Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star is pathetic as a comedy. Where it works–in a forced way–is putting across the heartfelt message buried deep within all the silliness: show business can be a hard place to grow up. Dickie Roberts (David Spade) was once a six-year-old ’70s TV phenomenon whose trademark line was “You’re nucking futs!” But when Dickie lost his baby teeth he also lost his job. Now at age 35 Dickie is a showbiz reject reduced to parking cars for a living and playing a weekly poker game with other former child stars such as The Brady Bunch‘s Barry Williams The Partridge Family‘s Danny Bonaduce and the guy (Dustin Diamond) who once played Screech on Saved By the Bell and who is still playing Screech on some other sitcom. All Dickie wants in life is to make a big comeback and he thinks his chance has arrived when he finds out about the script of the new millennium. Desperate to get an audition Dickie finagles a meeting with the film’s director Rob Reiner (playing himself) who unfortunately tells Dickie he just isn’t “normal” enough for the part that he skipped out on the basic foundation of life–a childhood. So Dickie decides he’ll just relive one get “real” and get the part. He sells his raunchy autobiography and hires a perfect nuclear family (who are also apparently in desperate need of money) which includes mom Grace (Mary McCormack) dad George (Craig Bierko) pre-adolescent son Sam (Scott Terra) and younger daughter Sally (Jenna Boyd). Dickie moves right in and tries to assume the identity of an average everyday kid. Is it possible this crazy plan could actually work? Will Dickie become a star again? Maybe not entirely how the screwy actor envisioned but at least he learns a few valuable life lessons along the way.
As wacky as this movie allows itself to get let’s just say it’s a huge improvement over Spade‘s previous horrendous effort Joe Dirt if that’s saying anything. Spade with his own sarcastic way of delivering zinger lines gives Dickie just the right amount of snottiness and shows how Dickie has no concept of how things work in the real world. But unlike Spade‘s pal Adam Sandler who played a similar part in Billy Madison you feel sorry for Dickie right away–he’s such a sad sackwho nonetheless has endless spunk. With his greasy looks little idiosyncrasies (Dickie always wears gloves) and puppy-dog attitude he still tugs at your heart. As the little girl Sally says “Who would have thought someone as weird as Dickie would turn out to be so cool?” Indeed. The rest of the cast is pretty superfluous with only one really glaring error–trying to strike up a romance between McCormack‘s Grace and Dickie. Doesn’t work. Spade has much more chemistry with the two kids Terra and Boyd. The cameos by the former child stars of course is the highlight of the movie with all of them milking it for all its worth. Make sure to stay through the end credits for a “We Are the World” send-up with some of your favorite grown-up child stars of the past.
Director Sam Weisman (George of the Jungle) wants us to believe Dickie Roberts is a balls-out slapstick comedy. See Dickie try the slip and slide without water–and then with oil all over it. See Dickie ride a bike for the first time running into cars and road signs (that’s gotta hurt). Sure you laugh but what actually ends up happening is you get caught up in the pitiful reasons why Dickie is the way he is; ie: his stage mother dumped him when he became obsolete and people only saw him as a “product ” not as a child. While the film is trying to make you laugh you’re sitting there feeling bad because you know it’s true for some of the movie’s cast. The unfortunate stories of the Gary Colemans and Macaulay Culkins of the world are what E! True Hollywood Stories lives for. Perhaps the intention with Dickie Roberts is to pay tribute to these people but you know once the film ends and everyone goes home those child stars of yesteryear go back to their non-existent acting careers.