It's the weekend and Stanley Stupid (Tom Arnold) is looking forward to spending some quality time with his family, but then he realises his wife Joan (Jessica Lundy) has accidentally put the garbage out and on investigation he discovers someone has stolen it from right outside their house. Incensed, he decides there and then to put a stop to these garbage thieves and so he stages an all-night stakeout with one can on the grass verge, though he unfortunately falls asleep as he does so. However, he is awoken by the sound of a truck and a man emerges who throws the rubbish into the back of it, then drives off - there’s only one thing Stanley can do, chase after the vehicle on rollerblades...
The Stupids was based on a successful series of similarly named children's books whose premise you can pretty much guess, a family of idiots getting up to various adventures. Alas, when the film was released it was horribly panned by critics and audience alike, those that bothered to attend screenings that was as it was a complete flop, and has since gone on to be regarded as one of the worst comedies of all time. Ah, but not by everyone, because it did amass a small but loyal cult who embraced it and were not outraged that it was precisely as stupid as it claimed to be as so many of those offended by it were. It couldn't have been more blatant about the content if it tried: this was truly daft.
But director John Landis and his team found a rich seam to mine purely for that reason, for being as moronic as possible didn't necessarily indicate you were going to be meanspirited about your humour, this showed throwing any idea, no matter how foolish, at your movie can land a few hits, as was the case here. It might not have been quite as hilarious as its followers believed, but there was something liberating about watching something so gleefully, innocently ludicrous, and not simply thanks to a plot that saw the Stupid family turning their lack of common sense into a mission with which to approach the world in their very own manner. What made it funnier was that they would drag that world down with them.
Or were they elevating the world to their level, since there was nothing nasty about them whatsoever, and that wonder at what met them every day, every minute, with an almost childlike lack of guile (or in the children's case, an exactly childlike lack of guile). They were not impaired by their poor understanding of how society and their environment worked, they were set free by the possibilities that were brought by such thoughts that the police can kidnap your children, a single bee can prove a worthy adversary in a fight to the death, or in one extended sequence Christopher Lee is an evil mastermind called Sender who letters are returned to whereupon he burns them and plots to steal the planet's garbage as a global domination exercise. It was indicative of the premise that though that part was revealed to be Stanley's ramblings, it was good enough for its own movie.
The Stupids happened along in Landis' career when he was increasingly suffering a downturn in his creative fortunes, and though he absolutely got what was funny about this material, not enough audiences did, dismissing it for being what it was, which was stupid. But as a wise man once said, it’s a fine line between stupid and clever, and with a host of throwaway gags ranging from a visit to a Chinese restaurant simply for a pun on cashew chicken, or a mix up with a television chat show cue card reading "Give it to the fat guy!", actually this was a comedy almost totally consisting of throwaway jokes seemingly thought up on the spur of the moment but spending a lot of time setting them up for the screen. That this had the family owners of stop motion animated cat and dog was as important as the anti-war message that weirdly sneaked in, it was consistently goodnatured and goofy and just as stupid that someone would have spent all that effort bringing it to the screen, which rendered it oddly admirable. Music by Christopher L. Stone, who didn’t write I'm My Own Grandpa which Arnold gamely sings.