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Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (12A)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

ART would seem to be imitating life for David Spade, the TV comic and Saturday Night Live veteran, who seems desperate to do anything that will launch his film career.

Hence, in Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star, Spade plays a former TV favourite, now working as a parking lot attendant, who will do anything to break into movies, even if it means self-humiliation in the process.

After auditioning for the new Rob Reiner movie, about a man who finds heaven in his own back garden, Roberts is told that he is unsuitable for the role because he missed out on his own childhood and isn’t ‘normal’ enough for the part; so he resolves to ‘reboot’ himself, and enters the home of a family to receive the sort of upbringing he has been missing out on.

The ensuing ‘family’ tale finds Roberts coming to the rescue of a troubled family, while finding his own happiness to boot, and is as sweet and predictable as one would expect from such fare.

The only surprise, however, is that Dickie Roberts is actually quite entertaining, finding its laughs in the unlikeliest of places, and actually coming off better than recent family comedies such as Cheaper by the Dozen and The Haunted Mansion.

Spade may cut an unlikely leading figure, and more often than not comes over as a Dana Carvey (Garth, in Wayne’s World) wannabe, but he also helps to keep things lively, even though a lot of the jokes fail to hit the mark.

In fact, Dickie Roberts is actually less funny, during its set-piece moments, than during the quick-flowing one-liners, making its appeal all the more difficult to understand, while watching.

Yet by keeping the humour flowing so relentlessly, Spade neatly manages to avoid the temptation to dwell, for too long, on what doesn’t work (and there is plenty), by replacing it with something that does, and refusing to hammer anything home too hard.

As a result, audiences feel less manipulated than they might, while proceedings don’t feel as laboured.

And while Spade may lack the out-and-out charisma required to propel him onto the A-list (or even B-list), by refusing to take himself too seriously, he also wins our affection, while some of the scenarios he finds himself in, including a celebrity wrestling match, are quite funny.

The early in-jokes at the expense of former child stars, including a laugh-out-loud opening montage, are also keenly observed, as are a couple of the well-realised cameos, while the closing song (featuring a chorus-line of former child stars, such as Charlene Tilton and Corey Feldman) ensures that proceedings are brought to the right sort of feel-good finale.

It may, ultimately, be just as ‘screwed up’ as its central protagonist, but Dickie Roberts possesses the same offbeat sort of charm, making it a film worth seeing, rather than running away from. And that’s not bad recommendation for a film produced by Adam Sandler!

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