Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Chump Change

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
View here

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Rating: R

Starring:
Stephen Burrows as Milwaukee Steve
Tim Matheson as Simon Sez
Traci Lords as Sam
Jerry Stiller as The Colonel
Anne Meara as Casting Director
Fred Willard as Manager #3
A.J. Benza as Agent #3
Clancy Brown as The Man
Miriam Flynn as Bussler Waitress
Jon Chardiet as Mr. C.
McNally Sagal as Maloney
Abe Vigoda as The Frog
Theo Greenly as Chuckie Self
Roger Clinton as Studio Executive #2
John Judd as Wisconsin Cop
Amy Stiller as Cherri Contrary

Special Features:
Outtakes and Deleted Scenes with Optional Director Commentary

Focus Group Lo-Lights

Feature Commentary with Director Stephen D. Burrows

Director's Commentary on the Director's Commentary

Trailer

A Conversation with Traci Lords

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1) – Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 89 Minutes

Synopsis:
Milwaukee Steve is a down and out actor and writer looking for his big break in Hollywood. As he returns to Wisconsin to recover from his latest rejection, he tells the story of his career to Sam, a young woman renting a room in his mother's house.

Steve tells how he started out acting in a jock itch commercial, but what he really wants to do is comedy writing. He tries out some acting classes before starting a comedy show of his own with some friends. When it bombs, things look their bleakest until he gets his next big break. Steve makes a film about his disastrous appearance on Wheel of Fortune. When he's sued by Merv Griffin for the show, he suddenly becomes the hot property in town.

Steve is hired by slimy studio executive Simon Sez to write an action sex comedy called "The Whore, Her Mother, The Frog, and The Bomb". Steve jumps through all sorts of hoops to please everyone but nothing seems to work. Will he ever get his movie made and find his big break?

Chump Change is rated R for language and some sexual humor.

The Movie:
I had never heard of Chump Change before, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. While it's by no means a perfect film, it has a lot of great funny moments in it. Most of the jokes are aimed square at Hollywood and Wisconsin, so you'll enjoy the movie even more if you can relate to either of them.

Stephen Burrows writes, directs, and stars in this film as Milwaukee Steve. He's quite a talented guy and delivers a lot of laughs while taking shots at the whole entertainment industry. It's apparently based on his own real life experiences. Even a running gag about him starring in a jock itch commercial is partially based on his real past acting jobs. Burrows throws jokes at you at an incredibly fast rate. In a casting agent's office he does a whole comic routine filled with songs, jokes, and impressions. Another scene shows him and his acting partners doing a comedy show filled with bizarre sketches including a Kevorkian musical, a hillbilly song, and other outlandish routines. It's all really funny and I'd love to see what Burrows would do with other material.

One of the biggest surprises of the film is former porn star Traci Lords. Chances are you won't recognize her as the sassy Sam, the love interest of Milwaukee Steve. Now as a brunette, she guides the audience through Steve's twisted tale. She's nice, funny, and a good romantic interest for Steve. It's not at all what you might expect from her. The result of her performance was an award at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.

The supporting cast is also fantastic. Most notable is Clancy Brown in a cameo as an acting class instructor. He's full of anger issues and all sorts of baloney advice on acting. His scenes were some of the funniest of the film. Mad TV's Michael James McDonald also appears in this scene as a prodigy acting student. Almost all of the Stiller family appears in this movie except for Ben Stiller. Jerry Stiller has a brief cameo as a studio executive, Amy Stiller as the psychotic friend of Steve's, and Stiller matriarch Anne Meara plays the Casting Director. Other fun appearances include Tim Matheson as the slimy, bipolar studio executive Simon Sez, Fred Willard as the slimy Manager #3, Abe Vigoda as The Frog, and even Bill Clinton’s brother Roger Clinton as Studio Executive #2.

About the only problem with the movie is that it is very much geared towards poking fun at Hollywood. Unless you take great pleasure at seeing the movie making scene roasted or get the jokes about struggling actors, you may not enjoy it as much. Everyone enjoys poking fun at Wisconsin, though, so I guess there's something for everyone.

The Extras:
There are a few extras included on this DVD. Here are the highlights:

Outtakes and Deleted Scenes with Optional Director Commentary – There are a few deleted scenes included here. Most are longer versions of Steve's comedy bit demo and extended versions of his comedy show sketches. If you enjoyed these in the movie then they are well worth checking out. They can also be viewed with director commentary from Burrows.

Focus Group Lo-Lights – This is one of the funniest DVD extras I've ever seen. On it, Steve Burrows reads comments written by an audience from a New York test screening of the film. They are horribly spelled, bafflingly contradictory, and just plain amusing. You have to see this one.

Feature Commentary with Director Stephen D. Burrows – This is your standard director's commentary. Burrows gives a lot of interesting background on the movie. He tells you what was inspired by real life events, how he got the movie made, info on cameos, and more. His stories about Wisconsin are also pretty funny. Overall, it's a good director's commentary.

Director's Commentary on the Director's Commentary – This is also a hilarious DVD extra, but it's not quite what you'd expect. The original director's commentary comes on and then Stephen Burrows comes on and says, "I just heard the director's commentary...and IT SUCKS!!!" It then ends.

A Conversation with Traci Lords – This is a 10 minute or so conversation between Burrows and Lords talking about how she got the role, how they filmed the movie, and the aftermath when everyone realized Lords could act. It's pretty interesting, but Burrows spends most of the time talking. It ends with the credit "Stephen Burrow's Hair and Makeup by Traci Lords". It then shows her fixing his hair and makeup before the shoot. (She manages to make Steve 'pleasantly unattractive' as we hear in the movie.)

The Bottom Line:
This is a fun video that shows off the comic potential of Stephen Burrows. It would make a decent renter and is good for a few laughs, but only if you appreciate films that poke fun at Hollywood and Wisconsin.

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