Hey, everyone: do you want to be repulsed for about 100 minutes? Do you want to spend the entire runtime of a movie wondering where the protagonist’s parents are? Then step right up for this week’s installment of They Called This a Movie, as we dive deep into The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, just in time for The Happytime Murders, which opens this weekend.
If you’re not a kid from the 1980s, you may not understand what The Garbage Pail Kids are. You may be thinking “Oh, is that like the Cabbage Patch Kids?” The answer to that question is a resounding no. The Garbage Pail Kids are a satire of The Cabbage Patch Kids. You know, if you don’t understand what satire is. They were trading cards and stickers produced by Topps, that featured the vilest creatures that sort of resembled vile-looking children. Most of the names were play-on-words like Adam Bomb or Up Chuck or some stupid bullshit like that and was invented by Art Spiegelman, the man behind Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize. In 1987, someone decided that the intellectual property was ripe for a film adaptation and this is a result. What did we get? We got a weird movie with a garbage pail spaceship that never pays off, a child without parents, and a fashion show for some reason. Yeah. It’s weird.
We open the film with our teen hero, Dodger, being chased by what has to be adult gang members that are chasing him down to take his lunch money. After getting tossed in the mud and robbed by adult man Juice and his thugs, Dodger retreats to the closest thing to a home he has, aside from what I assume is the underpass he sleeps underneath, an antique shop run by Captain Manzini. Captain Manzini is maybe magical, maybe a time lord, quite possibly a child predator, but 100% the guy that wrote all the music for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Amid all his curiosities in his store is a standard metal trash can which he warns contains powers of certain destruction and must remain closed. Wouldn’t you know it: that can gets opened in the very next scene.
Dodger tries to put the moves on Tangerine, Juice’s girl and, despite looking like she’s in her mid-20s, the actress is actually only one year older than Mackenzie Astin, the actor that played Dodger (and brother of The Goonie’s Sean). After some hilarious hijinks in the antique shop, Juice takes Dodger down to the sewers where he tries to waterboard him with shit water, leaving him there to be picked up by a couple of Ninja Turtles. Instead, the group that comes to save him are The Garbage Pail Kids, a group of ugly fucking alien children that have meteors for heads, severe social issues, and one or two physical maladies. Oh yeah, and one of them is an alligator.
Once they’ve been freed, the Garbage Pail Kids get into all sorts of mischief, including going to a biker bar and getting into a brawl, going to a movie theater and sexually harassing old women while they try and watch The Three Stooges, and maybe bite off a few toes. But the Garbage Pail Kids have hearts almost as large as their enormous goddamn heads and help Dodger with his relationship issue; the issue being that Tangerine doesn’t seem to like him at all and her current boyfriend is a sociopath. The Garbage Pail Kids know two things: how to be reprehensible, vile creatures and fashion, apparently. So they whip up a fly outfit for Dodger in order to impress Tangerine, which leads them to get into some sort of indentured servitude agreement with Dodger and Tangerine, whom plans to pass their fashion designs off as her own at a fashion show. Which is weird, because she was doing just fine with creating her own designs, so she probably didn’t need to go all Big Eyes on everyone. But, like her boyfriend, Juice, she’s a bit of a sociopath, so I guess that’s just what she thinks is the smart move.
While Dodger and Tangerine are off trying to make it big in the fashion world, Juice manages to wrangle the Garbage Pail Kids and sell them to a prison for ugly people, which is a plot point that comes up in the tail end of the second act, so this movie is really kitchen sinking it at this point. It’s up to Captain Manzini, Dodger, and some bikers to break the little abominations out of the ugly prison and get revenge on Juice and his thugs. Mostly by having one of the trash monsters vomit on them. Her name is Valerie Vomit and it’s the only time she actually vomits, so it’s all very cathartic. At the end, Dodger learns a lesson about not being shallow, which is hollow at best because the Garbage Pail Kids are reprehensible for more reasons than the fact that they’re ugly. But at least he essentially tells Tangerine to go fuck herself. That’s always nice.
This is an ugly movie through and through. It doesn’t look good, the Garbage Pail Kids are poorly designed and are barely functional puppets. Aside from that, it’s all just gross in a way that doesn’t seem to satisfy anyone.
The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, the only movie to ever be produced by Topps Trading Cards, is gross. Not in a way that makes you violently ill, though, you might feel that way, but just in an unsettling way. Aside from that, the plot doesn’t make any sense. Why are we spending so much time watching these monsters sew clothes for the purposes of a fashion show? Why is this even a plot point in the movie? Wouldn’t it have been easier to rip off Gremlins? If you’re a kid from the 80s, I guess you might get some nostalgia for this movie, but you’re probably just going to come away with a feeling of unpleasantness.