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PARAMOUNT

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Sam Weisman
Cast:
David Spade, Doris Roberts, Jon Lovitz, Alyssa Milano, Craig Bierko, Mary McCormack, Scott Terra, Jenna Boyd, Nicholas Schwerin, Fred Wolf
Writing Credits:
Fred Wolf, David Spade

Tagline:
50 million people used to watch him on TV. Now he washes their cars.

Synopsis:
In the 1970's, Dickie Roberts (David Spade) held the keys to success as a child star with a hit TV series. Now the only keys Dickie holds are the ones that start the customer's cars that he parks as a valet attendant for a Hollywood restaurant.

Desperate to revive his acting career, Dickie tries to audition for a role in Rob Reiner's new movie, but the director doesn't believe Dickie is normal enough to play the part. Determined to get his role, Dickie hires a "typical" family to give him the real-life upbringing he never had. But once Dickie moves in, the family's life becomes anything but normal, as Dickie unleashes his wild inner child ... and learns in the process some unforgettable lessons about fame, fortune and true family values.

Box Office:
Budget
$17 million.
Opening Weekend
$6.660 million on 2026 screens.
Domestic Gross
$22.734 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 2/17/2003

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Sam Weisman
• Audio Commentary with Writer/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
• Trailer
• Previews


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star: Special Edition (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 11, 2004)

In a year during which Bill Murray became one of the few Saturday Night Live alumni to earn an Oscar nomination for acting, most of the old SNL folks continued along the usual paths. Some succeeded, at least financially. Adam Sandler nailed another hit with Anger Management, while Will Ferrell scored a surprise blockbuster with Elf.

David Spade’s newest effort didn’t approach those levels. Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star made $22 million and didn’t receive very good critical notices. Personally, however, I thought it wasn’t a bad piece of work. While not one of the best comedies to come out of the SNL crew, Roberts offers enough entertainment to make it moderately enjoyable.

Roberts starts with a recap of Dickie’s story via a short version of the E! True Hollywood Story. We see how little Dickie (Nicholas Schwerin) hit it big as part of the Seventies sitcom The Glimmer Gang and his catch-phrase “That’s nucking futs!” However, when the show got cancelled, the young actor lost his way, and we learn of the odd behaviors of adult Dickie (Spade). These leave him in a desperate state to reclaim his prior glory; he even suffers the degradation of a beating from Emmanuel Lewis on a celebrity boxing program.

Matters get worse. On the way back from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, Dickie’s car breaks down, and his hottie girlfriend Cindy (Alyssa Milano) leaves him when she hitchhikes. When he makes it back to Hollywood, he hears of a new Rob Reiner project called Mr. Blake’s Backyard that he feels will make for an ideal comeback vehicle. Dickie badgers his agent Sidney Wernick (Jon Lovitz) to get him an audition, but eventually only a chance meeting with – and much pestering – of Brendan Fraser gets him an audition.

When Dickie meets with Reiner, the director tells him he thinks Dickie’s wrong for the role because he didn’t have enough normal life experience. To fix that, Dickie decides to rent a family for a month. He finds the Finneys, and the scheming car dealer father George (Craig Bierko) pursues the deal. He does this against the wishes of wife Grace (Mary McCormack) and kids Sam (Scott Terra) and Sally (Jenna Boyd), none of whom want the self-absorbed washed-up actor in their house.

Nonetheless, the supercilious Dickie gets to know the family. George remains MIA most of the time, so he learns from Grace and the kids. We find out that a bully picks on Sam, while Sally feels jealous of class hottie Heather Bolan (Ashley Edner). Slowly Dickie starts to bond with Grace and the kids. He learns about himself from them, and they start to develop different parts of their personalities as well. A few plot twists pop up along the way as we see how Dickie interacts with the family and pursues his showbiz comeback.

In no way does Roberts provide a very original piece of work. The high concept twist of presenting the character as a former child actor desperate for renewed popularity seems moderately clever, though even this gets explored in a fairly drab way. Dickie cares less about actual fame and more strongly wants to regain his mother’s love; she abandoned him after he lost the TV show.

