Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star

| September 7, 2003

Two years ago I reviewed a David Spade film and it began this way:

Joe Dirt is so much better than I expected.

There. There is my review. Pretty basic, I know. But so is the movie.

For Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, I could begin the exact same way.
Dickie Roberts (Spade) was, as the title reflects, a child actor in a show that was similar to The Brady Bunch, Eight is Enough, My Three Sons, etc. When the show ended, so did his career. He wasn’t able to transition himself from say, The Mickey Mouse Club to pop star. And he has a certain sleaziness about him. The only deep feelings we get from him is that he misses the “love” that comes from being famous. The story begins with Dickie apparently hitting a new low, getting beaten up by Emmanuel Lewis in a celebrity boxing match. He then hears from his friend Leif Garrett that Rob Reiner is about to cast a new movie that would be perfect for Dickie. Through a connection with Brendan Fraser, Roberts actually gets a meeting with Reiner only to be told by the director that his childhood was so out of whack he would not be able to pull off the intensely emotional film. But he has two months to work on it.
Roberts places an ad to find a family through which he can “reboot” his childhood and $20K later, he ends up in the home of the Traceys. They are, on the outside your basic Dad, Mom, Son and Daughter All-American family that are legend to sitcoms. But there are problems. Dad is an absentee, Mom is unappreciated, Son gets bullied, and Daughter is intimidated by another 10-year-old who is already in the Christina Aguilera phase.
Will Dickie learn the meaning of childhood? Will he overcome all of his insecurities to be able to read for the part? Will he get the part? Will he turn it down to be with the woman of his dreams? Will it all work out in the end? I’m not telling, but you do get to see Alyssa Milano in some tight fitting jeans. In fact, she is the only child star in this film that actually did make a successful jump from one age group to the next.
Did I mention that there were some former child stars in this movie?
Some is not the word. Try almost all. Going back to Ernie from My Three Sons, we see folk like Maureen McCormick and Barry Williams (Brady Bunch), Dustin Diamond (Screech from Saved By The Bell who seems to make an acting living playing the role of Himself), and Willie Ames (Eight is Enough). Danny Bonaduce (from The Partridge Family – ditto for what I said about Screech) is also in the film.
The best part of the movie, honestly is during the closing credits when about 30 former child stars gather to sing a We Are The World type anthem for grown out of the cuteness actors.
The worst part of the movie is the lame way they get into the flick and exit it. Set up as an E! Hollywood Extra documentary, we are led to believe this would be continuing theme throughout the film. However, after they leave us on Dickie’s door at the beginning, the last time we hear the voice-over and see the E! logo is after the movie is completed and they are doing a post script. Not very creative. Second place in the Worst Of category goes to the part of Dickie’s stereotypical inept agent. It was played by Jon Lovitz (SNL, Little Nicky) but it could have been given to any nebbish and Lovitz is the unfortunate one t ohave draw short straw.
There are a lot of “Himself” type rolls in this film and for that reason it is probably better to wait for the video so you can back up and take a second look at the child stars you saw in your youth. As for this film, child stars Jenna Boyd (The Hunted) and Scott Tracy (Daredevil) were excellent as Robert’s adopt-a-family “siblings.”
As coming of age films go, Dickie Roberts may have gotten there 20 or so years too late, but he did get there in a cute way. But not cute enough to spend the $8 admission.

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