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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

A very interesting flawed movie.

8/10
Author: music_man_fan from Canada
24 July 2006

I can't believe I'm one of the only people who've seen this. I assumed it came out in the states as it was quite fascinating.

It is actually the story of Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges. They are interviewed extensively in this movie and are pretty candid. That in itself is worth it to see.

At the beginning it looks like all other "what exactly happened on the set of" movies but changes somewhere in the middle. It begins to take on "How Hollywood screws up kids movie". And a very good blamer at that.

The ending with Gary Coleman is excellent as he tries not to pass the blame anyone. But the movie does it for him. It's a mixed bag when it comes to acting and the script but it shows where things started going very wrong for everybody. Conrad Bain comes out looking bad in this one. And I can see why NBC sent this straight to Asian movie channels (One step below straight to video). They make the network execs look like insensitive unemotional jerks.

Overall it's a very uneven movie and it seems to change it's focus in mid stream. But if you liked Diff'rent Strokes and wanted some reasons how the kids got messed up, it gives a few good explanations why and how nobody helped them. Dana's story is pretty sad. An interesting movie for those who liked the TV show and wanted to see how it went wrong.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Interesting

10/10
Author: clevkenneth5 from United States
9 September 2006

I have always been a big fan of this show and looked forward to the movie. it was painful to watch as the three kid stars went through so much at home and then went to work and portrayed a happy family.It made it easier to understand their adult troubles though. I got the feeling that part of the reason Todd and Gary agreed to this was in tribute to Dana. I hope the film becomes available on DVD.Todd and Dana did a good job of keeping their relationship out of the press,can you imagine the scandal?I remember seeing Dana and Gary on Geraldo.Todd was on the phone in jail.When he had to hang up Dana said "I'll be down to see you next week Todd,I love you". I must say that the cast did an excellent job also.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A made for TV film that skims over everything

5/10
Author: lambiepie-2 from Los Angeles, CA
5 September 2006

"Different Strokes" was one of those programs marketed to my generation - as was "Facts of Life", "The New Mickey Mouse Club", "Webster" (The Different Stokes rip-off) et al. This was a popular show for NBC in its first 4 seasons...and unless you lived in a cave, you couldn't escape hearing about the young cast. Kimberly, played by Dana Plato was the cute, wealthy white girl who had to grow to love her new 'brothers'; Willis, played by Todd Bridges was the street wise charge; and Arnold...well Arnold was the cute little moppet played by Gary Coleman -- and whether you watched the show or not, you knew Gary. He had "child star quality" all over him. I knew all of this, even not being a fan of the program - but I read teen magazines, read newspapers and looked at the news.

As a child viewer, I felt that Dana Plato was going to get a lot of TV and movie work. As a child viewer, I felt that Gary Coleman would be over exposed in just a few years. As a child viewer, I felt that Todd Bridges (whom I saw before Different Strokes in other TV works) was going to leave the business, go to college and become a Television Executive. That's what I thought, as a child viewer. Boy, was I wrong, and this TV rendition touches on many aspects without going into too much depth on any of them.

The one positive thing I have to give this rendition of the instances that happened, was that what they showed seemed to be through the view of Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman. No matter what anyone writes or says, whatever feelings and emotions happened outside of each of their views, they didn't get into in depth. But you know that each has a separate tale to tell that could easily become 3 or 4 separate films each with their own heart-wrenching perspective.

Gary Coleman's apparent rise to what should have been his stardom was thwarted by almost all who came into his life. Gary had health problems which were not attended to properly. Gary wanted to grow up, and the show wouldn't allow for him to. Gary needed star making vehicles but did not have any creative minds closely advising him to choose the right vehicles. And his parents - some parents are not meant to be personal managers. Parents need to be parents to WATCH the personal managers, and above all else care for the health and welfare of the child. Tragic.