Because of this, Roberts follows a pretty predictable path. Dickie starts off as dopey and obnoxious, but he gradually does a Pinocchio and becomes a real boy. Of course, most of the others involved learn lessons too, and develop as people. None of this seems surprising or inventive.

However, Roberts works reasonably due to the cast. More than any other form of film, comedies can succeed despite lackluster scripts, stories or direction if they get some good acting, and that benefits Roberts. The pair of main kids offer believable personalities and rarely come across as too slick or precocious. McCormack also nicely grounds the flick; she presents as a real mom, but also gives us enough easy-going sex appeal to work in other ways.

Surprisingly, Spade pulls off a pretty three-dimensional performance as Dickie. At the start, the character comes across like all of Spade’s other glib and snotty personalities, but he slowly starts to show actual emotion and depth. Spade blends these sides of Dickie with much greater smoothness than I expected, and he helps keep the flick from becoming excessively sentimental. There’s a real truth to his performance that really helps the movie.

Granted, Roberts suffers from some clumsy direction, and it shifts gears a bit too abruptly. It jumps from broad comedy to sentimentality quickly and awkwardly. Nonetheless, the actors allow the film to come across as reasonably amusing and likable. Roberts won’t go down as a classic, but it creates a fairly enjoyable and entertaining piece.


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2/35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie showed more issues than I’d expect from a recent flick, but the picture generally looked decent.

For the most part, sharpness seemed fine. Occasionally, the wider shots displayed some light softness, but those concerns remained minor. Instead, the majority of the flick was acceptably concise and detailed. I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, but some light edge enhancement showed up at times. Flaws were moderate but a bit heavy for a 2003 flick. Periodically I saw specks and grit throughout the movie. Otherwise, the movie looked clean.

Roberts displayed a natural palette, and the DVD presented the colors well. The tones consistently came across as vivid and vibrant. They looked clear and lively at all times. Black levels appeared deep and firm, while low-light shots presented appropriately dense but not excessively dark images. Overall, Roberts offered a pretty positive picture.

Don’t expect a lot of sonic ambition from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, but the audio was fine for this sort of flick. Unsurprisingly, the sound remained largely oriented toward the forward channels. Dialogue dominated the movie, so most of the additional information tended to be general ambience. We got some light movement of different elements and acceptable stereo imaging for the music.

A few scenes broadened the spectrum reasonably well. A thunderstorm added some zing to the mix and helped incorporate the rear speakers. Usually those channels just contributed light environmental material, but they kicked in nicely at times. Even a little split-surround action appeared, such as when a helicopter zoomed around the back. The track displayed little to make it stand out, but this kind of movie didn’t require anything more than what it offered.

Audio quality also seemed good but unexceptional. For the most part, speech came across as natural and distinct. A little edginess interfered with some lines, but the dialogue was consistently intelligible. Some of the rock music sounded a bit dull, but the score as a whole was reasonably bright and dynamic. Effects functioned best of the bunch, especially due to some surprisingly powerful bass response. For instance, the celebrity boxing match included really loud punches that actually challenged my subwoofer. Other low-end elements were warm and concise, and effects generally came across as clear and accurate. Overall, the audio of Roberts failed to make a great impression, but it remained fine.

Although Roberts didn’t dazzle at the box office, Paramount packed the DVD full of extras. We find two separate audio commentaries, the first of which presents director Sam Weisman. He offers a running, screen-specific discussion that comes across as fairly bland. For the most part, he addresses rather general topics like locations and sets, and he points out the identities of many supporting actors. Weisman also pours on the praise, so much of the track just tells us how much he likes the participants and their work. Lots of gaps occur, as we find more than a little dead air. Occasionally, we get some interesting nuggets, but the piece usually seems rather dull and uninvolving.

