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Charm gone in ‘Former Child Star’

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DICKIE ROBERTS: FORMER CHILD STAR — * 1/2 — David Spade, Mary McCormack, Craig Bierko, Scott Terra, Jenna Boyd, Alyssa Milano, Jon Lovitz, Rob Reiner; rated PG-13 (vulgarity, slapstick violence, profanity); see "Playing at local movie theaters" for theater listings.

The sad truth is that David Spade's snarky brand of sarcastic humor no longer holds the charm it once did. To put it in terms he might understand: David, your 15 minutes of fame are pretty much over.

Perhaps that explains why it's so ironic that Spade is playing a washed-up performer in "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star," a past-its-prime, show-biz comedy that manages to re-emphasize time and time again just how tiresome Spade's schtick has become.

At nearly 100 minutes, the film seems like it takes an eternity just to get going. And the attempts to make Spade likable, and more cuddly, than he is instead make him seem sort of creepy.

The film relies on a series of send-ups of late-'60s and early-'70s TV, almost all of them desperately unfunny. (A quick note to the filmmakers: Cameo appearances by the likes of Justin "Saved by the Bell" Diamond, Greg "Brady Bunch" Williams and Leif Garrett aren't inherently funny. They're just pathetic.)

The movie's title refers to a once-huge television performer (Spade) whose time has come and gone. Thirty years later he's still convinced that all he needs is one big break to get back to the top.

He's trying to land a role in a new film from Rob Reiner (another note to the filmmakers: Rob Reiner is no longer an A-list director). But the director is convinced Dickie isn't "normal" enough for the part.

So the desperate thirtysomething hires a family to help relive his childhood, hoping that will restore some "normality" to his life. The unfortunate "mother figure" is Grace Finney (Mary McCormack), whose husband (Craig Bierko) is trying to take advantage of the situation.

But that leaves Grace and her children (Scott Terra and Jenna Boyd) with a huge responsibility: trying to teach this social misfit how to act like a regular Joe.

Very little of what ensues can be termed humorous. All of it seems like an excuse for Spade to act childish. Which is probably fun for him — but not to watch.

You have to wonder what was in this besides a paycheck for McCormack, a talented actress who deserves better. So do audiences.

"Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star" is rated PG-13 for crude humor and references to sexual and bodily functions (including an extended belching gag), slapstick violence (a beating and some vehicular mayhem), and scattered use of profanity. Running time: 99 minutes.

E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com