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CHILDSTAR (director/writer: Don McKellar; screenwriter: Michael Goldbach; cinematographer: André Turpin; editor: Reginald Harkema; music: Christopher Dedrick; cast: Don McKellar (Rick Schiller), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Suzanne Burns), Mark Rendall (Taylor Brandon Burns), Kristin Adams (Natalie), Brendan Fehr (Chip Metzger), Dave Foley (Philip), Michael Murphy (Reed Harrison), Peter Paige (Tim), Gil Bellows (Isaac), Noam Jenkins (Sydney), Eric Stoltz (Fresno Burnbaum); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Niv Frichman/Daniel Iron/Jennifer Jonas; TVA Films; 2004-Canada)
“A pointless film about pointless people.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Childstar never grows as a comedy and never says anything that matters, and ends as a pointless film about pointless people. It’s a weirdly non entertaining film that seems bent on giving one of those important lessons on life, but never gets around to it. All the characters are revolting, in their own unique ways, and that they are supposed to be thought of as cute only makes them seem more revolting. Canadian writer-director Don McKellar (“Last Night”) gave himself too big a part as the lead and ends up hogging the film, to its detriment. Its aim was to satirize the Hollywood industry from a Canadian viewpoint, and also to poke fun at all those who genuflect to the money boys and their bottom-line approach to making films and offer cheeky comments on how parents of child actors tend to use them in order to cash in their chips before their child grows up (and I might add, this filmmaker thought that was the right thing to do). Every thing said was either to frivolous or too obvious to make an impression and the comedy never kicked in.

Los Angeles resident Taylor Brandon Burns (Mark Rendall) is an obnoxious Culkinesque childstar of twelve, who is in Toronto to shoot The First Son–an action movie about a terrorist attack on the American President. The kid goes AWOL from the set to try booze and girls and the blame goes to Rick Schiller (Don McKellar), who is the star’s driver, tutor, confidant and guardian. Rick’s a cuckolded ex-university professor with a marriage on the rocks and is an aspiring artistic indie filmmaker. He goes from driver to all those other roles after he bags the kid’s selfish stage mom Suzanne Burns (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Rick plays Sam Spade and tracks the runaway kid down with aspiring teen actress Natalie (Kristin Adams), who gets hooked up with the kid through the efforts of former TV childstar Chip Metzger (Brendan Fehr). Chris, who has a part in the film, empathizes with the spoiled kid and wanted to show him a good time, but gets canned when uptight sarcastic producer Philip (Dave Foley) goes on a rampage as his production schedule is thrown off course and his money bosses are stewing.

Unfortunately the film only gets worse as it goes along and tries to do some contrivances with its inane story. It resolves its uninteresting plot line by showing how Hollywood sucks everyone who wants to be a filmmaker into its system and spits them all out as failed artists looking for celebrity, power and wealth. Though the kiddie action ‘film within the film’ looked weak, I think I would have preferred watching that one. I don’t think it could have been worse than this dud.

REVIEWED ON 9/16/2005 GRADE: C –

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”