Happy Valley: Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi chi’intrate. How did it come to this? At the height of his power in Hollywood in 1999, Adam Sandler founded his own production company — Happy Madison Productions — as a way to continue making the movies he enjoys. Over the years, Sandler has slowly morphed into a pariah on the landscape of his big-budget studio comedies, some of which seem to be thinly veiled excuses for lavish vacations. But do they truly represent the nadir in the career of one of comedy’s once-brightest stars? Are there any hidden or underrated gems? Is there such a thing as too few fart jokes? Will Ben Sears retain any sense of sanity by the end of this? Join him and find out, as we venture to the Happy Valley.


Forget, for a minute, the film Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (a daunting task, I’m sure). What I really want to talk about, and what is keeping me awake at night and haunting my dreams, is the poster:

Upon first glance, the poster seems to be a fairly normal, inoffensive piece of promotional material, not unlike the many other posters you’d come across at the multiplex in 2003. But look closer at each individual aspect and the questions begin to pile up.

To start, the man on the poster looks less like David Spade and more like a computer algorithm’s best attempt at recreating David Spade using cheap software. The five-o’clock-shadow seems more pronounced than what Spade sports in the film, though some amount of stubble is visible in some scenes. There is a relatively humorous scene when Dickie makes a bad attempt to dye his hair brunette to blend in with the normies, but the hair on the poster is almost a Jessica Rabbit-esque shade of red. And though I’m no expert at the intricacies of Photoshop, I would bet my 94-year old grandmother’s life to say David Spade was not wearing those sunglasses when the photo in question was taken. 

Moving on to the background, the height chart implies that Dickie has been arrested and the poster is his mugshot. This does not happen in the film. While Dickie is certainly a jerk throughout the film, the closest he approaches to any criminal activity is offering to buy alcohol for underage children — from which he wisely backs down. Instead, he buys the kids root beer and they proceed to burp the alphabet. Ho, ho.

One of the more eye-catching elements of the poster is Dickie’s signature rhinestone glove on his right hand. Two aspects of that glove make no sense: (1) To my remembrance, Dickie never actually wears this specific glove. Rather, most of the gloves he wears look like glorified gardening gloves; and (2) Dickie is only wearing the glove on one hand. Why not both? Granted, the gloves in the film feel less like a character trait and more like just a prop — Dickie’s excuse for wearing them is for “sanitary reasons” — but he never displays any other germaphobic tendencies. (And wouldn’t only wearing one glove defeat whatever germaphobic purpose that wearing them would serve?) It’s clear the gloves are just a thinly veiled dig at Michael Jackson in the film and nothing more, and the white rhinestones on the poster only help to solidify this.

If the poster is supposed to imply a mugshot, why is Dickie Roberts holding a license plate? As of this writing, I’ve never been arrested. But to my knowledge, criminals don’t typically hold up license plates for identification — even in Hollywood in 2003, when the film was released. Perhaps the poster is referring to the outdated joke that prison inmates are responsible for stamping license plates. (Look, I’m grasping at straws at this point, people).

And then there’s the tagline: “50 million people used to watch him on TV. Now he washes their cars.” While the tagline is borderline catchy, it’s somewhat misleading. Dickie Roberts does not, in fact, wash cars. He valets them. Washing cars may roll off the tongue a little better than the alternative, but it’s the little details like this that really reveal where the studio’s priorities lied. A verbal mixup like this may seem inconsequential, but one of the film’s semi-major plot points literally revolves around Dickie valeting cars. 

Last, but not least, there’s Spade-bot’s smirking expression on the poster. Take your best guess as to what “Spade” was going for there. Is it contempt? Is it pity? Snarkiness, indifference or boredom? Spade may not make his money on his ability to inhabit a wide range of characters, but he at least knows how to animate himself. Linger too long on Spade-bot’s eyes, and they will start to follow you around the room. I’ve seen serial killers with more life behind their eyes. Maybe it’s the expression of an actor who has suddenly realized he made a movie like Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star.

  • Lest we forget, this movie also has a plot! What starts out as a toothless but interesting Hollywood satire becomes the perfect fodder for a network sitcom pilot and never rises above.
  • “I’m Getting Paid How Much?!” Inexplicable Cameo Award: The scene with Spade and the various former real-life child stars like Dustin Diamond and Danny Bonaduce is probably the best in the film. But, for anyone that loved Parks and Recreation as much as I did, I couldn’t help but love the appearance of Retta in one of the scenes where Dickie interviews various potential families with whom to live.
  • Just Go With It: The Happy Madison Promise. Kids swearing is never not funny. Kids almost swearing (by saying “shiz-nit” or “nucking futs”)  is just annoying.
  • Fart Joke Counter: Surprisingly, none! Again, though, there is an extended burping scene.
  • The Walkout Test: Pass. Those kiddos are just too darn sweet!
  • NEXT TIME: Guest contributor Matt Hurt (ObsessiveViewer.com) and I debate the labyrinthine workings of the plot of 50 First Dates.

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