Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star
2003, PG-13, 99 min. Directed by Sam Weisman. Starring David Spade, Jon Lovitz, Mary McCormack, Scott Terra, Jenna Boyd, Alyssa Milano, Craig Bierko, Doris Roberts, Rob Reiner.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Sept. 5, 2003
There’s something about the smarmy David Spade that brings out the worst impulses in a person – that nasal whine, the snotty insincerity, and that stringy hair all make you want to slap him senseless and then some. Watching the pintsized Emmanuel Lewis pummel Spade mercilessly at the outset of Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star is nothing short of a cathartic godsend. In this execrable comedy, Spade plays a what-ever-happened-to TV actor from a Seventies sitcom whose 15 minutes of fame came and went during his preadolescence. As a 35-year-old adult, Dickie is – in his own words – "a complete and total mess": He’s dysfunctional, obnoxious, immature, and irritating – character traits all perfectly suited for Spade’s limited (and that’s being generous) acting talents. In a plot turn that makes no sense, Dickie hires a foster family in Beaver Cleaver suburbia so he can experience the childhood he never knew, which somehow will help him get the comeback role of a lifetime in a Rob Reiner movie about heaven being in your own back yard. (What does this say about Rob Reiner’s filmmaking career?) Of course, Dickie’s innate goodness and kindness ultimately reveal themselves during the course of his stay, and he eventually finds the true meaning of happiness and love, blah, blah, blah. And, he even gets to marry his own June Cleaver. The only saving grace in this two-bit vanity production are the cameos by former child actors like Danny Bonaduce (The Partridge Family), Barry Williams (The Brady Bunch), and Corey Feldman (many bad Eighties teen comedies). A scene in which these guys sit around and dis the likes of George Clooney and Brad Pitt during a poker game is clever in its concept, if not necessarily in its execution. The best bit, however, is not even in the movie, but in the film’s end credits: an expletive-filled parody of We Are the World in which a host of has-beens croon about their halcyon days as child stars. Part satire, part freak show, this mildly amusing coda to a terrible movie lays to rest a nagging question: Yes, the guy who played Rerun on What’s Happening!! is still alive, thank you. For all we know, he may be running for governor of California, too.