Todd Bridges was a talented, in demand child actor prior to "Different Strokes". With the weekly series, Todd should have had more work. Todd should have had business managers to look over the accountants and then had someone to look over the business manager. And then someone to even look over that. Tragic.

Dana Plato was definitely on the radar of filmmakers and TV executives but at every turn, something went awry with Dana. Missed auditions for whatever reason, extra-curricular activities that did pour onto the show, and just Dana trying to find herself as many young women in that business tried to do. Without some real type of love, care, discipline - in the grueling schedules a weekly series can put on you, Dana turned into the most tragic of the three child/teen stars. Tragic.

This TV movie skims all of this just to give you a slight overview of all of the problems on the set, with the stars and at the NBC Executive levels itself at that time. When I was watching this TV rendition of "Different Strokes", I remembered one of the most interesting lines that came to me when moved out to California: "Never become the PPresident of a network. It's a thankless job, the job never lasts and you're forgotten as soon as you leave." This is sad - you do get to see a "skim" of what was up with Fred Silverman who created a boatload of programming for NBC, a skim of the talented late Brandon Tardikoff and a skim of the execs over at ABC and their pursuit over the advertising dollar and programming shows to a mass audience. This film didn't go as deep as it was at the time.

At points this TV movie was not sure where it wanted to go but it ended up at the overall view of Todd and Gary. They tried to hook it together by having the real Todd and Gary give their own insights between story but it wasn't enough. And Gary still comes across as very, very bitter. But - can you blame him? Another thing I did get was in watching this I wished I had a "way back machine" to be able to tell each of these actors what was in store for them so they could put the breaks on and change their courses before it was too late.

I'm sure they wished the same thing too.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A Sad End To the Laughter

8/10
Author: lord woodburry (deanofrpps@aol.com) from The Society NY
4 September 2006

Gary Coleman Todd Bridges and Dana Plato entertained America for nearly a decade. This Made for TV movie focuses on Gary Coleman, but there is some attention to the personal lives of his co-stars.

You can't trust anyone in this business, says Gary's agent.

Where does the show end and reality begin? Gary Coleman played a cute little boy well into teenage years. Yet he at a young age became an institution which was greater than himself with his parents raking in the profits through a corporation set up allegedly to maximize the receipts.

How do you end the show? The end which comes proved to be a tragic lesson for Gary and for Todd Bridges. Ripped off by his parents, Gary had to take them to the courts for redress. Dana Plato died of a drug overdose.

I disagree with others who felt the acting poor. The acting may not have been stellar but it was passable and presented a story which deserves to be told.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Effectively Corny! A Guilty Pleasure!

6/10
Author: steve-575 from pa
10 September 2006

I must admit every single one of these so-called "Behind The Camera" or "What Really Happened" movies about former sitcoms is like a train wreck. You know it will be bad. However you cannot help but keep watching and it is very hard to leave or turn off in this case, especially if you are big fan of the series. Whether it be "Mork & Mindy" or "Three's Company", every one of these movies has followed the same pattern: bad acting, cheesy dialog, actors who look or act nothing like the original stars, and story lines which make almost everyone look selfish or difficult. You can basically just watch the "E!True Hollywood Story" and get the same information but what fun would it be without the above-mentioned flaws.

So when the hundredth re-enactment of the "Diff'rent Strokes" story aired on NBC, it was no surprise that it resembled all of the previous TV movies. It was also no surprise that, being a big fan of the sitcom, I was unable to change the channel.

It starts out from the beginning of the sitcom and spans to the present day with interviews from Todd Bridges and Gary Coleman who were most likely consultants on the project. The bad acting and cheesy dialog right away became evident as most of the actors were unknowns and it was obvious that Quentin Tarentino was not in charge of the script. The scene where security guard Gary Coleman punched the lady who asked him for an autograph was a classic in cheesy scenes.

