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(Photo by Mark Fellman. ©2003 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.)

photo caption:
MOVING IN: Scott Terra as Sam Finney, David Spade as Dickie Roberts, and Jenna Boyd as Sally Finney, from left, star in "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star."

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"Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star": David Spade Is Typecast As Another Smug Smart Aleck

Review by Kam Williams

David Spade has had quite a career on the boob tube. Fame came to the diminutive wisecracker on Saturday Night Live, where he was one of the ensemble players from 1990 until 1996. The following year, he parlayed that success into his own sitcom, NBC's Just Shoot Me. Plus, he has made plenty of appearances on other TV series and award shows, invariably positioning himself as that flip, above-it-all bad boy who's "too cool for the room."

Regrettably, that magic has failed to translate to the big screen, where Spade's brand of comedy tends to come off as more irritating than irreverent.

As a result, his track record reveals an unending string of forgettable flops, including Tommy Boy, Black Sheep, 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag, Senseless, Lost & Found, Loser, and Joe Dirt. And although he's yet to be seen in a bona fide, box office hit, for some reason Hollywood never tires of deeming him worthy of another wise-guy vehicle.

David's latest outing in the title role as Dickie Roberts has got to be his lousiest yet. The premise has him playing a once-beloved TV child star, long languishing in obscurity since the cancellation of his popular sitcom, who is now desperate for another shot at fame. He meets with sympathetic director Rob Reiner who agrees to consider casting Dickie in his next project provided he agrees to live for a month with an average family in order to experience the normal home life he missed out on as a child celebrity.

Though the set-up certainly sounds promising enough, the plot is ever so artlessly executed by hack Hollywood director Sam Weisman, the man responsible for the absolutely awful What's the Worst That Could Happen, which made my 10 Worst List for 2001, and that awful 1999 remake of The Out-of-Towners. Still, star Spade must shoulder some of the blame here, too, as he claims a co-writing credit.

Dickie Roberts really amounts to little more than an adolescent indulgence in scatology and misogyny typical of today's teensploit genre. Worse, it arrives heavily layered with overtones of incest and pedophilia. I must admit to being a little surprised that the film was able to land a PG-13 rating. For instead of the theme of recapturing a lost childhood, the film focuses on Dickie's earnest efforts to ruin the innocence of his adopted, pre-teen brother and sister.

He moves in with the Tracys, that ideal family of four living in the suburbs in a big house with a white picket fence. We are supposed to find it cute when Dickie arrives and ruins the happy home. He sleeps in the same room as the children and teaches them how to use the 'b' and 's' words. He informs the boy that his Mom is "really hot" and asks him whether he is attracted to her, whether she wears a g-string, and if her breasts are real or implants. Later, Dickie flirts with Mom, imploring her to take her top off.

His behavior with his "sister" is equally inappropriate. For instance, he accompanies her to cheerleading practice where he ogles another nine-year-old and calls her a slut, ostensibly because she's wearing a T-shirt advertising a popular porno magazine. Ultimately, in one of the weirdest plot contrivances ever, Dad conveniently abandons the family and the sex-obsessed guest ends up in bed with the mother.

In sum, Dickie Roberts has nothing of value to offer other than a dizzying number of cameo appearances by former child stars, with each of these only momentarily amusing as a voyeuristic opportunity to compare the grown-up on screen to the kid still emblazoned in our mind's eye. I won't recite a list of the ex-celebs among the cast, since spotting and identifying them is the only fun to be had during this stupefying 99-minute endurance test.

Cinema for degenerates.

Poor (0 stars.) Rated PG-13 for crude and sex-related humor, profanity and drug references.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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