If you remember 1990 like me, it’s hard to explain just how popular Home Alone was. It was on the level of any big cartoon as every little boy wanted to be like Kevin, the protagonist of the movie. The moment where he puts on his father’s aftershave is one of the most popular scenes of the entire decade. To put in perspective just how huge the movie was, it was the number one live-action comedy in history for 21 years until The Hangover II took over the record in 2011.
Three of the top 10 box office films of 1990 were comedies, with Pretty Woman and Kindergarten Cop as the other two besides Home Alone. There were some other hits and good comedies in 1990 but they were few and far between. Sadly, it’s enough for me to label it one of the worst years for comedy in the 90s.
First, let’s look at some of the successful comedies aside from the biggest three. Look Who’s Talking Too, the sequel to Look Who’s Talking, did a decent job at the box office with $47.6 million. Romantic comedy Green Card, starring Andie McDowell and Gerard Dipardieu did decent numbers with $29.9 million. Before Sleepless in Seattle, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan had a moderate hit in Joe Versus the Volcano. Produced a relatively small budget, brothers Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez scored a small hit with Men at Work. Believe it or not, Ernest Goes to Jail was a hit, making $25 million. Postcards from the Edge, starring Meryl Streep and Shirley McLaine did solid, bringing in $39+ million. Other than Home Alone, the biggest surprise comedy of the year was Problem Child, which took in $72.2 million on a budget of $10 million.
While it did not do well at the box office, one forgotten gem from 1990 is The Freshman starring Matthew Broderick, Marlon Brando, and a Komodo dragon. It’s a wacky story that winds up working because of the two main actors. Pump up the Volume was a cool comedy starring Christian Slater as a pirate radio DJ, although it’s a bit more dramatic than most comedies are, it remains one of Slater’s better roles.
My Blue Heaven was one of the better comedies of 1990 despite a mediocre showing at the box office. It starred Steve Martin as Vinnie Antonelli, a mobster in the witness protection program being protected by an FBI agent played by Rick Moranis. Originally, Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to play Antonelli with Martin as the FBI agent but Schwarzenegger was offered the lead for Kindergarten Cop and left. Interesting fact: According to IMDB, the mobster in this film was “loosely” based on Henry Hill, the same mobster that Goodfellas was about.
Now on to the dark side of 1990 comedy. Remember Molly Ringwald of 80s teenage comedy fame? She starred with Alan Alda in a movie called Betsy’s Wedding that was a huge dud (she was nominated for Worst Actress Razzie as was Ally Sheedy for Worst Supporting Actress). Lucky for them, Bo Derek and Sofia Coppola were even worse.
It doesn’t get any better. The year was riddled with bad comedies that were box office disasters, many of which had big name stars. Cadillac Man starring Robin Williams and Tim Robbins merely did just enough to turn a profit as it was made for $15 million and earned $27.6 million. Long before Johnny Depp was singing in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, he was singing in Cry-Baby alongside Ricki Lake. Not many people seemed to care about it as it only brought in a little over $8 million on a budget of more than $12 million.