True to form, the actors really did not resemble the original cast members. The only one that bore somewhat of a resemblance to the actors was Dana Plato. The actor who played Mr. Drummond (Conrad Bain) looked like him but you could tell he was wearing tons of makeup. The guy who played the grown-up Gary Coleman was the absolute worst. Other than being short and black, he had nothing in common with the original actor or the other two actors who played Coleman in the movie. They should have just gotten Gary Coleman himself to play the role.

Finally, the storyline made just about everyone look bad. The people that looked the worst were the parents of the sitcom stars. Dana Plato's mother was an unfit parent who put drugs and sex ahead of her daughter. Todd Bridge's father was abusive and estranged from him and his mom. Gary Coleman's dad looked the worst of anyone in the movie, which is saying a lot. He forced Gary to continue with the show when he was really sick, took Gary's money, fought with the producers, made a scene almost everywhere he went, etc. Next, the producers of the show were just a step below the parents. They only seemed to care about the show and how much money they could make off it and did not give a damn about troubled stars whose lives were spiraling downward. I remember a scene where someone tells Gary Coleman that there are no friends in the acting business just professional acquaintances.

The stars themselves came out looking bad, albeit victims of mistreatment and bad parenting. Gary Coleman was portrayed as a bitter and ungrateful child actor who was always feuding with the producers, his parents and other stars of the show. They could have probably added another hour solely based on his relationship with his estranged wife and subsequent death at age 42. Todd Bridges and Dana Plato came across as washed-up actors who were given chance after chance to clean up their act and still could not. One surprising thing to come out of the movie was that they were carrying on an affair (something you wouldn't have gotten from the "E! True Hollywood Story"). The only person who came out looking good in the movie was Conrad Bain who seemed to genuinely care about the three stars.

Watching a movie is all about expectations. If you watch a movie expecting the next "Godfather", you're probably going to grade it much tougher and be disappointed. However, with this movie I don't think anyone expected a five-star masterpiece. While this movie is not good by the standards that a lot of movies are: plot, acting, dialog, etc. It is good in the fact that it meets people expectations and is entertaining to watch.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Enjoyed this movie and the Johnny Carson actor

4/10
Author: spunkygrandmaof11 from United States
7 September 2006

This movie was very informative. I didn't think that things like this were still going on. I thought the Jackie Coogan law took care of this type of problem. I thought the actor that played Johnny Carson was great, his appearance, voice, mannerisms - amazing! My favorite part was when he threw up his hands at the end of the vignette when he got such a kick out of the kid and asked, "Do you want to take over the show?" It really brought back lots of fond memories of Johnny for me. I didn't see his name listed in the cast credits. Tthe last actor to play Gary Coleman seemed too old to play Gary. But I did like the first little fella. Would like to view this film again.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Conrad Bain was played by ????

9/10
Author: dalelonghair from United States
5 September 2006

I really enjoyed watching this TV movie last night. And it certainly said a lot about the exploitation of children in show business. The only sympathetic parent was Todd Bridges' mother...although Gary Coleman's mother was sympathetic at first.

What is the name of the actor who played Conrad Bain? I do not see it listed in the credits?

Gary Coleman still has a lot of issues to work through. But I can see he is on the road to recovery. He has been through so much.

What happened to Dana Plato's child? Is he with his father?

I hope Todd Bridges continues to achieve success in the future. He deserves it.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Good job (sometimes) of telling the bad

Author: vchimpanzee
5 September 2006

I enjoyed "Diff'rent Strokes", mainly because of Gary Coleman. I had already seen this bratty kid do such a good job on "The Jeffersons" even before he got his own series.

But if you're looking for the ideal world portrayed in the sitcom, look somewhere else. The few scenes from the show look like a nauseatingly sweet parody of "Leave It To Beaver" type shows. After about the first 20 minutes, no one except the network executives is allowed to be happy for more than two minutes. We see as much of the negative in these kids' lives as is possible in two hours minus commercial breaks. And most everyone seems to be angry or depressed nearly all the time. No wonder these kids ended up like they did--look at their parents! Though many kids from similar situations have turned out all right.

