Chump Change

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User Reviews
Comments from Amazon.com, IMDB.com, and Other Audience Members

User Comments From Amazon

It grows on you, April 12, 2004
Reviewer: Brian Houser (see more about me) from Baltimore, MD USA

Not enough substance to carry the movie through to the end but there are definitely plenty of funny moments. The acting is pretty good and I found the characters believable and likeable. Excellent casting. Nicely done DVD including good director's commentary. I think this movie deserves more notice.

Excellent film with tons of laughs, February 21, 2004
Reviewer: A viewer from Connecticut United States

Too indie to be mainstream, too mainstream to be inde: this is a great look at the absurdity of our obsession with pidgeon-holes and similar nonsense... I tend to think there is a lot less exageration in this film than would appear on the surface. The cover shot is goofy and misleading: this is a film about Steve Burroughs and his attempts to crack the Hollywood system, Tim Mathison is a supporting character. Anyhow, funny on a variety of levels. Destined to become a cult classic! Interesting soundtrack as well!



Absolutely hilarious and totally heartwarming, February 10, 2004
Reviewer: A viewer from Los Angeles, CA

I laughed so hard - I cried. This movie has tons of laughs along with a lot of heart and doesn't hold back on either. It's a smart, sophisticated comedy with plenty of crotch whacks - literally something for everyone.

The lead character, Milwaukee Steve (Steve Burrows) brings so much energy and comedic pathos to the screen, you just like him and naturally root for him. The love story between him and Sam (Traci Lords) is so sweet and strangely touching. I was swept away by the beauty of both the midwest and their blossoming love.

Simon Sez (Tim Matheson) was amazing as the nutso kinetic producer. He brought a certain humanity to this otherwise unlikeable character. I haven't seen him in anything so funny since "Animal House".

The comedy flows throughout, but never more so than when Steve auditions for the casting director (Anne Meara) and the Trilogy of Titters cast put on a show. Clancy Brown also makes a powerful appearance as an acting coach. The moive is loaded with strong, fun cameo's. Abe Vigoda as the frog, Jerry Stiller (the Colonel) and Fred Willard (Manager) were particularly hilarious. In fact, Fred delivers one of the most memorable lines from any movie I've ever seen, "I should've never given you my opinion 'til I found out what it was supposed to be".

The DVD extra's are superb and unexpectedly funny. I never seen anything like the focus group lo-lights and the director's commentary on the director's commentary - totally unique and hugely hilarious. The director's commentary is loaded with entertaining and interesting tidbits about the making of the film. And I loved the full scene of Dr. Kevorkian-the musical, in the outtakes.

This is a laugh-out-loud, funny American original. A must see, wild-romp through Hollywood and the midwest. I loved it.



Excellent comedy that should be in the theaters, January 24, 2004
Reviewer: downstream from Oconomowoc, WI United States

If you enjoyed The Player by Robert Altman, you will like this, too. It isn't quite as dark or masterfully directed - but it has a lot of witty humor, a convincing love story and an interesting script about life in show business. The actors in the film really seem to be enjoying themselves and it is contagious for the audience. Also, the movie is additional fun for anyone living in Wisconsin with all the local references and scenery that is captured.

Traci Lords deserves an Oscar for her performance. Yes, I'm totally serious. You have to see Chump Change and you'll know what I'm talking about. I knew she was in the movie (and I know what she looks like) and yet I had no idea - for the whole film - which character she was playing - until they ran photo credits at the end. Hopefully a lot of people in Hollywood will see this - it should really spark a rebirth for her as a serious actress. She is much more talented than the current group of "A-List" people like Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Lopez.

The cost of the DVD is a little higher than average - but, this is worth every dollar. Excellent film, lots of extra scenes, outtakes, interviews. $25 is "Chump Change" to pay. Send a message to the movie industry that we want better comedies in major release - like this one.



One of the best DVDs ever released!, January 20, 2004
Reviewer: A viewer from Milwaukee, WI USA

Stephen Burrows' comedy masterpiece, Chump Change, delivers one hilarious laugh after another. The talented up-and-coming director captures great performances by all, including Jerry Stiller, Traci Lords, Tim Matheson, Fred Willard, and even Abe Vigoda. Even the most serious of all will find themselves laughing out loud as the film traces Burrows' adventures from the West Coast to the Midwest. Not only is the film itself tremendous, but the DVD is by far one of the best I own. Jam-packed with extras, including Director's Commentary, Director's Commentary on the Director's Commentary, and Focus Group Low-Lights (actual comments made by real people about the film), this DVD promises to entertain for hours! You won't be disappointed!



Fame, Fortune, Cheese, Beer and LAUGHS, December 5, 2003
Reviewer: Muddy in So Cal from Southern California, via Milwaukee

There is really only one reason to purchase a DVD copy of Chump Change: It's flat out FUNNY. If, like me, you were at the premier in Milwaukee, you know what I mean.

