"You had me at the beer part, but you lost me at root."
You either like David Spade or you hate him - there's really little "in-between" when it comes to opinions on the former SNL star. Although he had a hit when paired up with late star Chris Farley, Spade's solo efforts - films that build a strange charm out of being sloppy, sort of pathetic and often, a somewhat inspired twist on the usual "rundown everyguy somehow becomes the hero at the end" - have not exactly gotten a warm reception.
Spade plays Dickie Roberts, a former child star on a sitcom called "The Glimmer Gang". He even had a catchphrase - "nucking futs!" (which is so unfunny as to be kinda funny). Now, years later, Dickie is completely washed-up, unable to even get recognized on the street. He plays poker with Danny Bonaduce, Dustin Diamond, Barry Williams, Leif Garrett and Corey Feldman. Eager to get back into stardom, he latches onto the idea of getting into the latest Rob Reiner movie.
Reiner isn't entirely sold on the idea (and Dickie's competition is Sean Penn), given that he feels that Dickie never had a real childhood. Dismayed but still ambitious, Dickie hires a real family to give him the experience of being a kid that he never really had when he was famous. Although the mother (Mary McCormack) and kids object, the father (Craig Bierko) sees it as a way to pick up a few bucks.
"Dickie Roberts" is another Spade effort produced by Adam Sandler and goes with the recent trend of Sandler's films moving away from focusing on the humor and throwing together a mix of softened humor and heartwarming moments. "Roberts", however, suffers from not knowing whether it wants to be a heartwarming picture about a failed star trying to relieve his youth or another sharply sarcastic Spade-fest. Not helping matters is that, while I remain a Spade fan (enough to pay to see "Joe Dirt" in the theater), there's little doubt that he's more skilled at sarcastic put-downs than sentimentality - any attempts at drama here pretty much fall apart. Mary McCormack is charming and believable in what is a pretty thankless role.
It's really too bad that "Dickie Roberts" - which is another somewhat inspired concept from Spade, merged with the usual formula - couldn't have been the twisted, gleefully snippy dark comedy that it probably should and could have been with Spade. There's a few solid laughs scattered throughout here, but they're dampened by the film's false drama.
VIDEO: "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star" is presented by Paramount in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation did show some minor issues at times, but overall, this is a moderately good effort from the studio. Sharpness and detail weren't entirely consistent, but the majority of the picture appeared crisp and fairly well-defined.
Still, some problems did occur. Edge enhancement did appear in a few scenes, but only briefly, and in fairly slight amounts. The print looked in fine condition, but a couple of little specks appeared in a scene or two. No compression artifacts appeared, though. The film's natural color palette looked accurately rendered, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: "Dickie Roberts" is presented by Paramount in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film provides the usual "comedy" mix, focusing almost entirely on dialogue. The film's score and mixture of classic rock tunes occasionally gets some reinforcement from the surrounds, but mostly just maintains a pretty nice spread across the front speakers. Surrounds aren't used for much else besides the occasional music - a scene or two threw some effects to the rear speakers, but that's about it. Dialogue remained clean and natural sounding, aside from a few shrill louder lines. The film's musical score sounded vivid and dynamic, while effects came through clearly.
EXTRAS: The DVD includes not one, but two commentaries; the first one is slow going, as director Sam Weisman doesn't have much to offer and leaves a fair amount of empty spaces. The other track is certainly an improvement, as writer/actor David Spade and writer Fred Wolf provide a funny and entertaining effort. The two don't provide too much information about the production, but offer some details about and stories from the shoot, while mixing in jokes about the final film and each other's work.
"Reel Comedy" is a 17-minute Comedy Central "making of" feature. The Comedy Central series does seem to allow a little more freedom and seem a bit more creative than HBO's "First Look"s, but the end result here is still a promotional featurette. Here, stars David Spade and Craig Bierko drive around Los Angeles and chat about the making of the film. We hear from the cast and crew, including some of the former child stars, in interviews.
The 16-minute "True Hollywood Story" and 11-minute "Pencil Dickie: Writing the Story" are general "making ofs", with the former talking about getting all the former child stars together, while the latter discusses Spade's friendship with writer Fred Wolf and how the two collaborated on the screenplay. "Behind Child Stars on Your Television" is a brief look at how the filmmakers got together a wealth of former TV actors to film the music video on the end credits of the film, while the next feature on the list is an extended version of the music video.
Rounding out the DVD are 7 minutes worth of so-so deleted scenes (some funny bits, some that just don't work), the film's theatrical trailer and previews for other Paramount titles, including the superb "School of Rock".
Final Thoughts: There's a few very funny moments scattered throughout "Dickie Roberts", but I wish that the concept had been explored more and that Spade had tailored the film more towards his sense of humor than trying to force it into the realm of heartwarming fare. Paramount's DVD edition provides satisfactory audio and video, along with a few fun supplemental features. Rent it.
The Film **