Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star

Why are Saturday Night Live Alumni in such a hurry to quit the show? Every year, the show loses skit actors who are “headed to Hollywood” to become a movie star. Eddie Murphy pulled it off. Chevy Chase pulled it off. A few others pulled it off. Most others didn’t. I don’t need to name them all; for every Wayne’s World there was a Wayne’s World 2. For every Blues Brothers, there was a Blues Brothers 2000. And for every Coneheads, A Night at the Roxbury, The Ladies Man, Superstar and It’s Pat, there were no positive counterparts of equal value.

David Spade, eternally doomed to “buddy comedy hell”, stars in Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. After the surprise success of Tommy Boy, Spade seemed perfect content to continue partnering with Chris Farley and remaking that film (which they did in Black Sheep). Due to Farley’s passing, Spade has been forced to get his material elsewhere. DR:FCS is equal parts Joe Dirt (Spade’s last film) and Billy Madison (starring Adam Sandler, another ex-SNL actor whose humor seems to fade the further from the show he gets). If you’ve seen those two films, take out most of the laughs and add a dozen or two cameos from former child stars, and you’ve got Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star.

Presented in an “E! True Hollywood Stories” format, the movie presents the life of Dickie Roberts. Roberts was a famous child actor who starred in a sitcom for six years. Roberts’ father left when he was very a child (a loose end which is never tied up), followed by his mother when his show got cancelled. Roberts wants to become famous again, to regain the love of his mother. His best bet at succeeding is starring in the latest Rob Reiner film. In a meeting with the director, Reiner tells Roberts that since he never had a real childhood, he won’t have any emotions to draw upon while acting. Filming is delayed for a month, and Roberts decides the best way he could prepare for the role is to hire a normal family, move in with them, and have them treat him like a child so he can finally have a normal childhood.

The rest of the film revolves around your run of the mill “fish out of water” jokes — either Roberts is acting goofy because he’s never been a kid, or the family (particularly the kids) get a laugh because Roberts taught them something unbelievably funny like saying “shizznit” over and over. Wow. Of course Roberts’ foster family has fallen on tough financial times, and can’t afford to throw Roberts out.

Despite the occasional laughs the film brings out (the Celebrity Boxing moment had me laughing outloud), the plot lacks any character development whatsoever. We see Roberts girlfriend Cyndi (portrayed by Alyssa Milano) treating Dickie like crap and him taking her back, but it’s never explained why. Several other characters’ motivations and reasonings are never explained or played out, particularly the family’s father who seems like a nice guy until we see he’s got a real mean streak. He alludes to several things that never materialize, things that most likely ended up on the cutting room floor.

Unfortunately, David Spade and writer/friend Fred Wolf felt a need to be more than funny, and tried for sappy. The whole thing ends up in a Wizard of Oz “there’s no place like home” moment that makes no sense and destroys the character Spade spends 90 minutes trying to somewhat flesh out. The day a childhood actor gives up his chance for a comeback will be the same day a three-minute SNL skit turned into a movie actually works. Which is to say, never.

For a completely nothing movie, the DVD is packed with special features, including two commentary tracks and several interviews and several featurettes. Fans of special features will be pleased with this release, as long as they don’t care about the movie they’re attached to.

I laughed at the gags in the opening and closing credits, but struggled to watch the rest in the middle. Worth a rental only to fans of David Spade and real former child stars, of which several appear in bit parts.

PS: The tagline to this movie is, “50 million people used to watch him on TV. Now he washes their cars.”. In the film, Dickie Roberts is a parking valet.

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