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'Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star'

Spade washed up in 'Dickie Roberts'

Friday, September 05, 2003

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Film Critic

I think I finally found the answer to an age-old question: What is the sound of one hand clapping? Answer: The audience at a David Spade movie.

 
 

'Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star'

RATING: PG-13 for crude humor and language

STARRING: David Spade, Jon Lovitz, Alyssa Milano, Rob Reiner

DIRECTOR: Sam Weisman

   
 

A more basic, if less age-old, question: What is a David Spade movie?

I hate to tackle that one but must try: It's something like "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star," a kind of comedy that appeals to a mixed set or disconnected subsets of movie-goers hard to typify -- late adolescents in Tacoma, thirtysomething Gen X'ers in denial, liberal Republicans in Malibu.... I don't know exactly.

Spade is a kind of former child star himself -- "Saturday Night Live" being his rough equivalent of "Leave It to Beaver." In the farce at hand, he's a washed-up boy wonder whose adorable signature phrase was, "This is nuckin' futs!" These days Dickie is washing, rather than driving, cars of the rich and famous while his hapless agent, Jon Lovitz, strives mightily to land him a comeback role in the new Rob Reiner film.

Rob plays himself (lots of people play themselves here, in more ways than one) but doubts Dickie can do the part because he lacks a real center. Don't we all? Dickie's solution is to hire a real family with real kids to artificially inseminate him with the real childhood he never had.

In or out of such utero, it's a pretty abortive incubation, undelivered even by Lovitz and Reiner.

On the other hand, "Dickie" has the virtue of a certain sweetness, rather than nastiness, plus a nice family-values moral. If you go, don't make the mistake of many at the preview by leaving before the final credits: The film's best moments come during the group sing-along that ends it, featuring hilarious lyrics sung by a bevy (some two dozen!) of famous former child stars in their lumpy adulthood -- everybody from Tony Dow and Gary Coleman to Corey Feldman, Maureen McCormick and the whole Brady Bunch!

I don't hate -- just don't "get" -- our hero qua comedian. He's a monochromatic minimalist, neither outrageous nor poignant. There's no charisma. He's no good at shtick or physical comedy (an obvious stand-in replaces him in a dumb stilts routine). Seems to me, he was marginally funnier in the days of his Chris Farley vehicles ("Tommy Boy").

But what do I know? I'm just calling this Spade a fade.


Barry Paris can be reached at 412-263-3859.

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