Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star

2003, Movie, PG-13, 99 mins


A parody of TV's popular E! True Hollywood Story series, this comedy about the fleeting nature of fame starts out strong but falters in the middle. As the five-year-old star of popular series "The Glimmer Gang," Dickie Roberts (David Spade, who also co-wrote the screenplay) tasted success at an early age and, more important, basked in the love of his stereotypical stage mother (Doris Roberts). But mom and show business abandoned him when the series was cancelled. Now 35, the no longer adorable Dickie is an anonymous valet parking attendant who's occasionally recognized by fans looking for a reprise of his series catch phrase: "This is nucking futs." Dickie is so desperate to re-enter the limelight that he stoops to a celebrity boxing tournament against real-life former child star Emmanuel Lewis, and hits bottom after he's humiliated by the pint-sized former Webster star and ditched by his money-grubbing girlfriend (Alyssa Milano). Dickie's only hope is to snare a starring role in Rob Reiner's next picture, "Mr. Blakes's Backyard," an allegory in which money doesn't buy happiness. Dickie finagles an audition with Reiner (who plays himself), but the director says he's looking for someone who had a normal childhood. So Dickie puts an ad in the paper, hoping to find an average family who'll help him experience the traditional upbringing he never had. Used car entrepreneur George Finney (Craig Bierko) smells extra cash and free publicity for his lot, so he offers up his home and nuclear family — wife Grace (Mary McCormack) and kids Sam (Scott Terra) and Sally (Jenna Boyd) — to Dickie's "Operation Redo Childhood." The other Finneys are less than enthusiastic about the idea and torment Dickie, but he eventually grows on them. The bad news is that Dickie's redone childhood often feels torn from a bad sitcom, but the film's quirky details — Dickie always wears gloves and may or may not have been fathered by David Soul, of Starsky and Hutch fame — are genuinely clever. Spade actually makes Dickie sympathetic, an oddball adult shaped by having grown up in the harsh public eye. Cameos by real-life former-child stars — including Saved by the Bell's Dustin Diamond, Coreys Feldman and Haim, much of The Brady Bunch, Leif Garrett and The Partridge Family's Danny Bonaduce — are a nice touch, and the unique musical ending is worth the wait. leave a comment --Angel Cohn

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