Saturday, December 5, 2015

THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE (1987) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Scream Factory

Region Code: A
Rating: PG
Duration: 97 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Rod Amateau
Cast: MacKenzie Astin, Anthony Newley, Katie Barberi, Phil Fondacaro, Debbie Lee Carrington

Your favorite grime bandits come to life with all the farts, snot and vomit you can take in this hilarious film full of "gross-out humor" (The New York Times). Based on the wildly popular and irreverent trading cards, The Garbage Pail Kids® Movie stars Mackenzie Astin (Iron Will, Wyatt Earp) as a perfectly nice teenager who discovers the his great disgust!

When Dodger (Astin) accidentally releases the Kids from their magical trash can prison, all smell breaks loose. Despite their offensive personal habits – and attitude problems – Dodger soon becomes fond of the Kids. But when Messy Tessie, Foul Phil, Valerie Vomit and the whole misfit crew join his fight against thuggish bullies, their efforts just might land them behind bars at the State Home for the Ugly!

I admit that sometimes I watch a '80s cheesy horror movie and it slides by with a nod of approval based solely on some form of nostalgia I have for it. Maybe because I saw it at a formative age on a sleepover or for some other ephemeral reason that keeps these movie, not all of them good, close to my heart, and I know it is the same way for many other movie watchers. I mean we all know that Wes Craven's Deadly Friend is not a good movie by any standard, but I'll be damned if I don't watch it once a year and love every corny minute of it. When this movie came to the cinema back in '87 I was fourteen and the Garbage Pail Kids trading cards craze had passed me by as I pursued harder horror movies and the attention of teen women... sadly, I found plenty of hard-edged horror and not so much of the other. Now in my early forties I find myself watching The Garbage ail Kids Movie for the first time with the new Blu-ray release from Scream Factory, it's time to find out now if I missed out or ad just delayed the agony. 

First thing first, this damn movie doesn't make a whole lot of sense but such as it is we have a young boy named Dodger (Mackenzie Astin, the younger brother of the more famous Sean Astin) who works for an antiques dealer named Captain Manzini (singer/songwriter Anthony Newley), a guy who seemed pretty creepy to me, and not someone who I would let my kids work for, but as with most '80s movie the kids parents are nowhere to be found. Dodger is being harassed throughout the movie by a local thug named Juice (Ron MacLachlan) who seems to exist solely to make life miserable for young Dodger. Why this street tough and possible drug pusher has it out for the pint-sized Dodger I could not tell you, but he definitely had a chip on his shoulder for the kid.  Maybe it because his fashion-obsessed girlfriend Tangerine (Katie Barberi) has a thing for Dodger, what ensues is a bit of a rote '80s love story between Tangerine and Dodger, though it doesn't have the charm of Mikey and Andrea from the beloved Goonies, but the movie does have some strange Amblin-type charms about it. 

The actual Garbage Pail Kids come into play when Dodger accidentally knocks over a trash can at Captain Manzini's curiosity shoppe, releasing seven ugly kids into the world, who turn out to be... from outer space?  We have the leather jacketed Greaser Greg, the snot-nosed Messy Tessie, the gaseous Windy Winston, the vomitous Valerie Vomit, the foul-breathed Foul Phil, zit-faced Nat Nerd who pisses his pants a lot and half girl, half alligator Ali Gator. After which for some reason dodger has these pint-sized weirdos down in the basement sewing '80s fashions for his sweetheart Tangerine to sell, this is some sort of weird ugly-kid sweat shop arrangement they have going on here. The gross kids are a fun with a lot of oozing snot, piss and flatulence happening while trying to do good in the world. They try anyway, in between committing grand theft auto, brawling at the toughest bar in the world and designing killer '80s fashions, it's very convoluted, I wanted to see more gross-out humor, and while there is a bit of it, the artificially attempt to sweeten the uglies up for the kiddies, which is a misstep in my opinion. 

