Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star
Length: 98 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, English and French Surround
Special Features: Director Commentary (Sam Weisman), Writer / Actor Commentary (David Spade, Fred Wolf),
9 deleted scenes, 4 featurettes, music video, theatrical trailer, previews, easter egg
Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star was formed on the kernal of a great idea for a film... a story revolving around the antics of a former child star is rife with possibilities. For awhile, this film succeeds.
In the 1970’s, Dickie Roberts (David Spade) was a successful child star with a hit television series. In the present day, he’s a valet attendant for a Hollywood restaurant, struggling to be noticed and trying to relaunch his acting career.
Desperate to get an audition for a new Rob Reiner film, he persuades Brendan Fraser to put in a good word for him with director Reiner. Reiner agrees to meet with Dickie, but tells him that he isn’t “normal” enough to get the part. Since he’d not lived a “normal” childhood, Reiner says that Dickie would be incapable of playing the part.
Until this point, Dickie Roberts plays like satire - with some great cameos and inside jokes. Even Spade, who has never shown much range as an actor, comes off respectably. Unfortunately, the film switches from blithe satire to saccharine sincerity in the second act. It’s not only a wrong turn for the film, but it pushes Spade into unfamiliar territory.
In order to prove his ability, Dickie hires a family to welcome him into their home and give him a normal “childhood” - albeit 30 years too late. There are some funny moments here, offset by a staginess that counteracts the feeling of sentiment the film is trying to carry forward. We see where the film is headed long before Dickie does, and the end will come as no surprise to anyone.
The best part of the film is, perhaps unintentionally, the closing credits. There is a gathering of many former child stars (many more than appeared in the film), and some of the old TV show moms, singing a song that only a former child star could sing.
If it weren’t for the appearances of so many actual former child stars, this film would have little to offer. There are many appearances by actors playing “themselves.” These stars include: Willie Aames, Tom Arnold, Danny Bonaduce, Todd Bridges, Gary Coleman, Jeff Conaway, Dustin Diamond, Tony Dow, Corey Feldman, Brendan Fraser, Leif Garrett, Corey Haim, Christopher Knight, Emmanuel Lewis, Butch Patrick Lilly, Barry Livingston, Mike Lookinland, Maureen McCormick, Eddie Mekka, Jeremy Miller, Erin Morin, Haywood Nelson, Jay North, Ron Palillo, Paul Petersen, Rob Reiner, Adam Rich, Rodney Allen Rippy, Marion Ross, Ernest Thomas, Charlene Tilton, Dick Van Patten, and Barry Williams.
Also appearing are Jon Lovitz, Mary McCormack and Alyssa Milano.
This is an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer. The print is very clean, and detail is good. There is adequate sharpness without obvious ringing. Compression artifacts are virtually nonexistent. The transfer exhibits good contrast, with bright whites that never blow out, and solid black levels - while maintaining good shadow detail. Color is accurate and saturation is perfect. Grain is very fine - almost nonexistent.
Dickie Roberts includes an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, along with English and French Surround. Two commentary tracks are also included, for a total of five audio tracks. The 5.1 track includes plenty of ambient sounds for the surrounds, where appropriate, and a modicum of LFE for your subwoofer. The mix isn’t overly aggressive, nor would you expect it to be, given the genre of the film. Dialog is consistently strong and clear among sound effects and music.
Special features are not anamorphically enhanced.
I sampled about 15 minutes of each commentary, at random.
Director Sam Weisman
This is somewhat of a snoozer. Weisman does provide comments on the scenes as they play - but they are usually trivial in nature, not at all in depth. He comments on a given topic with two or three short sentences, then we hear silence before commenting briefly on the next topic.
Writer / Actor David Spade and Writer Fred Wolf
This commentary is much more informative - and Spade and Wolf get to play off of one another, allowing for a much more entertaining commentary as well. They speak much of story construction, pacing and timing. They also give an occasional personal tidbit about some of the other actors in the film.
Reel Comedy: Dickie Roberts (17:31)
This is a Comedy Central program about the film.
The True Hollywood Story (16:02)
Interviews with director and stars tell us the story behind the making of Dickie Roberts. With clips from the film, and some behind the scenes footage. We find out about the creation of the story, and we hear from some of the actual former child stars to get their take on the whole thing.
Pencil Dickie: Writing the Story (11:51)
David Spade and Fred Wolfe talk about their evolving careers, their friendship, and coming together to write Saturday Night Live, Tommy Boy, Joe Dirt, and Dickie Roberts.
Behind “Child Stars On Your Television” (7:01)
The story behind the best part of the film - the child star chorus during the end credits.
“Child Stars On Your Television” - Extended Music Video (6:36)
9 very brief scenes - some were most likely cut for jokes that didn’t work, others for pacing. There is a “Play All” feature.
Don’t miss a short blooper reel on the Main Menu. Select “Nucking Futs!” to see it.
I’m not a fan of David Spade, and Dickie Roberts honestly didn’t do much for me... but it did avoid exploitation when it so easily could have veered into that territory. The sheer number of cameos almost puts this film in the “recommended” category for nostalgia alone.
Paramount has delivered a good transfer with a solid soundtrack and a decent selection of special features in this Special Collector’s Edition of Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star.