One of the more recognizable Saturday Night Live alumni, David Spade has had a pretty hit or miss track record since leaving that show and taking on a movie career (in addition to a role on Just Shoot Me, in which I thought he was really funny). His work with Chris Farley in movies like Black Sheep were pretty funny, but since Farley's tragic passing, he's been in flops like Joe Dirt and now, Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star
Spade plays the title role. His character is, naturally, a former child star who made it big with the catch phrase 'Nucking Futs!' on a seventies sitcom called The Glimmer Gang. Since that show ended, his career has kind of gone with it and when we meet up with him, he's parking cars for a living while his agent, played by Jon Lovitz, does what he can to find him work.
Roberts finds out about a casting opportunity for the new Rob Reiner film and through the Encino Man himself, Brenden Frasier, sets up a meeting with Reiner who tells him that because he never had a childhood he's almost inhuman and just not right for the part, despite fitting the profile perfectly from a physical perspective.
In order to prove Reiner wrong and show him that he is right for the part, Dickie sells the rights to his 'tell all' book and uses the money to hire a family to teach him what he never got to learn as a child. Initially the mother and two children of the family that takes on the job object, the father insists that they need the money and so they begrudgingly let Dickie into their home.
Of course, once he moves in and they get to know him, the movie ceases to be funny and lurches headfirst into the dreaded 'feel good comedy' genre, where it fizzles and slowly dies for the next sixty minutes or so.
It starts off well enough though, and the first thirty minutes or so work rather well. How much of that is due to the material the actors are working with is difficult to say though, because there is a new celebrity cameo happening every few minutes, whether if by Dickie in a Celebrity Boxing match in which he gets his ass handed to him on a platter by Emmanuel Lewis, or the scene where Alyssa Milano dumps him. Not to mention the poker match with that guy who played Screech on Saved By The Bell and that other guy who played Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch.
After that though, the movie falls apart and it gets way too sweet for it's own good. Spade is at his best when his inner-bastard is let loose. When his sarcasm shines through, he's a funny guy. Sadly, here we see a tamer, more sugary Spade, and unfortunately, the laughs slow down to a trickle.
Dickie Roberts is given an anamorphic 2.35.1 transfer that, while good, doesn't look quite as solid as a movie this recent should. Print damage is minimal but there is a bit of edge enhancement that slightly takes away from the viewing experience and a large portion of the time the movie looks a little soft in the detail department. It's not a bad transfer by any means, it's very watchable and looks good enough, but with this movie being less than a year old, I did expect it to look a little better than it does on this DVD.
There are three audio tracks on the DVD. In English we're treated to a Dolby Digital Surround mix, and a better sounding Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. In French, there is a Dolby Digital Surround Mix. The 5.1 mix doesn't sound too much better than the basic surround mix, though there are a few times when the rears kick in and open up the soundscape a little bit. For the most part though this movie is almost entirely centered on the dialogue so we get a mix that is placed primarily at the front of the setup. It sounds good enough – dialogue is clean and clear and never hard to understand and the music is well balanced – but it's not an overly exciting mix.
Two commentary tracks can be found by either selection them from the extra features menu or by choosing the track using your remote control. Director Sam Weisman provides the first track, and unless you're a hardcore Dickie Roberts fan (is there such a thing?), you don't need to listen to it. It's not very interesting, a lot of the comments simply explain what we're seeing on screen, and there is way too much dead air in between his thoughts.
Star David Spade and writer Fred Wolf are on the second track, and it's much improved over the first one. The two seem to have had fun making the film, they joke around quite a bit and have no shortage of anecdotes about the production. If you're a David Spade fan, you'll get a kick out of this track.
Two 'making of' featurettes can be found in the form of The E! True Hollywood Story bit and the Pencil Dickie bit. The Hollywood Story bit is made out to feel like the infamous E! Channel show and it takes a look at gathering up the cast of former child stars who actually appear in the movie. It's rather amusing if you think people like Danny Bonaducci are funny. The Pencil Dickie piece discusses David Spade's writing efforts on the film with co-writer Fred Wolf.
A lengthy Reel Comedy segment clocks in at just over seventeen minutes and is a behind the scenes featurette that was originally shown on TV's Comedy Central Channel. It's essentially Spade and co-star Craig Bierko driving around LA talking about their movie and it more or less feels like a glorified advertisement for the movie, and essentially, that's what it is.
Some mediocre deleted scenes are included, and combined they run for a total of about seven minutes. For the most part, you can see why these were cut, as they're hardly laugh-out-loud funny, but there are one or two gags that work better than others.
Behind Child Stars On Your Television is a short piece about how the crew assembled all the former child stars who appear in the music video at the end of the movie, and the actual video for Child Stars On Your Television is included its entirety.
Finally, the film's original theatrical trailer is included, along with trailers for a few other unrelated Paramount titles.
I was disappointed in Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star. The movie started off well enough, but ended up being predictable and not particularly funny. While David Spade has brought us some solid comedy in the past, sadly, this movie isn't on par with his better work and isn't worth a purchase. Rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.