Roberts: Former Child Star”
Directed by Sam Weisman
Written by Fred Wolf and David Spade
Produced by Adam Sandler and Jack Giarraputo
Starring David Spade, Mary McCormack, Jon Lovitz, Craig
Bierko, Alyssa Milano and Rob Reiner
“Dickie Roberts: Former
Child Star” starts with a somewhat amusing sequence and ends
with a somewhat clever end-credit sequence. Everything in between
misses the opportunity for Hollywood satire and fails to examine
the public’s perception of child stars. It’s one clumsy,
poorly conceived slapstick sequence after another, punctuated with
moments of overdone sentimentality.
David Spade looks like he's masturbating here, he is pleasuring
neither himself nor the audience in his latest vehicle, "Dickie
Roberts: Former Child Star."
Spade, who rarely seems to make films with people who have senses
of humor, plays the title character, who pays a family to treat
him like a child. Rob Reiner, playing himself, might give Dickie
a role if he can learn a little something about life and understand
the point of a film that starts shooting soon.
film opens with a short imitation of an “E! True Hollywood
Story” clip in which a kid who looks a bit too much like Macaulay
Culkin is shown in snapshots with his cruel, moneyhungry mother
and no father. After the network canceled Dickie’s show, his
mom left him and he became a compulsive glove-wearer.
first sign that the screenwriters neglected their duties to comedy
is his signature line, “That’s nucking futs.”
Once several people see Dickie and say the line to him, it’s
clear that it’s no “What you talkin’ ’bout,
Willis?” Besides the obvious point that no network in the
’70s would allow that catchphrase, no one in the film seems
to really believe that Dickie said it. It’s not so ridiculous
that it’s funny, it’s just stupid.
we see him in a predictable celebrity-boxing match with Emmanuel
Lewis from “Webster” and realize that the film has no
juice behind it. Watching an unlikely celebrity beat up a film’s
hero is a tired task that’s been overused in recent years.
Maybe it would have worked better if Dickie for some reason became
too angry at Lewis and beat him silly, earning a reputation as a
the movie just becomes stupider and stupider. Cameos, which exhibit
the desperation of many child stars, weigh down the paper-thin story.
the introduction is an homage to the “News on the March”
sequence in “Citizen Kane,” a poker game with Dickie,
Leif Garrett, Corey Feldman, Dustin Diamond and many other child
stars resembles the “waxworks” bridge game in “Sunset
Boulevard.” But perhaps I’m giving the filmmakers a
bit too much credit, as anyone who has seen a Billy Wilder film
would likely have a better sense of comedy.
longest—and weakest—part of the film comes when Reiner
tells Dickie that he can’t play the part because he isn’t
wise to the ways of the world. He decides to sell his memoirs and
use the money to pay a family to replace his lost youth. The rarely
seen father (Craig Bierko) makes arrangements for Dickie to stay,
but doesn’t mention it to his wife (Mary McCormack), who happens
to be pretty enough to be Dickie’s romantic interest.
the house looks nice from the outside, the son and daughter—and
now Dickie—sleep in the same room, an accommodation few parents
would allow for $20,000.
Dickie becomes a father figure to the kids while he learns what
it’s like to be loved.
if the writers, Spade and Fred Wolf, spent more time thinking about
what makes the child-star phenomenon interesting, they could have
made a film with a consistent tone. Instead, the film shifts from
cruelly making fun of its characters to saccharine scenes in which
Dickie bonds with the kids and discovers the meaning of life and
film’s studio, Paramount, is releasing “The School of
Rock” in a month. That film proves that a balance can indeed
be found in a mildly crude comedy with child actors. All “Dickie
Roberts” proves is that a concept doesn’t make the movie.