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Dickie Roberts - Former Child Star  Print E-mail
DVD Comedy
Written by Paul Lingas   
Tuesday, 17 February 2004



title:
Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star


studio:
Paramount Home Entertainment
MPAA rating: PG-13
starring: David Spade, Mary McCormack, Jon Lovitz, Craig Bierko, Alyssa Milano, Rob Reiner
release year: 2003
film rating: One-and-a-Half Stars
sound/picture: Two-and-a-Half Stars
reviewed by: Paul Lingas

A mildly amusing and but oddly lackluster look at what it might be like to be a former child star, “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” suffers from too many dull moments and too much exposition to really succeed. Seeking to capitalize on the many former child actors who get in trouble, such as the “Brady Bunch” gang and others, “Dickie Roberts” seeks to poke fun not only at the actors themselves, but also the amount of attention or lack thereof that is paid to them in the media. It also pokes fun at the media itself for denying these former stars any sort of hope to rekindle their careers.


Dickie Roberts (David Spade) is a former child star from an exceedingly popular show trying to resurrect his career. Dickie works as a valet and is trying to get himself noticed again, but he has endured many failed attempts at regaining notoriety, most recently during a celebrity boxing gig that doesn’t turn out as he would have hoped. After running into buddy Leif Garrett, Dickie is told that Rob Reiner is set to direct a new film that everyone thinks is a big deal. Dickie sees this as his chance to get back into the limelight, but he has enough of an adventure just trying to get in to see Reiner. Dickie’s well-meaning but ineffective agent Sidney (Jon Lovitz) is no help and indeed often a hindrance. Eventually, thanks to the help of Brendan Fraser, whom Dickie tracks down at a Lamaze class, Dickie is able to meet with Reiner, who essentially tells Dickie that because he never had a real childhood, he wouldn’t be equipped for the role in the upcoming film.

Dickie therefore sets out to hire a family to take him in and treat him like a child for a month, figuring this is the only way to understand the complexity of the role and also hoping to at last know some sort of childhood normalcy. After a short search, Dickie is discovered by George Finney (Craig Bierko) who is a big fan and who sees the venture as a money-making scheme for his car dealership. Meanwhile, George’s Grace (Mary McCormack) and kids have to deal with Dickie. What ensues is a generic story where Dickie is taught about some of the joys of “normal” childhood life, such as the“Slip-N-Slide,” learning how to ride a bike, hanging out in a tree house and dealing with school bullies. In turn, Dickie of course teaches the family about how to relax. The kids and Grace distrust Dickie initially but warm up to him in the end, eventually making everyone proud of everyone else. In short, there is nothing coming in this movie that you can’t see in advance. To top it all off, while I won’t give away the ending (which you can figure out anyway), George runs off with Dickie’s formal girlfriend (Alyssa Milano).

The kids played by Jenna Boyd and Scott Terra, along with Mary McCormack’s endearing and grounding performance, are the best part of the film. Both Boyd and Terra work well and have the appropriate level of cuteness, while McCormack allows everything to play off of her in a realistic way, also adding a touch of beauty and class to an otherwise poorly-made film. Spade’s routine has its funny moments, but these are far too intermittent.

Aside from some humorous situations, this movie is just not funny or interesting enough to really stand out in any way. The premise of what happens to child actors is amusing in and of itself, but the amount of exposition that has to be included here to get things rolling is frustrating and takes away from the humor. When viewing the deleted scenes, the only thing that comes to mind is “thank goodness,” because they are not funny, are often awkward and would only have served to make the film longer. At least the filmmakers were smart enough to cut them out. Even both writers and the director, in their respective audio commentaries, seem unenthused about the film and lament the amount of exposition that is included. In fact, in the “True Hollywood Story” portion of the special features, the producers relate that the test audiences got impatient that it takes the film so long to get Dickie with the family, something that was played up heavily in the trailers. It is difficult to disagree with this assessment of the film.

Many of the other special features are the type that are made for television shows and include too many clips from the movie and not enough behind the scenes footage or interviews. The Reel Comedy portion is taken directly from Comedy Central and there is a fair amount of overlap between the small featurettes. Another extra feature is the “Child Stars on Your Television” music video, which takes many former child actors and has them sing a song about their lives. It is interesting to see all of these people together and some of the lyrics are amusing, but the video is included within the end credits of the movie itself and doesn’t really add very much as a special feature. As has already been noted, neither of the audio commentaries is very interesting, informative or funny. One would expect an audio commentary for a comedy to be at least mildly amusing, especially one including David Spade, but no. Oh well.

This is a fairly dirty transfer for such a recent film, the occasional visible chunk of dirt popping up roughly every five minutes or so, but it sounds fine. Again, there is nothing particularly egregious with the way the film looks or sounds, but nothing exciting, either. It is a very ho-hum movie with a very ho-hum transfer and a collection of ho-hum extra features. Suffice to say that David Spade really misses having Chris Farley around.


more details
sound format:
English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
aspect ratio(s):
2.35:1 Enhanced 16x9 for Widescreen TVs
special features: Commentary by Director Sam Weisman, Actor David Spade and Writer Fred Wolf; The True Hollywood Story; Pencil Dickie: Writing the Story; Behind “Child Stars on Your Television; Reel Comedy: Dickie Roberts; “Child Stars on Your Television” Extended Music Video; Deleted Scenes; Theatrical Trailer
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reference system
DVD player: Panasonic DVD-XP50
receiver: Denon AVR-3802
main speakers: Polk RT 600i
center speaker: Polk CS 400i
rear speakers: Polk S4
monitor: 43” Sony KP-43HT20







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