Last Friday. At the Castro. A triple-bill of movies about kids. Kids doing bad things.
THE BAD NEWS BEARS (1976): Man, there's really some wisdom in this very adult movie that just happens to star kids. It's way more than just a "buncha Jews, spics, niggers, pansies, and a booger-eatin' moron!" It's about a big "Fuck you!" to polite society. It's about challenging authority--not just Walter Matthau's Coach Buttermaker saying "Fuck you!" to the league authorities, but the kids saying "Fuck you!" to Buttermaker,...and to the other kids,...and to each other. But it's also about who your friends are. It's about sticking up for a booger-eating moron because dammit, he's your booger-eating moron. And ultimately, it's about that moment when you finally get a grudging but sincere token of respect from polite society...and you tell them to stick it up their ass. There's a lot of fuckin' wisdom in this fuckin' movie.
GUMMO (1997): Harmony Korine's bizarre and disturbing homage to his own middle America upbringing is the only film of the night I had actually seen before. Still don't know what to make of it. Killing cats, selling their corpses and spending the money on glue to sniff. A kid walking around with bunny ears (look! a Bunny Boy!) A midget. Tons more horribly dysfunctional people. And a kid eating spaghetti in a filthy bathtub while his mother washes his hair. Of all of it, that was the scene that creeped me out the most.
I believe--from interviews and anecdotes I've heard--that Harmony Korine has true affection for these characters and isn't making a movie to mock or exploit these people. I want to believe the movie accomplished that, too. I'm just not sure it was successful. If it is, it's the modern equivalent of FREAKS, which is one of my favorite movies ever.
THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE (1987): And finally, a movie I've been curious to see for a while. I wasn't all that into the Garbage Pail Kids cards when I was a kid (I was more of a Madballs kid, which came out a couple of years later.) But back in 2008 I happened to see a movie called CAN HEIRONYMOUS MERKIN EVER FORGET MERCY HUMPPE AND FIND TRUE HAPPINESS? and I learned about Anthony Newley, who was a big star and basically destroyed his marriage and career by making a mockingly semi-autobiographical movie. One of the trailers they showed before the movie--to showcase what became of his later career--was THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS MOVIE. So our host Jesse Hawthorne Ficks was a bit surprised when so many people showed up for a midnight screening of the movie without ever having seen it before. He was puzzled why anyone would show up. I don't know about anyone else's reason, but for me it was morbid curiosity about Anthony Newley. Newley plays Captain Manzini, the genial and eccentric owner of an antique and curiosity shop. He actually does his best to class up the movie, being the mentor to young Dodger (Mackenzie Austin), who has a crush on Tangerine (Katie Barberi) which gets him into frequent trouble with the gang she rolls with. Some of that trouble results in a magic garbage can in Manzini's shop tipping over, green goo oozing out, and the Garbage Pail Kids appearing. Or, at least, Greaser Greg, Messy Tessie, Windy Winston (recurring fart joke), Valerie Vomit, Ali Gator, Foul Phil, and Nat Nerd (apparently pissing yourself is a common nerd trait according to the filmmakers.) They decide to "help" Dodger. And somehow we learn that the other Garbage Pail Kids were locked up in the Home For the Ugly (or something like that. Incidentally, Santa Claus is locked up there, too, for being too old.) So the plot changes to trying to rescue them, along with the new Garbage Pail Kids who get picked up by the ugly patrol. They rescue the new kids, but at some point they just mention they were too late for the other kids and they had already got trash compacted. I understand if they didn't have the budget to make the other kids, but they just sort of mention they were all killed and...nothing? And that...happened.
This movie fails in many ways. The plot is slapdash and full of bizarre holes. The kids are clunky puppets that aren't very expressive (the original plan was for them to be animated and interacting with live-action humans, like in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?, which came out the next year.) And the kids actually aren't gross enough. But the biggest failure is a failure on it's promise. There's a germ of a good (well, not horrible) idea here. There's a moral about beauty coming from within, and about sticking up for your friends (a theme of the night) and a nice closing line slamming the shallow, superficial beauty of Tangerine and her gang. But it's lost in the ineptitude of everything else. This would actually be a prime candidate for a remake (or to use the Hollywood jargon of the moment, a "reboot.") I can't imagine anybody would actually want to do that, but if someone tried to crowdfund that, I'd pitch in.
The next Midnites for Maniacs is coming up on Friday, June 7th. For Johnny Depp's 50th Birthday (Holy crap, no wonder he's hiding his face under tons of makeup these days!) We'll be treated to three of my favorite Johnny Depp movies--BENNY AND JOON, WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE, and John Waters' CRY-BABY (and since John Waters is known to hang around in the Castro, maybe someone can kidnap him and make him show up for it!)
Total Running Time: 291
My Total Minutes: 328,386