For the second commentary, we hear from writer/actor David Spade and writer Fred Wolf, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. Though not a great piece, the pair offer some entertainment. They don’t tell us a lot about the making of the movie. Occasionally we hear about differences between the script and the final flick as well as some basics of the shoot. However, much of the time Spade and Wolf just goof with each other and have fun. They crack on each other and show a refreshing ability to point out the parts of the flick they don’t like. However, they still toss out lots of praise, especially during the film’s second half. The commentary slows notably after the midpoint; most of the fun pops up earlier. Overall, the track seems enjoyable enough to merit a listen, but don’t expect a lot from it.

Next we find an episode of Comedy Central’s Reel Comedy. In this 17-minute and 31-second piece, actors David Spade and Craig Bierko tool around LA in a convertible and chat about the flick. Occasionally, former child stars pop up in the car too; we find visits from Todd Bridges, Erin Moran, Emmanuel Lewis, and Barry Williams. The program also features sound bites from Danny Bonaduce, Corey Feldman, Dustin Diamond, Jenna Boyd, and Scott Terra, all of whom tout the flick. With plenty of movie clips, that’s mostly the raison d’etre behind “Reel Comedy”, but this show’s better than average because of the car-based banter; Spade and Bierko provide some surprisingly barbed remarks aimed at the former child actors. We also see some slightly amusing movie “auditions” in which the child actors try out for other flicks.

After this comes The True Hollywood Story, a 16-minute featurette. We find the standard allotment of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We get notes from director Weisman, Spade, Bierko, Mary McCormack, Alyssa Milano, Emmanuel Lewis, Jon Lovitz, Danny Bonaduce, Barry Williams, Corey Feldman. The program seems pretty ordinary and uneventful. We gear a recap of the story and the characters plus some fairly generic notes about the production. It’s a bland show that doesn’t tell us much.

It’s early, but I think 2004’s winner for the funniest featurette title will go to Pencil Dickie: Writing the Story. In this 11-minute and 50-second piece, we mostly hear from Spade and co-writer Fred Wolf, but Weisman tosses in a few statements as well. The writers go over the origins of their long-time collaboration, their work on earlier flicks, and some issues connected to Roberts. It’s a fairly generic program overall, but it offers enough useful notes to merit a look.

The next two features concentrate on the material that appears at the flick’s end. We find the “Child Stars on Your Television” extended music video. As the title implies, this six and a half minute piece offers a longer version of the song and video that accompany the movie’s end credits. It adds some verses and also comes with the original language; that means the chorus doesn’t change Maureen McCormick’s profanity, which needed to be altered in the film to retain the “PG-13”.

In addition, we find Behind “Child Stars on Your Television”, a seven-minute program. It mixes shots from the shoot and the video and some comments from Spade, Weisman, Wolf, and associate producer Tom McNulty. They talk about the conception of the video, writing the song, and making the whole thing happen. It engages in too much happy talk, but it presents a reasonable synopsis of the project.

Nine deleted scenes fill a total of seven minutes and seven seconds. Despite their brevity, some decent clips show up here. We don’t find anything crucial, but they fill out plot points such as Sidney’s pursuit of Rob Reiner. We also see the return of Dickie’s mom at the end. A few of the bits are reasonably funny, and this makes a good collection of them.

In addition to the trailer for Roberts, the DVD includes some Previews. This area presents ads for Timeline, The School of Rock, The Fighting Temptations and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. As usual, Paramount includes English and French subtitles for the majority of the visual extras.

No one will mistake Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star for one of the all-time great comedies, but it manages to become something stronger than most vehicles for SNL alumni. A spotty but generally entertaining flick, Roberts misfires at times but benefits from nice performances, especially the surprisingly natural and deft turn from David Spade. The DVD presents fairly average picture and sound. The package includes a surprisingly long list of extras, but most of them seem somewhat ordinary. Still, as a movie and a DVD, Roberts does things well enough for me to recommend it, at least as a rental.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3214 Stars Number of Votes: 28
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