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Paramount Studios presents
"This is nucking futs!"
DVD ReviewDavid Spade is one of those guys who always plays the same kind of character, typically a sarcastic, self-absorbed wisenheimer who thinks he is better than everyone else. In Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, Spade does the same schtick again as the title character, a washed-up thirty-something actor who had former glory as a child star on a popular 1970s sitcom. In the succeeding years he has fallen on hard times, lost his girlfriend (played by Alyssa Milano) and has seen his star crash so he hard he has to work as a valet, parking cars just to make ends meet. In that never-ending search for the next big audition, Dickie learns of a new Rob Reiner-directed movie that he thinks will set his career straight, but in order to identify with the character he is trying out for, the once-pampered child star must attempt to live a "normal" childhood, which involves moving in with a family for thirty days in an attempt to capture the essence of a childhood he never had.
If the setup sounds vaguely like Adam Sandler's Billy Madison (where a self-absorbed wisenheimer has to go back through grade-school), it should come as no surprise that Sandler was a producer on Dickie Roberts, so it now seems that he is approving recycled versions of his old plots with different actors. Oddly enough, the rehash works well in this case because Spade's sharp-tongued Dickie is much easier to digest than any one of Sandler's braying one-note characters, at least for me. Personally, I don't "get" the whole attraction of the Sandler appeal, but I've always liked Spade and his smart-ass persona.
So, to get a crash course in what it means to have a normal childhood, Dickie pays $20,000 to settle in with the family of George and Grace Finney (Craig Bierko and Mary McCormack) and their two kids, 12-year-old Sam (Scott Terra) and 9-year-old Sally (Jenna Boyd). It is an awkward relationship at first, but of course Dickie eventually ingratiates himself into their lives, and in between the pratfalls, crotch kicks, and verbal rips there are even a few semi-syrupy moments built around the usual litany of learned important life lessons.
Dickie Roberts, directed with tempered TV-friendly efficiency by small-screen veteran Sam Weisman, moves on auto-pilot much of the time, and it doesn't take a seasoned film scholar to be able to predict the outcome of this one. While it is expected that the louts will get their comeuppance, and assorted adversities will be overcome, the simple pleasure lies in Spade's joyously clueless Dickie and his "it's all about me" attitude. The potential of the sappy stuff getting too sugary is kept in check by Fred Wolf (Black Sheep), who penned the screenplay along with Spade, and most of the feel-good moments are layered in comedy, so even the big message is tempered by a few cheap laughs that take the edge off.
One of the hooks in Dickie Roberts is the presence of a number of cameos, including a few by real-life former child stars, all playing themselves with a hip sense of self-deprecating mockery. Dickie's poker group is made up of Barry (The Brady Bunch) Williams, Corey Feldman, Leif Garrett, Dustin (Saved By the Bell) Diamond, and Danny (The Partridge Family) Bonaduce. It adds a legitimacy to Dickie's sheltered Hollywood world, and it was neat stuff to see these guys poking fun at themselves, and one of the best moments in the film occurs during the closing credits when over two dozen former child stars sing a wickedly scathing song about their fading celebrity.
This isn't high art by any means, but as a simple comedy it works.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+
Image Transfer Review: Sporting a dandy 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Paramount's treatment of Dickie Roberts is a fairly nice one. The color palette overall is pleasing and reproduced solidly, with excellent detail, contrast and just a smattering of fine grain. Black levels are strong and deep, with well-defined shadows.
Some minor edge enhancement issues, but no major source print flaws were evident.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: Dickie Roberts features a healthy Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track as a preferred choice (a lesser 2.0 mix is also included), and while it isn't a showcase mix by any means, it does work more than adequately for this lightweight comedy. Surrounds don't get much of a workout, but there were a few discrete cues that noticeably fleshed out the soundstage (in addition to some strong imaging and pans), but this is largely a front-centric mix; I was also surprised at the depth of the bass response during the opening boxing match (those punches really sounded deep and loud). Dialogue is properly clean and discernible at all times.
A Spanish 2.0 track is also provided.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Timeline, The School of Rock, The Fighting Temptations, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 2 - The Cradle of Life
9 Deleted Scenes
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by Sam Weisman, David Spade, Fred Wolf
Leading things off is a pair of lukewarm full-length scene-specific commentaries, the first from director Sam Weisman and the second from David Spade and screenwriter Fred Wolf. Weisman's track is rather dry, and he talks primarily about location and production info; it's not the most riveting commentary I've ever heard, and is plagued by a number of silent spots. The Spade and Wolf track has more outright laughs, as the duo play well off of each other, delivering plenty of sarcastic comments amidst an occasional salient point. Of the two, I'd recommend the Spade/Wolf commentary, just for comedic purposes.
A trio of behind-the-scenes segments don't offer any deep insight, and start off with Reel Comedy: Dickie Roberts (17m:30s), a Comedy Central promotional show that presents a tongue-in-cheek look at the film and the various former child stars that appeared in it, wedged between a few clips. Spade and co-star Craig Bierko host the segment, and dish out some funny comments in between things like fictitious screen tests by Todd Bridges (for 48 Hours), Barry Williams (for What Women Want) and Adam Rich (for Crocodile Dundee). The True Hollywood Story (16m:01s) is a more of traditional making-of piece, with happy talk from Sam Weisman, Spade, Wolf, and most of the cast, along with plenty of clips to fill in the gaps. Likewise with Pencil Dickie: Writing the Story (11m:50s), which pairs Spade and Wolf together again to talk about the story origins and their working relationship since the Black Sheep and SNL days.
There are also nine Deleted Scenes (07m:05s), all of which run under a minute each. Nothing particularly memorable except for a couple of funny Jon Lovitz moments. Similarly, an easily discovered set of hidden Outtakes (:55s) should satisfy those of you who like to see actors flub lines.
The best part of the supplementals is easily the Child Stars on Your Television extended music video (06m:36s), which is a longer version of the piece that plays during the film's closing credits. This We Are the World-like song is a great bit of comedy that brings together something like 25 former child stars (as well as TV moms Marion Ross and Florence Henderson) singing about how tough life has become, and it is really a wonderfully done bit of comedy, worth the time just for Maureen (Marcia Brady) McCormick's verse. There is also a Behind Child Stars On Your Television (06m:59s) that covers the making of the music video, and features comments from the participants. Funny stuff, and if these two were the only extras on the disc it would have been more than enough.
In addition to a handful of trailers, the disc is cut into 18 chapters, and features optional English subtitles.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsI know this is a dumb little lightweight comedy, but it made me laugh out loud more than a few times, and I always fall for the sarcastically smarmy wise ass character David Spade does so well. This is essentially a retooled Billy Madison buffered with wall-to-wall real-life former child stars poking fun at themselves.
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