June 27, 2009

"Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star"

I just realized that my review of David Spade's 2003 movie "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star" has not been available on the Internet for the past half decade. I also just realized that in those years, nobody, including me, has ever missed it. Still, it seems kind of timely, so, for the iSteve Completists out there, here it is:
I certainly hope you don't feel like I do, but a part of me believes that anybody who was ever a star somehow deserves to never have to work again in a non-celebrity capacity. I hope I'm alone in experiencing involuntary repugnance at the thought of former television personalities having to do honest work, but I fear I'm not.

We Americans like to kid ourselves that we have a strong Work Ethic, but since perhaps the Gold Rush of 1849, we've instead had the world's leading Get Rich Quick Dream. I think we'd rather hear that somebody we once idolized has choked on his own vomit in a crackhouse (ah, the tragic price of fame!) than learn that he's writing COBOL code in Cincinnati (ugh, the boring ignominy of anonymity!).

Fortunately, even after they're washed up, our American celebrities have so many opportunities to cash in by letting us bask in their reflected glory that they seldom let us down quite that much. For example, I've long followed the charmed life of Mike Eruzione, the amateur hockey player whose sole achievement was scoring the winning goal to beat the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics, just to see if he'll ever have to get a real job. After 23 years, he's still going strong as a motivational speaker and professional guest at charity golf tournaments.

What about child stars? Adorable little girl actresses, like Elizabeth Taylor and Drew Barrymore, often grow up to be adorable young women, but boy entertainers frequently fail dismally to become permanent celebrities.

Boys are less mature than girls while growing up, so producers have a hard time finding talented-enough normal lads who can, literally, act their age on screen. Therefore, they search out undersized, undersexed older boys who can play younger than their real ages. Similarly, impresarios putting together boy bands look for high-pitched singers who will seem like unthreatening "practice boyfriends" to adolescent girl fans.

Unfortunately for them, being late to reach puberty is not what audiences look for in adult leading men and rock stars. Many male child stars are quickly surpassed by their more manly peers and are left with no marketable skills, twisted Hollywood values, an all-consuming hunger to get back into the limelight, and a certain aura of freakishness.

Although he didn't get on television until his mid-20s, David Spade -- the snippy little blond receptionist on the sitcom "Just Shoot Me!" -- has perfectly cast himself in the not-too-bad comedy "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star."

There's not much of a market on TV for fairly androgynous heterosexuals, but what there is, Spade has had cornered since he started on Saturday Night Live in 1990. (His career peak was probably the 1995 comedy "Tommy Boy" with the late Chris Farley.) In his stand-up act and this movie he co-wrote with SNL scribe Fred Wolf, Spade emphasizes both his innate lack of masculinity and the effeminizing effect of being in showbiz -- the jealous gossiping and obsession with your looks.

Dickie Roberts is a 35-year-old valet parker whose TV show was canceled 23 long years ago, causing his mother to leave him. He's paying the rent by getting pummeled by 3'-4" Emmanuel Lewis of "Webster" fame in celebrity boxing matches.

Dickie hopes to make his comeback in a hotly anticipated Rob Reiner movie. (Apparently, this is a period piece.) But Reiner won't let him audition, saying, "Dickie, you're not a real person." To learn how people with healthy upbringings feel, Dickie hires a suburban family to let him live for a month as one of their children.

Like a lot of movie comedies, "Dickie Roberts," especially in its first half, isn't as funny as a strong sit-com. One reason is that "Dickie Roberts" was written by just two people, while TV shows bring far more manpower to bear on joke writing.

Moreover, promising sit-coms have longer to gel. For instance, "The Simpsons" organization evolved into the most perfect script writing machine ever, but not until after the show's uneven first year. Thus, movie comedies are generally more slapdash than the sit-coms that make it to syndication.

In the second half, as Dickie develops a warm relationship with his temporary siblings, there's an unexpected turn away from satire and toward a sentimental family film. Oddly enough, as the movie gets soppier, it actually gets funnier. Still, it's too tawdry for children and too childish for adults.

Like a lot of comedies, if you were to stumble upon this movie flipping channels one evening, you'd probably be entertained. It's not "Tommy Boy," but it's not awful either. Unfortunately, if you have to talk somebody into going to the theatre to see it with you, you'd worry too much about whether your companion hates it to enjoy it.

Rated PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor, language, and drug references.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

16 comments:

Grumpy middle aged man said...

I may not have missed the review, but I've never forgotten your distinction between boy and girl child stars. Based on only the dust jacket of Melissa Gilbert's new memoir, I wonder why the path to the presidency of SAG is recovery rather than law and business school. More and more it looks like minors should be completely banned from show business and fashion.

concerned netizen said...

