Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star (2)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley


 The pitch for this probably sounded good.  Take a former child star from a TV sitcom, Dickie Roberts (David Spade), and give him a selfish, Hollywood mom, Peggy (Doris Roberts), who abandons him.  When his series is cancelled, he’s a complete mess and can’t become an adult, never having been a child.  By the time we meet him, at age 35, he’s a loser.  Then he’s rejected for a role in a new Rob Reiner film on the basis that he has to have been a child to act this part.  So Dickie hires a family, headed by Grace Finney (Mary McCormack, the best thing in the movie), to allow him to join her husband and two children so they can treat him as their child.  The idea must have been that we’ll watch them affect one another.

 Unfortunately, what sounded good in a pitch has been translated by people who don’t speak the language.  Take the writers, for instance. Scriptwriters Fred Wolf and Spade don’t exhibit a scintilla of understanding about how children talk and act.  Nothing ever occurs that shows why Dickie should have a positive effect on the family or why the family should have a positive effect on Dickie.  Just about everything Dickie suggests they do is dishonest or malevolent, and it turns out OK, not the morality I want to see in a movie, even if it is supposed to be a comedy.  One of the climactic moments in the film is when 35-year-old Dickie takes on three 12-year-old bullies who are tormenting Dickie’s new “brother,” and vanquishes them.  This gives you the same kind of rush you might get watching Goliath beat the stuffing out of David.  The relationship between Grace and her husband is never developed, other than showing him to be an insensitive clod while Grace is perfection personified.  Jon Lovitz plays Dickie’s agent, Sidney Wernick.  I’ve never seen Jon Lovitz before where he wasn’t funny.  The Wolf-Spade script conquered that barrier.

 Or, take the casting.  The two children, Sam (Scott Terra) and Sally (Jenna Boyd) resemble refugees from The Munsters.  That wouldn’t be so bad if that were the concept; hook Dickie up with children even more screwed up than he!  Good comedic idea.  But it’s not what’s intended.  These are supposed to be normal children.  Sam’s hairdo looks like he must have been electrocuted before each scene. If the idea was for Dickie to become a child and try to live through a childhood by associating with children, Sam and Sally aren’t the ones.  They’re children who talk and act like 25 year-olds.  Even more laughable (not funny laughable, pathetic laughable) is the casting of the “bullies” who torment Sam.  They’re fat and ugly and, in real life, they’d be the bully-ees, not the bully-ers. 

 The movie terminates with a silly Hollywood ending, followed by the closing credits with legions of real life former child stars singing a coarse song that, I guess, is meant to be funny.  Instead it’s just scurrilous.  However, this segment does seem to validate the premise of the movie, to wit, as a result of their lack of development in their formative years, former child stars often grow up to be losers. 

 September 5, 2003

 The End