The cards were a parody of the popular Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and each card featured a character that typically had a gross habit, abnormality, or suffered a terrible fate. The film depicted many of the Garbage Pail Kids (played by dwarf actors in costumes) interacting with society and befriending a regular boy.
The film was universally panned and is widely considered to be one of the worst films ever made. It was a box office bomb, earning only $1.6 million on a $1 million budget.
A garbage can spaceship is seen flying near Earth. The same garbage can is then shown inside an antique shop owned by Captain Manzini. A boy named Dodger is being assaulted by four older teenage bullies in a park. Juice, the leader, steals Dodger's money and drops him in a puddle. Dodger goes to Manzini's antique shop where he works. Manzini takes Dodger's clothes and cleans them while warning him to stay away from the garbage can. Later, Dodger sees Tangerine, Juice's girlfriend, who seems to be the most compassionate one towards Dodger, and tries to persuade her to buy something. Dodger is attracted to Tangerine and covertly smells her hair while she is distracted. The other bullies enter the shop and attempt to rough up Dodger again, but he manages to outwit them. However, amidst the tussle, the garbage can is knocked over. The bullies then bring Dodger into a sewer, handcuff him to a rail, and open a sewage pipe on him. Dodger is saved by little mysterious people named the Garbage Pail Kids.
Manzini returns and is upset that the Garbage Pail Kids have been released from their can, but introduces Dodger to each of them: Greaser Greg is a leather jacket-clad greaser with a violent attitude; Messy Tessie is a girl with a constantly runny nose; Windy Winston is an insane boy who wears a Hawaiian shirt and often farts violently; Valerie Vomit is a girl who throws up on command; Foul Phil is a whining hungry baby with halitosis who constantly asks characters if they are his "mommy" or "daddy"; Nat Nerd is an obese acne-riddled boy who poorly dresses up like a superhero and wets his pants frequently; and Ali Gator, the group's natural leader, is an anthropomorphic half person/half alligator who has an appetite for human toes. Manzini explains that the kids are forbidden from going in public, because they'll be attacked by the "normies" (normal people), and that he can't get the kids to go back into the garbage can without magic.
The next day, Dodger goes with Tangerine to a night club where she sells clothes she designed herself. Dodger behaves awkwardly when Tangerine removes her shirt to sell it. Dodger then hides when Juice shows up. Meanwhile, the Kids then steal a Pepsi truck, flatten Juice's car with it, and then have a camp fire in an alley with stolen food. The next morning, the Garbage Pail Kids recover from hangovers and give Dodger a jacket they sewed. The jacket impresses Tangerine who asks Dodger to get more clothes so she can sell them. The Kids make more clothes for Dodger after stealing a sewing machine and singing a song about working together but then get bored and decide to wear disguises to go out in public. Valerie, Phil, Greg, Nat and Tessie go to a theater playing Three Stooges shorts and behave obnoxiously. Ali and Winston go to a bar where they start a fight with bikers, who are soon won over by the Kids' heroics, in which they celebrate with beers. Tangerine sells the clothes and begins to prepare for a fashion show based on them. She meets the Kids and is repulsed by them, but realizes she can take advantage of their designs.
The night of the fashion show, Tangerine locks the Kids in the basement of the antique shop so that they don't escape, and soon, they are captured by Juice and his gang who bring them to the State Home for the Ugly, a prison where people too ugly for society are brought and executed. People there include the "too fat" Santa Claus, the "too bald" Gandhi, and the "too skinny" Abraham Lincoln. Manzini and Dodger help them escape and head to the fashion show. The Garbage Pail Kids trash the fashion show and rip the clothes off the models, while Dodger gets in a fight with Juice. Juice and his gang are later arrested and it is implied that they may now finally be locked away in prison for a good while. Later that night, Tangerine apologizes to Dodger and asks to be his friend, but Dodger doesn't accept her apology for her greed. Captain tries to sing the Garbage Pail Kids' song backwards to coax them back into the garbage can, but the Kids sneak out and ride stolen ATVs away to cause more havoc.Anthony Newley as Captain Manzini
Mackenzie Astin as Dodger
Katie Barberi as Tangerine
Ron MacLachlan as Juice
J.P. Amateau, the director's son, as Wally
Marjory Graue as Blythe
John Herman Shaner as Police officer
Patty Lloyd as Foster mother
John Cade as Bartender
The Garbage Pail Kids
Phil Fondacaro as Greaser Greg
Jim Cummings as Greaser Greg's voice
Debbie Lee Carrington as Valerie Vomit
Kevin Thompson as Ali Gator
Robert Bell as Foul Phil
Chloe Amateau, the director's daughter, as Foul Phil's voice
Larry Green as Nat Nerd
Jim Cummings as Nat Nerd's voice
Arturo Gil as Windy Winston
Sue Rossitto as Messy Tessie
Teri Benaron as Messy Tessie's voice
The Garbage Pail Kids Movie was universally panned by film critics. Juan Carlos Coto, writing for the News/Sun-Sentinel called the movie, "one of the worst ever made".
The film holds a 0% rating and an average score of 1.9/10 on Rotten Tomatoes, receiving no positive reviews from the site's critics. Critics disliked the film's rude humor, acting, puppetry, inappropriate moments, the creepy appearance of the Garbage Pail Kids, and nonsensical plot.
Caryn James of The New York Times called the film "too repulsive for children or adults of any age".
The film was also a box office bomb grossing $1,576,615.
Jim Cummings, who provided the voice of Greaser Greg and Nat Nerd, admits regretting ever taking a part in this movie. After seeing the final product, Cummings went out of his way to join the protest against the film's theatrical release.
In the Family Guy episode "Brian's Got a Brand New Bag" (season 8, episode 4), Mayor Adam West happily acquires a copy of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie from a video store closeout sale.
In 2012, it was reported that Michael Eisner's Tornante Company had plans to finance and produce the development of a feature film based on Garbage Pail Kids. On July 18, 2013, it was reported that the film was cancelled.