After the success of the very weird apocalyptic Last Night, Canadian writer and director Don McKellar tackles the phenomenon of child stars in this comedy he says he started thinking about after a meeting with Haley Joel Osment. Childstar features a stellar cast of actors who have made comedies before, especially Dave Foley of Kids In The Hall Fame, Alan Thicke of Growing Pains, and the great Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Childstar is a take on the problems with fame child actors experience. It is also about how every single adult in the child's environment is out to suck every last dime they can out of the child. Don McKellar does a great job as Rick, the driver for young movie star Taylor Brandon Burns (Mark Rendall) and he does write quite a few funny scenes, especially this oft quoted moment where twelve year old Taylor takes "paid for groupie" Natalie to the White House movie set for an intimate encounter:
Taylor: "So where do you want to do it? The Oval Office, The Green Room, The Lincoln bedroom?"
Natalie: "It's your fantasy. I'm Canadian."
And this weird little moment where Rick gives the kid some career advice:
Rick the driver: "You should make more adult decisions."
Taylor: "You mean like porn?"
Unfortunately, McKellar is even more self-indulgent camera work wise than Barbara Streisand and manages to insert in this 98-minute comedy every single possible weird camera angle and cut away he ever tried in his student filmmaking days. The camera work detracts from what is otherwise an interesting story centered on a young sitcom star coming to Toronto to film a movie and having a bit of a growth-spurt induced breakdown. What absolutely kills the viewer's enjoyment of this movie is the atrocious quality of the sound recording. McKellar cuts from busy set or bar scene to a more intimate scene and the sound in the first is too high and in the second too low. Even when Taylor and Natalie are on a deserted set at two or three in the morning you can barely hear the dialogue from all the ambient noise (of a deserted set????)
Childstar could have been a very good little comedy. There are many really good lines, if you can hear them, quite a few subtle but funny moments such as when the SWAT team invades Taylor's dad's house looking for the kid in a very Elian Gonzalez complete with TV news crew in tow, a very biting comment from Alan Thicke (who plays the sitcom dad) about the price of fame for teenagers, and a dozen or so very dark and caustic jabs at the industry. The very secondary story of a former child star on skid row simply does not interest as it is not developed enough.
Perhaps the best way to enjoy Childstar would be to turn the sound down and use the subtitles but that is not an option on this release.
Childstar includes the usual extras of Making Of, Trailer, and Audio Commentary. Nothing you can't do without.