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Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (2003)

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

Directed by:

Sam Weisman

Rating: 3/10

Running Time: 98 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12a

On DVD

Country: United States

On the face of it, ‘Dickie Roberts’ seems like a cracking idea for a comedy. It’s about what happens when one of America’s most loved child stars becomes all grown up and nobody wants to know any more. He spends his days being mocked in the street by those who still recognise his now-craggy face, desperately hunting for any TV or film work that might reignite his stardom, and – best of all – playing poker with Corey Feldman, Screech from ‘Saved by the Bell’, and half the cast of ‘The Brady Bunch’.

It’s the brainchild of David Spade, a writer-comedian-actor who, ironically, is forever destined to play second fiddle to the Steve Martins, Jim Carreys and Adam Sandlers of this world. He knows all about the never-ending search for that one big role, so perhaps there’s more than a little of himself in his Dickie character.

There are three main reasons why the concept turns out not to work as well as you might hope. Firstly, by the time it reaches the halfway mark it has nowhere to go – we’ve heard Dickie’s story, we’ve done the bit about him falling into Celebrity Boxing, we’ve seen him chase the likes of Tom Arnold and Brendan Fraser around town trying to land himself some work. So the film is left with no option but to pad itself out by taking a ridiculous plot turn – in this case Dickie’s decision to hire himself a family who, for $20,000, are willing to treat him like a kid and enable him to recapture his lost childhood. Nonsense.

Secondly, there are huge chunks of the film which, in these days of Gary Glitter revelations and Michael Jackson court cases, are just massively uncomfortable to watch. He takes to leading a group of kids merrily around the streets, lures a couple of them up to a tree house and, even though his adopted fam know he’s a bit of a weirdo (his many bizarre traits include compulsive glove-wearing), they allow him to share a bedroom with their two kids. Worst of all is the bit where we’re forced to sit through a lengthy dance scene where a 13-year-old girl pretends to be Britney Spears, just so Dickie can squeeze in a “slut” punch-line at the end of it. To be honest, it’s all more than a little disturbing.

Thirdly, and perhaps most damaging of all for a comedy, is that it’s just not particularly funny. True, there are a couple of laugh-out-loud moments (one involving a champagne cork and another a “devil rabbit”), but it’s just not enough to make it a success. In fact, by the time we’ve reached the end, all attempts at raising a chortle seem to have been bypassed completely, and we’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into the land of schmaltz.

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It's Got: Corey Haim showing us all why we haven’t seen him in anything for years: he’s been at the baker’s.

It Needs: A bigger role for Gary Coleman.

DVD Extras A choice of commentaries, a surprisingly good array of behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, a trailer, and a full music video of ‘Child Stars on Your Television’ (it’s a ‘We Are The World’-style song performed by a huge host of long-forgotten child stars, which rolls during the end credits and is probably the best part of the whole disc). DVD Extras Rating: 7/10

Alternatives:

Billy Madison, Joe Dirt, Lost & Found

Summary

As Dickie himself would say, it’s a load of “shizit”.

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