Remember Brad Renfro?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brad_Renfro

At least he was buried back home.

bg said...

completely off-topic, but Barry Ritholtz is at it again

http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2009/06/most-subprime-lenders-werent-covered-by-cra/

he wants to eatablish his credentias with the MSM as solidly as possible.

Anonymous said...

How were you able to watch "The Simpsons"? I couldn't take the constant Liberal message.

OneSTDV said...

"How were you able to watch "The Simpsons"? I couldn't take the constant Liberal message."

I have a similar problem with "Weeds", especially in the 3rd season. I just ignore it though. Don't be so sensitive basically. Yes the rhetoric is annoying, but it's in the context of humor and not as overt as say Keith Olbermann.

Just do the same for The Simpsons.

Harry Baldwin said...

Steve writes: "The Simpsons" organization evolved into the most perfect script writing machine ever, but not until after the show's uneven first year."

True for about 12 years, and during that time the Simpsons half-hour was sacred in my family. However, by around 2001 or so the show had become so mediocre that my kids no longer bothered to watch it, except for the annual Halloween special. It was tired and unfunny. "South Park," "King of the Hill," and "Family Guy" became the new must-see TV among my kids' friends.

Why does that always happen? Why does a show eventually run out of gas? Aren't there always freshly minted, talented writers available? I can't understand this phenomenon. Another example: why can't someone write a great hit song for Britney Spears? They would be guaranteed it would get good play, so why is she having to make do with ho-hum material? (Not that I'm a fan; I'm looking at this from a commercial standpoint.)

Anonymous said...

David Spade's inexplicable success with the ladies despite his diminutive stature and obnoxious persona should probably be mentioned. As for male former child stars, there's always the counterexample of Kurt Russell (The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes), who grew up into a pretty traditionally macho leading man.

Anonymous said...

How were you able to watch "The Simpsons"? I couldn't take the constant Liberal message.

Then try watching the new era Dr. Who, that makes The Simpsons look like it was penned by Majorityrights readers.

When watching I have to grit my teeth on a regular basis - and at more extreme moments suppressing the urge to kick the screen in with my steel toe-cap boots on - but, yes, I still enjoy it!

Peter A said...

"How were you able to watch "The Simpsons"? I couldn't take the constant Liberal message."

What on earth makes you think Steve's a Conservative? Do you even read his stuff? There are far more political positions in the world than just Rush Limbaugh vs. Barney Frank. I'm tired of people picking teams and sticking with that team no matter what stupid shit they pull (Sarah Palin, for example).

Svigor said...

David Spade's inexplicable success with the ladies despite his diminutive stature and obnoxious persona should probably be mentioned.

Verbal IQ, I should think. Or maybe he pays them, like Tom Cruise.

Svigor said...

And I don't buy Steve's explanation of the boy/girl child star phenomenon. Child stars of both sexes are strongly selected for neoteny; the difference is, neoteny is attractive in females, not males.

dr kill said...

Dude, you might be right about other boy stars, but something about DS gets him more beautiful ass than a toilet seat in the Bellezza Salon.

Lloyd G. said...

"Therefore, they search out undersized, undersexed older boys who can play younger than their real ages."

A lot of girl child stars have a under-developed pixie cuteness that does not carry well into adulthood. The Olsen twins stand out in this regard. Miyam Bialik went from cute to ugly in a few short years. It's hard to imagine Miley Cyrus as an attractive woman.

Anonymous said...

Miley Cyrus will probably look just like her dad in adulthood. As for female child stars that don't become stars in adult life, Shirley Temple grew into an attractive woman but audiences just didn't accept her as an adult.

Concerned Netizen said...

While we are on the subject of sexualized children, a Duke official was just charged with doing the skeeviest thing on earth:

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,529184,00.html?mrp=

I wonder if he was one of the Duke 88. I also wonder if he is gay.

His Facebook page sez he is a fan of gay bishop Gene Robinson:

http://www.facebook.com/people/Frank-Lombard/1316445

josh said...

Do you recall a very funny bit Spade did about the uber-creepy child star Macauley Culkin? (Spade must give this topic a lot of thought...) He said that even tho Culkin,at the time,was an extremely cute,lovable and precocious kid movie star,he would inevitably grow up to look like--at this point Spade pointed to his own face,and in a voice of weariness and disgust,said,"THIS." As for Davids success with the girls,I think it goes back to his father,who was a real tomcat/dirtbag. What the Roissy Boys might call an alpha. Spade is very bright,and no doubt that has allowed him not only to impress women with his wit,charm etc,but also to pattern himself after dad!! Also,he is hung like a Clydesdale. So he's got that going for him! Which is nice!