Another ill-conceived mish-mash of puerile humor and disingenuous sap from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison production company, "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star" features David Spade as a Hollywood has-been trying to recapture the childhood he never had in an attempt to win a comeback role as a "normal guy."
In what should have been a perfect role for his meager talents and snarky, one-note persona, Spade barely even tries to create a character beyond being crass, uncouth and insecure -- in short, his usual schtick -- and wearing gloves all the time as some short-hand attempt at eccentric paranoid psychoses.
The only effort put toward establishing his credibility as a former child star (beyond flashbacks of a young Dickie repeating the amusingly tasteless catch phrase "This is nucking futs!") is to ply the film with cameos by kiddie actors whose careers have faltered in adulthood. Dickie plays poker with Leif Garrett, Dustin "Screech" Diamond, Corey Feldman, Danny Bonaduce and Barry "Greg Brady" Williams, who places bets using "Brady Bunch" tchotchkes he claims are "worth at least $2 on eBay!"
Bookended with fictional "E! True Hollywood Story" snippets about Dickie that display not a hint of badly-needed irony (didn't these guys see "The Simpsons'" brilliant "VH-1: Behind the Laughter" episode?), the movie's plot revolves around the washed-up actor moving in with a young family to learn about how real people grow up.
But Spade and director Sam Weisman (whose history of bombs includes the "Out-of-Towners" remake and "What's the Worst That Could Happen?") pay only lip service to this concept, mostly through ineffectually staged, stereotypical episodes of childhood. For the balance of the movie, when Spade isn't knocking out transparently self-aware ad-libs or helping the kids (Scott Tera and Jenna Boyd) stand up to bullies and win spots on the pep squad, he's skulking around the pretty, martially neglected mom (Mary McCormack, the only adult actor not phoning it in) in a clumsy attempt at a romantic subplot.
All of this builds up to Dickie's big audition for the lead in a schmaltzy Rob Reiner movie -- an audition Weisman doesn't have the courage to show because Spade doesn't have the talent to pull off the authenticity and emotion he's supposedly learned from his experiences.
I could catalog the movie's ineptitude through examples of its continuity problems (actors' clothes change, then change back), obtuse scripting ("Say, this movie part sounds like the key to everything!") and missed opportunities (why doesn't Reiner parody himself instead of playing it straight?), but even the problems with "Dickie Roberts" are lackluster. Suffice it to say the flick is so false on every level that even the so-called "normal guy" Dickie is dying for a chance to play is a sham. How "normal" is a multi-billionaire obsessed with building the biggest house in the world?
By making such a lethargic and almost laughless picture, Spade and Weisman squander a great concept for a dark comedy on template-based writing, directing and acting, leaving "Dickie Roberts" with exactly three moments having any kind of comedic payoff: That borderline-dirty catch phrase, an appearance by Emmanuelle "Webster" Lewis in which the diminutive actor feigns heavyweight-champ toughness in a celebrity boxing match (kicking Dickie's butt), and a gag with a champagne cork popping Alyssa Milano (as Dickie's incredibly unlikely girlfriend) in the back of the head.
Run time: 98 mins
In Theaters: Friday 5th September 2003
Box Office USA: $22.7M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Happy Madison Productions, Paramount Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 23%
Fresh: 27 Rotten: 90
IMDB: 5.6 / 10
Director: Sam Weisman
Starring: David Spade as Dickie Roberts, Mary McCormack as Grace Finney, Craig Bierko as George Finney, Scott Terra as Sam Finney, Jenna Boyd as Sally Finney, John Farley as Referee, Bobby Slayton as Commentator, Michael Buffer as Himself, Fred Wolf as Dickie's Corner Man, Alyssa Milano as Cyndi, Emmanuel Lewis as Himself, Joey Diaz as Emmanuel's Entourage, Kevin Grevioux as Emmanuel's Entourage, Brian Clark as Guy in Car, Leif Garrett as Himself, Emily Harrison as Girl, Nancy Pimental as Girl, Alan Blumenfeld as Mr. Rollins, Jon Lovitz as Sidney Wernick, Sasha Mitchell as Angry Driver, M. Blair Breard as Alcoholic Speaker, Tom Arnold as Himself, Kathleen Randazzo as Counselor, Peggy Mannix as Lamaze Group Leader, Corey Feldman as Himself, Danny Bonaduce as Himself, Dustin Diamond as Himself, Rachel Dratch as Reiner's Secretary, Rob Reiner as Himself, Spencer Garrett as Publisher, Hal Sparks as Publisher, Rob Elk as Biker, Retta as Sad Eye Sadie, Ian Gomez as Strange Man, Doris Roberts as Peggy Roberts, Dick Van Patten as Himself, Nicholas Schwerin as Young Dickie, Michelle Ruben as Ring Girl, Edie McClurg as Mrs. Gertrude, John Kirk as Passing Man with Camera, Alexander D. Slanger as Map Seller, Oliver Kindred as Bully, Brandon de Paul as Bully, Evan Lee Dahl as Bully, Wyatt Smith as Boy in Crowd, Patrick Thomas O'Brien as Mr. Gertrude, Colin Ryan as Gertrude Kid, Christopher Johnson as Boy, Sergei Virovlianski as Boy, Jake Chapman as Boy, Ambyr Childers as Barbie, Valerie Perrine as Teacher at Microphone, Ashley Edner as Heather Bolan, Kevin Farley as Valet, Miko C. Brando as Valet, Mindy Burbano as News Correspondent, Jann Carl as Herself, Lindsey Dann as Reporter, Lisa Joyner as Herself, Erin Murphy as Brittany, Meghan Faye Gallagher as Janice, Willie Aames as Himself, Fred Berry as Himself, Todd Bridges as Himself, Gary Coleman as Himself, Jeff Conaway as Himself, Corey Haim as Himself, Tony Dow as Himself, Florence Henderson as Herself, Christopher Knights as Himself, Barry Livingston as Himself, Mike Lookinland as Himself, Maureen McCormick as Herself, Eddie Mekka as Himself, Jeremy Miller as Himself, Erin Moran as Herself, Haywood Nelson as Himself, Jay North as Himself, Ron Palillo as Himself, Butch Patrick as Himself, Jonathan Loughran as Himself, Peter Dante as Himself, Paul Petersen as Himself, Adam Rich as Himself, Rodney Allen Rippy as Himself, Marion Ross as Herself, Ernest Lee Thomas as Himself, Charlene Tilton as Herself, Michael McDonald as Maitre' D