There's also a bizarre thread about the State Home for the Ugly where the unattractive members of society are brought to before they're crushed in a car compactor, which is just one in a long line of strange messages to throw into a kids movie, even for the eighties this was strange. The movie is not a very good, I found it a drag to sit through while I periodically checked my messages, but I will say that I liked the Garbage Pail Kids designs created by makeup effects designer John Carl Buechler (Troll, Dolls, Ghoulies) who did a great job bringing these foul kids to the big screen. The gross-out humor is fun but the tone is so so uneven and the story is just a head-scratcher, it seems the writers had no idea who they were writing for, is this for young kids or teens, the movie bombed at the box office either way, which is not surprising. I remember at the time there was some uproar with parents groups pushing to ban the movie from theaters altogether, but the movie is such a mess that it came and went with little notice, garnering a cult movie following through the years afterward. 

It just feels like a cash grab, the story is awful, the writing is lame-brained, the performances are decent, but the special effects work is a lot of fun if you're into such things, but the movie is a strange and bizarre entry of '80s kiddie-cinema. If I had to figure what keeps fans coming back to this it would be a few choice lines of dialogue from the meat-headed character Juice, who when questioned by Tangerine why he is so awful to Dodger responds "it's a matter of principle!", which is probably the most quoted line in the movie, and with good reason, it's all in the delivery. 

The Blu-ray from Scream Factory is a mixed bag, the image is presented in 1080p HD widescreen (1.865:1) but is a little murky and overly grainy during the darker scenes, colors are a bit muted. Not having watched the previous standard definition presentation I can only assume this is a step-up from that, but this is not exactly eye-popping HD. The English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 is solid and clean, it may not be dynamic but it had some minor depth to it and it does the job, optional subtitles are provided. 

Scream Factory have gone above and beyond with the extras with brand new Red Short Pictures prodiced interviews with Special Makeup Effects Creator John Carl Buechler And Makeup Effects Artist Gino Crognale, First Assistant Director Thomas A. Irvine, and actor Mackenzie Astin,  Arturo Gil and Kevin Thompson, plus a theatrical trailer.  John Carl Buechler and Gino Crognale ive a good accounting of coming onto the project and creating the characters based on the trading card designs, these two have appeared in many Scream Factory extras and are always a blast to watch. they've done some truly excellent work through the years, and while this is far from their best work it probably the part of the movie I loved the most. First Assistant Director Thomas A. Irvine doesn't seem to remember much fine detail about making the movie thirty years ago, but he does give some perspective, stating that the movie seemed to make more sense when they were making it, ha ha. Garbage Pail Kids Actors Arturo Gil (Windy Winston) and Kevin Thompson (Ali Gator) on the other hand remember quite a lot and go into detail about the making of the movie from their perspective, going into how well they were treated on-set and working with John Carl Buechler and his effects team. 

The most substantial interview is a twenty-seven minute interview with star Mackenzie Astin who is fully aware of the movie's cult-status and how the movie was received at the time it tanked in theatres. He recalls everything in detail, speaking about working with each of the cast and crew, dropping that at the start of the movie he was dating co-star Katie Barberi, who despite looking significantly older than him at the time was only a year or two older. he's fun and animated, making this the crown-jewel of the bonus features. There's also a trailer for the movie, a sleeve of reversible artwork and a slipcover with new artwork from Scream illustrator Nathan Millner. 

Special Features: 
- NEW The Effects Of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie – Interviews With Special Makeup Effects Creator John Carl Buechler And Makeup Effects Artist Gino Crognale (12 Mins) HD 
- NEW On The Set – An Interview With First Assistant Director Thomas A. Irvine (6 Mins) HD 
- NEW The Artful Dodger – An Interview With Actor Mackenzie Astin (27 Mins) HD 
- NEW The Kids Aren't All Right – Interviews With Garbage Pail Kids Actors Arturo Gil (Windy Winston) And Kevin Thompson (Ali Gator) (21 Mins) HD 
- Theatrical Traile3 (2 Mins) HD 

Not a good movie but a very curious slice of kiddie-cinema from the eighties that will certainly entertain you for all the wrong reasons, if you're fan of trashy b-movie cinema you're in for a treat, a kids movie with pissy pants, black magic and genocide. The new bonus features from Scream Factory go far and above anything the movie could possibly deserve, and that's why we love them, like Dodger they love the ugly kids too. 2/5