Big Fish

David Spade, Jon Lovitz, Mary McCormack. Directed by Sam Weisman
Running Time: 99 mins

Gossip columns frequently relish the chance to inform readers how former child stars, who had really made it big in television series, have fallen on hard times, addicted, bankrupt, lives ruined. At the end of this uneven but amiable spoof, about 20 former child stars (their names and series listed on screen in case we never heard of them or have forgotten) join together as a choir to sing an ironic song about fame and celebrity.

Before that, however, we have a thumbnail sketch of Dickie Roberts, the abandoned child of a monstrous mother (Doris Roberts) who found headlines and fans as a child star. Then the series was canned and Dickie, who claimed to be the son of David Soul, boxes, valets cars and other jobs to eke out a living. When he tries to set up a possible show with director Rob Reiner (playing himself) which requires him to be like a child, he stays with a family for a month - and, as you would guess, antagonism on the part of the children turns to admiration and love and Dickie discovers what it is to be nice and human. This part of the film runs the risk of being a bit icky in the American TV way. However, David Spade is an odd screen presence, looking genial part of the time but looking suspicious at other times - but, perhaps, that is the way someone like Dickie Roberts would turn out.

Mary McCormack is very nice as the mother of the family. In the meantime, there are jokes at Hollywood's expense, especially of the TV industry, and guest stars, like Brendan Fraser, popping in and out. For audiences who know their sitcoms and their former child stars, this should be a treat.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is the International President of SIGNIS: the World Association for Catholic Communications and an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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