Upstart Irritants: The 10 Most Annoying Child Performances

May 24, 2011 by  
Filed under - Home, Features

fred300Maybe it is because they are, or once were, successful. Maybe it is because they are annoying in the same way as the sibling who just gets under your skin like no other human being is capable of. Maybe it is because they are, well just plain irritating, grating and uncomfortable to watch, the fuel that gives rise to all sorts of feelings of murderous malcontent.

Or maybe it is jealousy. It’s probably all of these things, but there are some child actors who just right royally get on our nerves, particular roles of theirs seared into our collective memory with little hope of banishing them from our recollection, no matter how much we might want to be shot of them.

Greg Heffley certainly knows what it’s like to be tormented by an older brother in Diary Of A Wimpy Kid 2..

1. Lucas Cruikshank – Fred Figglehorn (Fred: The Movie, 2009)

Proving that the internet can be used for bad, bad, very bad things, this loathsome performance began as an online skit that nabbed a million viewers and begat a slew of Fred-themed offerings culminating in this movie. Fred himself is a squeaking and squawking teen, obsessed with himself, constantly looking into the camera so as to personally annoy you!, and possessing the sort of voice that makes you want to turn back time and remove him from existence. A voice so shrill it sounds like a hyena being strangled and fed through a blender, simultaneously, and then played backwards. If you combined Alvin, Simon and Theodore’s voices, once the epitome of high-pitched vulgarity, into one mega-watted sound of evil, it would shit itself if it ever encountered Fred Figglehorn.

Where are they now?
Working on Fred the sequel. You have been warned.

2. Macaulay Culkin – Kevin McAllister (Home Alone, 1990)

In 1990 Macaulay Culkin was the coolest kid on the block, for some – the put upon younger brother, ignored by his parents, forgotten about come Christmas holiday time, who’s left to fend for himself against Daniel Stern’s friz-haired and Joe Pesci’s gold-toothed burglars. Yet for others though, he was deserving of everything that came his way, his irritating disregard for his parents and family, his self-absorbed antics, and not least his unquantifiable obnoxiousness. You really just wanted the basement boiler to stop messing about and swallow the little critter for good. Or have him open a door and get smacked in the face by an anvil. Or….

Where are they now?
A nine-year absence followed 1994’s Richie Rich, 2003’s Party Monster return, about a drug-riddled NY club kid, turned heads.

3. Jonathan Lipnicki – Ray Boyd (Jerry Maguire, 1996

Truth be told Lipnicki’s not really at fault for his unfettered annoyingness as Ray Boyd, Renee Zelwegger’s ‘cuter than cute’ son in Cameron Crowe’s Oscar winning drama. He can’t help looking like a human equivalent of those annoying ‘I love you’ bears you find in greetings card stores. And Crowe revels in dialling his cutesiness up to eleven and beyond by having him yawn, look tired, cling to Tom Cruise’s leg and smile when people say and do nice things to each other around him. Yet he is annoying, even in a film that features Cuba Gooding Jr and Tom Cruise arguing over who can say ‘show me the money’ in the loudest and most irritating manner. Even with this calibre of competition Lipnicki excels.

Where are they now?
Did cute some more in Stuart Little 1 & 2 and The Little Vampire before TV roles came a-calling.


4. Mara Wilson – Matilda Wormwood (Matilda, 1996)

Roald Dahl’s story made it to the big screen with most of its grotesque and squirmly charm intact (and most of this was supplied by Danny DeVito just being Danny DeVito). It also threw into this page-to-screen mix an extra level of oddness though, one that had not been included in Dahl’s novel – Mara Wilson. While we don’t like to be rude about young actors, without reason – we feel fully justified in this case. With the sort of round cherub-like face and cheeky-child grin you’d quite like to see snaffed up by a pack of snozzcumber-deprived evil giants, Wilson’s Matilda managed to make the heroine of the piece a figure of torment – for the viewer! If only she could have been replaced with a Roger Rabbit-esque animated Quentin Blake creation.

Where are they now?
Ms Wilson made a handful of other feature film appearances, casting directors trading on her wholesome visage, before calling it a day in 2000 after the Alec Baldwin-led (?!) Thomas And The Magic Railroad.

5. Michael Oliver – Junior (Problem Child, 1990)

Terrorizing a generation of wannabe adults from having or adopting kids, this ginger nightmare is evil, pure, distilled evil straight from the fiery furnaces of hell. Loathsome to the point of insanity, the little tearaway manages to have not one redeeming feature about him, and illicits only one response from the audience – that he is deserving of a fatal-throttle. Apart from inducing murderous-inclinations in short-tempered adults though, he also suggested to kids that pranks on adults are a legitimate hobby and to Hollywood execs that a sequel and TV spin off were a good idea. He also might be responsible for sending the legendary John Ritter to his early grave, maybe.

