Chump Change Review
By Christopher Null
Stephen Burrows directs, writes, and stars in a film about Stephen Burrows. Why is it not called Stephen Burrows? Unclear, but Chump Change is both a sometimes funny movie and a seriously disjointed mess.
Seriously, Chump Change follows Burrows' real-life adventures in Hollywood. A Wisconsin doughboy, Burrows stars in a jock itch commercial, but can't get any more work in L.A. Eventually he gets into a feud over an outburst on Wheel of Fortune, which culminates in his becoming a minor celebrity even while he has dropped out by returning to Wisconsin. Burrows encounters a cast of kooky characters -- from cliched brain-dead agents to milk-fed local girls in cow country (most memorable among them are Tim Matheson as Burrows' primary contact in L.A. and Traci Lords as his galpal back home). From one random encounter to another, Burrows celebrates his up-and-coming success as a comedy screenwriter, while making gentle fun of his quaint home town (in other words, prepare for lots of drive-by shots of Milwaukee hot dog stands).
Burrows narrates the entire movie, barely stopping to take a breath. It all comes off in the end as a pale imitation of The Big Picture, which follows a nearly identical -- and absurd -- track from the bottom of the Hollywood scene to the top and back again and again. Burrows appears in virtually every scene (and if he's not in it, he's jabbering on top of it), which makes him come off like a real narcissist. Unfortunately for him, he has no reason to be, as his story ultimately has nothing in it that hasn't been told in dozens of other tales -- aside from the Merv lawsuit and a surplus of polka.
The sum of Chump Change is about 30 minutes of genius comedy padded with another hour of material that doesn't quite work. Burrows is trying to show off what a Hollywood insider he is -- while making a movie about not living in Hollywood. It never quite works, and we never quite care. The stories that take place in the two locations are inconsequential to one another. Burrows keeps trying to fire off gags on the DVD, by offering not just a commentary track but a tongue-in-cheek "commentary to the commentary" as well wherein he simply says the commentary track blows. Burrows is strangely humble and self-important at the same time: One special feature has Burrows reading off actual test screening comments to the camera. Most are negative, but Burrows is intent on pointing out all the misspellings in the comments.
Geez, I hope I spelled all the words right in this review.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Wednesday 7th January 2004
Cast & Crew