Pity Saturday Night Live alumni. For every Eddie Murphy or Adam Sandler trying to break out from the square box to the big screen, there’s a Gary Kroeger or Danitra Vance. Who, you ask? That’s my point.
It’s not for lack of trying. Each year David Spade throws another film at us hoping we’ll bite, while his biggest successes remain on television (“Just Shoot Me”). “Dickie Roberts” is his latest attempt and, while it’s not great, it’s his best thus far.
The plot is spelled out right in the title: Dickie is a former television child star who has not adjusted well to the obscurity that was waiting for him once his show ended. Desperate to attract mainstream audiences, Dickie hires a family to adopt him in order to become a normalized person. Hilarity ensues.
Actually, as far as comedies go, it’s not too bad; Spade is smart enough to keep the jokes flowing fast. This results in enough punchlines hitting the mark that you tend to forgive the ones that don’t. Smarter still is the cast in which Spade surrounds himself. Doris Roberts is a veteran comedian and, merely by her presence, elevates the film a notch. Smartest of all are the countless real-life former child actors who appear throughout the film (the running gag of a clutch of them, including Greg Brady and Danny Partridge, playing poker is particularly inspired).
Yes, pity Saturday Night Live alumni, but don’t pity Spade too hard; he’s at least on the right track.
Pros: The fun, attractive cast makes this worth seeing for anyone who grew up watching 1970’s and 1980’s television.
Cons: Uneven at best. Some jokes will be unfunny to anyone who appreciates humor above a third-grade level.
Review Rating: 3 out of 5 Partridge Family lunchboxes (because my ex-wife still owns hers!).
“Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star” (2004)
99 Minutes; USA
Rated PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor, drug references and language.
Nicholas Schwerin (Young Dickie)
Doris Roberts (Peggy Roberts)
Dick Van Patten (Himself)
David Spade (Dickie Roberts)
Michelle Ruben (Ring Girl)
John Farley (Referee)
Directed by: Sam Weisman
Written by: Fred Wolf and David Spade
Viewing Format: Theatrical Release
(Portions of this review reprinted from my “Video View” column of 2/18/’04)