Where are they now?
Universal levelled at lawsuit at Oliver’s manager/mother for extortion following the film’s success. Michael moved on from acting in 1995.

6. Jake Lloyd – Anakin Skywalker (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, 1999)

Poor Jake Lloyd, it must have seemed like a good idea at the time. A young nine-year old actor, offered a part in then one of the most anticipated films of all time, a prequel to the most famous movie franchise of all time… yet he ended up being hated just as much, if not more, as CG-nightmare sidekick Jar Jar Binks. So where did it all go wrong? Was it the bowl head haircut? The fact that he encompasses everything that Americans think looks wholesome and healthy but which the rest of the world view as American and sickly? Was it shrieking ‘yipee’ like some 50s advertisement for ‘candy’? Was it the fact that it was impossible to imagine that this little brat turns in to Darth Vader? It was all of these things.

Where are they now?
Lloyd voiced Annie in a success of Star Wars video games but hasn’t been seen other than on the convention circuit since 2001.

7. Dakota Fanning – Rachel Ferrier (War of the Worlds, 2005)

Plaudits have to go to Ms Fanning for she is a fine actress, that much is evident by her impressive turns in a number of films and television series, her CV listing over forty credits before her eighteenth birthday. In Spielberg’s rejig of HG Wells classic tale, which uprooted the action from leafy Surrey to New Jersey, USA and pitched Tom Cruise into the mix as an absent father (Stevie – get a new theme!), Fanning plays the younger daughter of the piece. A cut above other actors of her age, Fanning’s irritation-factor comes from the fact that she is unable to appear, well, to appear like someone who is her own age. Old before their time is a common occupational hazard amongst child stars, as is the drug-addled fall out a-la the two Coreys. But Fanning goes a step further and appears more like a wise elder inhabiting Rachel’s body like Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap.

Where are they now?
Recurring role in Twilght mega-franchise. Recent turn as Cherie Curie in The Runaways cemented ‘growing up’ Dakota.

8. Mark Lester – Oliver (Oliver, 1968)

Lester took the respectable option and quit the acting gig by the time he was nineteen, opting to go and study to become an osteopath at the British School of Osteopathy. Maybe it was in an attempt to get away from the squeaky clean Oliver that made him a star at the age of ten. A kid on the streets of Victorian London, Lester’s Oliver had obviously let the tough times get to him, and to his voice in particular – high pitched does not describe the sound that shrieks forth from the young orphan’s mouth. Sure, he had a tough lot, being forced to sing for his grub and all, but he does make you want to side with evil Fagin and the other street rats and throw food into his holier than though little face. While singing.

Where are they now?
Osteopathing.

9. Haley Joel Osment –Trevor McKinney (Pay It Forward, 2000)

It was M Night Shyamalan’s decision to cast the young Osment as the ghost-spotting young fella in The Sixth Sense that sent him stratospheric (and ruined his then nascent career, some might argue). Seeing dead people was an impressive performance for someone who was only just getting used to having a double-figured age, it is his follow up though, the sickly drama Pay It Forward, which has earned him a place on this list as the pretentious, goggle-eyed teen Trevor who has the hitherto never-before-conceived idea of… being nice to other people. Wow, where did that come from? If only we’d thought of that before – no wars, no fighting, no upset people ever! Genius.

Where are they now?
Spielberg-Kubrick amalgamation A.I.: Artificial Intelligence followed, as did DUI charges. Now TV and straight-to-DVD mostly.

10. Frankie and George McLaren – Marcus and Jason (Hereafter, 2010)

Twins means double trouble, just ask Van Damme, or DeVito and Schwarzenegger for that matter. But in this case, twins mean twice the annoyance. George and Frankie McLaren nabbed a pretty big gig with which to make their feature film debut – none other than Clint Eastwood’s fantasy drama Hereafter. So how did they return the favour? By looking gormless, emotionless and failing to look at all bothered by the fact that – SPOILER ALERT – one of the twins dies leaving the other, with only a drug-addict mum for company, to fend for himself. Oscar-worthy thesping prowess can’t be expected of young actors at such an early age, of course, yet the ability to look and sound human is, and it is something the McLarens lack. Sorry.

Where are they now?
With an empty looking imdb page for the time being.

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