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IN SHORT: Welcome to Comedy Movie Hell. A land devoid of humor whose jokes are a mere tease of what might have been funny. [Rated PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor, language and drug references. . 99 minutes]
There are three jokes in Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star, two of which are in the television commercial. The one which isn't involves a pet and is the funniest of the lot.
There is one story idea, well telegraphed in the title "Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star" and that is of a grown up loser -- former child star Dickie Roberts (David Spade) -- who wants to be a star again. Yeah, he and all the other former child stars -- Danny Bonaduce (formerly Danny Partridge), Dustin Diamond (Skreech of "Saved by the Bell"), Barry Williams (Greg Brady), Corey Feldman (a couple of bad movies made far after we had any interest), and Seventeen Magazine popfave singer Leif Garrett -- who spend Thursday nights playing poker in the land of faded glory would like another taste. Dickie so desperately wants another shot at fame that he fails to ask pals "Partridge" and "Brady" about the most painful aspects of Celebrity Boxing before he signs on the dotted line for one brilliant battle with another child star, Emmanuel Lewis (aka Webster, now sporting gangsta tattoos). You can probably figure out what comes next, if you remember anything about who Lewis was.
Is there enough nostalgia value in these names to get the now parental age ex-fans to lug their kids, who may know the names from cable channel reruns, to the theater? Maybe, since family friendly activities are few and far between these days. Is there any entertainment value in a story so ludicrous and thin that only Adam Sandler's name on it as producer could get it through the minefield of product management decisions? Very little.
We'll digress: Once upon a time, Gary Coleman worked as a security guard, after his parents stole all his money. Change that true story a bit and you have Dickie Roberts, valet car parker at a chi-chi Hollywood nite spot. That's enough to get the party started. Dickie desperately wants an audition for the new Rob Reiner film, something which his inept manager Sidney Wernick (Jon Lovitz) can't manage. How Sid puts it all together is about half a joke and were it in anyone but Jon Lovitz' hands it probably wouldn't work and we'd spill it. But it is and it does and Reiner breaks the news to Dickie that, because he's never had a normal childhood, he has no background to play the role in the movie.
When we finally learn the story of that movie, it turns out that childhood experiences have nothing to do with it. Just as with everything else in this stapled together story, it's a gimmick to get us to the next incredibly painful scene that we must sit through.
Needing that "normal" experience, Dickie sells his life story and uses the proceeds to pay a "normal" family twenty grand to give him the opportunity to live the life that was lost to him. It's a Norman Rockwell perfect family -- blonde haired blue eyed mom (Mary McCormack as Grace Finney). Blonde haired blue eyed kidlets Jenna Boyd (as Sally) and Scott Terra (as Sam) and car salesman dad with a roving eye (Craig Bierko as George Finney) -- and Dickie will teach them as much about the true meaning of being a family... yeah, get real... as he learns what it means to be a kid.
No, he doesn't. But when you have almost no idea of how to make a suburban family funny, something that's been done on the small screen for decades, and can't structure that lack of comedy into anything more than a story line that's two sentences long all that's left is about 90 contractual minutes that needs to be filled. We're allowing nine for the three jokes and some end credits but we're being kind.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star, he would have paid . . .
David Spade built a career on Saturday Night Live playing characters that were, to a tee, totally annoying. Nothing has changed and almost nothing in this waste of time is funny.
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