Topps attempted other business ventures meant to cash in on the GPK craze. 'Tacky Snappers' were plastic Garbage Pail Kids figures attached to long, whipping strands of sticky slime. Consider them virtual frog tongues. They're pretty stupid on the whole, but kids delighted in crap like this. Kids love virtual frog tongues.
(click to enlarge)
STRANGE CONNECTIONS: The Garbage Pail Kids were brought to life by the efforts of many fine midget actors. They almost universally also starred as Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, but some of the tiny thespians turned up in other notable flicks over the years. Here's a few of the connections, which proves that Hollywood doesn't take little people very seriously at all. I was surprised to find that I've liked these folks in other flicks, so I'm glad the guys were finding work.
Greaser Greg was played by Phil Fondacaro, who also starred as Sir Nigel Penneyweight in one of X-E's favorite dumb movies, Ghoulies II.
Messie Tessie was played by Susan Rossitto, who'd later go on to fame and fortune for her role as 'Emperor Penguin' in Batman Returns. Susie's had quite a career.
Valerie Vomit was played by Debbie Lee Carrington. In addition to playing various Ewoks in various Star Wars movies and spinoffs, Debbie landed herself two more roles of note: 'Thumbelina' from Total Recall, and the damn baby sasquatch from Harry and the Hendersons.
Windy Winston was played by Arturo Gil, who's also starred as one of the 'Dinks' in Spaceballs and as 'Station' from Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. He has very, very tiny legs.
The Garbage Pail Kids 'Pop-Up' figures make me want to take back my claim that suction cups are only good for use in conjunction with pretending you have extra nipples. The small statuettes came in a plastic garbage pail - after you closed the lid, the suction cup holding them down would eventually lose it's grabby power, sending your ugly kid-of-choice through the lid and into the hearts of all.