I thought all the actors playing Coleman did a good job. There will never be another Gary Coleman, and that's part of the problem. Because of his special talents (and his father's desire to keep making money), he wasn't allowed to just quit because of his illness. Bobb'e J. Thompson played the sassy Coleman about as well as any kid could. Robert Bailey Jr. effectively showed the angry teenager tired of being treated like a cute kid, as well as the sick child never allowed to take too much time off. Alon Williams, despite his height, looked and spoke like an adult (ironically, he looked more adult than the real Coleman). In one scene, though, it appears a bad makeup job was allowed to substitute for actually looking adult, so I am assuming that was Bailey.

In her first scenes as Dana, Jessica King seemed to be on drugs. Because of the nature of this movie, they would have told us if Dana really had been high. Whichever actress played Dana in her first scene at home, though, was much better than King in her first scene. Once Dana became an adult, Brittney Irvin gave one of the movie's best performances. And she had a nice body too--we got to see as much as network TV would let us.

Brennan Gademans and Shedrack Anderson both did a good job as Todd Bridges--Anderson, of course, had the greater challenge. Saul Rubinek gave the standout performance, though, as NBC head Fred Silverman. I thought most of the actors did a good job. Bruce Young and Lorena Gale seemed kind of old to be Coleman's parents rather than his grandparents.

A couple of celebrity cameos deserve mention. The actor playing Johnny Carson, though he looked like George W. Bush, captured the late night legend's mannerisms and speaking style perfectly. On the other hand, Johnnie Cochran seemed like a "Saturday Night Live" or "Mad TV" version of the flamboyant lawyer who entertained at the O. J. Simpson trial.

Julie Brown had only a brief appearance as Charlotte Rae, but she captured her style. One possible goof: Rae was told here that she would be headmistress at Kimberly's school. In fact, Mrs. Garrett was a house mother and later a dietitian on "Facts of Life". However, I don't know what the actual plan was.

John Innes' performance as Conrad Bain, on the other hand, was a joke. The man was not mentally or physically disabled. And this was not intended to be a parody.

I thought Coleman and Bridges both did a good job explaining their lives for us. Their presence added something and gave the movie some credibility. If they actually appeared, that helps to make the case that they approved of how they were portrayed.

If you want to see all the sleazy details of celebrities' lives and don't care about seeing them happy, this movie may be for you. If you wanted a more balanced portrayal with more of the good parts, maybe not.

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A Bad Idea, Period

3/10
Author: stellbread from United States
22 December 2009

The no-name cast delivers so many clichés and such laughable dialogue, that it should be re-titled The Unintentionally Funny Story of Diff'rent Strokes.

Todd Bridges, Gary Coleman Coleman and the late Dana Plato were the three child stars who played the child and two adopted wards of Philip Drummond, played by Conrad Bain. The show was a hit in the 70's and made Coleman a star. Bridges and Coleman played adopted siblings Arnold and Willis, who reside in a lavish home with their benefactor, Drummond and his daughter, Kimberly (Plato).

After the shows run, the three young cast members experienced growing pains not uncommon among Hollywood child stars: Bridges became addicted to crack, then was arrested and tried on charges of attempted murder. Coleman wound up bankrupt after being ripped off by his parents, during which time he learned that Hollywood has no roles for twentysomething, undersized actors. Plato, however, was the most tragic case of all. After Strokes went off the air, she had a dozen movie and television appearances, none of which brought the sort of recognition the role of Kimberly Drummond had. The twenty-four year old fought a long battle with drugs and public ridicule after a botched liquor store hold-up, she died at age 35, on May 8, 1999. Her death was determined to be a suicide by overdose.

This schlock makes Purple Rain look like Mystic River. It features an even funnier—-and tragically so—-in story interviews with Bridges and Coleman. Lucky for Plato that she isn't around to see this mess, for she would no doubt die of shame.

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