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Where has this little gem of a film been hiding since 1998? To see Burt Ward, Erin Moran, Dana Plato, and Ken Osmond playing cards and discussing infomercials they've done is quite a hoot(even the director's cuts of those -- "It's colon cleanser...just SPRINKLE it!"), and that scene alone is worth the price of seeing this film! Ah, when the stars have to come down from the hill and have to live with the rest of us...it's also eerie that this was one of Plato's last appearances in a film with a title as Desperation Boulevard, but there's a loving "In Memory Of" for her at the end credits. I was rather stunned to see later in David Spade's "Dickie Roberts" film the card-playing scene was totally copied from this film.
While the Comedy Central TV show STRIP MALL with Julie Brown showed a more zany take on the life of a has-been former child actor, her character was a bit self-centered (though I worship Ms. Brown of course!). In Desperation Boulevard, Judy Tenuta's character of Joan, a has-been former child actor is quite different in the fact that you really feel for her plight, and she is actually a likable gal. I was amazed to see Tenuta showing quite a bit of sincerity in her role, which gave this film a bit of reality in the midst of silly stunts she tried to get back in the public eye once again. At times wacky, then charming, there's a nice balance that will have you smiling even if you're not laughing out loud.
Michael Lerner is fine as the oblivious agent, and Will Shriner shows some compassion as Joan's former love. There are fun appearances by Burt Ward, Erin Moran, Dana Plato, Ken Osmond, Weird Al Yankovic, Emo Philips, Rhonda Shear, and Melanie Hutsell that work well with the story instead of just being a "spot the pseudo-celebrity" type of thing. I found myself laughing hard when Erin Moran had such a look of glee on her face for taking credit for a liquor store robbery that Tenuta tried to pull off! The scenes from the girl scout horror film were an absolute stitch as well: "She earned her merit badge in TERROR!"
Even though the "gift of the magi" ending is a bit tidied up, it's still satisfying and and the hired stalker gives a boost to any scene he just happens to be standing in! There's a lot of heartfelt charm to this film as well as the comedy, and it was interesting to see the mild level of language instead of trying for a hard "R-rated" theme. It has just enough to make it pleasing to adults.
I've always been a fan of Judy Tenuta, and seeing her play more than a wacky gal is really a nice surprise. Desperation Boulevard is a pleasant low-budget escape from a sea of big-budget wastes of time. This one is definitely worth your while if you appreciate a good take on fame and selflessness. Not since Christopher Guest's THE BIG PICTURE have I enjoyed such a take on Hollywood.
Be sure to stick through the end credits to see some outtakes and a tap-dancing Anne Frank play! It has to be seen to be believed!
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