The director did a masterful job of comparing/contrasting the two centers of his existence. Milwaukee: cold and gray on the exterior, yet warm and sunny on the inside; Los Angeles: its polar opposite. He manages to paint this portrait, while still making you roar with laughter throughout.

The director and location crew deserve Academy Awards, as I have never seen a film whose scenes were shot so well, in such unusual places. You don't need to be from Milwaukee to appreciate this, but if you are, these scenes will bring sentimental smiles to your face. If you aren't, this film will make feel like you're a natural born cheesehead.

It's hard to conceive that the ridiculous sequence of events that pull this movie together are based on "Milwaukee" Steve's real life, but it's true. One cannot help but appreciate the perseverance of a guy who gets kicked in the head so often, and keeps getting back up for more. The Wheel of Fortune scene is one of the funniest things ever filmed. Writer/director Burrows could write a feature based on that alone. Maybe he already has?

The supporting cast of Lords, Matheson, Jerry & Amy Stiller, Meara, Willard, Vigoda, etal, is superb. Kudos to Burrows and his casting crew for being able to secure actors of notoriety on what would certainly qualify as less than a shoestring budget.

Simply put, this film deserves you attention, because it is the funniest, sweetest, most true to life romp through lunacy you may ever experience.

Looking forward to more from Burrows. I would expect Miramax won't miss an opportunity to bring his next effort to the masses via the big screen.



Could it be? Funniest Movie in the History of Funny Movies?, December 1, 2003
Reviewer: A viewer from Madison, WI United States

No. That would be Blazing Saddles. HOWEVER, read on, as CHUMP CHANGE IS NOW ALSO ON MY TOP TEN LIST OF FAVORITE COMEDIES!

(And, to be totally honest with the readers of this review, yes, I do know the director, and consider myself a member of "The Army of Chump". But I'll take off my "friend hat" for the rest of the review, and shoot straight from the hip).

Chump Change is an absolutely hilarious comedy. I'm buying a few copies of the DVD, not only for myself, but for my friends and family who missed the theatrical premiere! Also, the film is funny because it is so TRUE!

Most of the film's storyline and anecdotes are based on writer/director/producer/actor Steve Burrows' real career in Hollywood. Steve has been a great actor in sit-coms and commercials for years, as also a great director of commercials and short films. I find it hard to believe that Steve jumped into a full length feature film wearing so many hats, and pulled off a classic comedy his first time out. I also think there will be quite a few lines from this movie heard on people's lips in late January! "Twitching" anyone?

The other co-stars and cameo performances within the film are just as hilarious. Tim Matheson as the over-caffeinated movie producer; Traci Elizabeth Lords as a very sweet, funny, convincingly cynical Wisconsinite (you go girl!); smaller cameos by Jerry Stiller, Abe Vigoda (yes THE Abe Vigoda), Clancy Brown, Fred Willard, Ann Mira and many more. Great production values in both Wisconsin (very snowy, very kitschy) and Los Angeles (very bright, very "chic"). And a little bit of swearing. Did I mention Tim Matheson swearing. Lots of Swearing. Hilarious amounts of swearing. It felt like this ex-vice president from the West Wing just drank 40 gallons of coffee with Lee Ermy at breakfast. The script is well written, and well acted -- just plain funny. What more could you ask for?

Well, the theatrical audience, where I saw the film at the Milwaukee International Film Festival in November 2003 (all 1000+ of us in the sellout crowd) got to ask for more. There was a great Q&A with Steve and Traci after the film, and although you'd think this was a 15 million dollar studio film, I'm pretty sure that you could have made 4 Chumps for the price of even one "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".

So, remember that studio executives -- great films, and great comedies, can come from outside your big budget studio machines. This is a great one. Keep funding and distributing great films like this. You've set the bar pretty high, Steve, I'm sure even more Wisconsin filmmakers are up to the challenge of following in your footsteps!



Best Comedy in Recent Memory, November 19, 2003
Reviewer: tmarkus from janesville, WI, United States

This is a remarkably funny and scathingly sarcastic tale of a dreamer, "Milwaukee" Steve (Steve Burrows), who's bound and determined to make it in Hollywood as a writer/director. Locations are based between LA and Milwaukee, and the contrast couldn't be more ideal. Traci Lords is excellent as the unlikely love interest, as is the surprisingly well-known and first-rate supporting cast for an indie of Tim Matheson, (Otter in Animal House, playing a hyper-lunatic composite of every sleazy producer Milwaukee Steve's dealt with in Hollywood), Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, Fred Willard and A.J Benza as Steve's hilarious ass-kissing and fair-weather-friend agents, even Abe Vigoda as a French Spy.

We grew up in the Milwaukee area, so we couldn't get enough of hundreds of quirky location shoots, eccentric corner quarter-tap bars and hangouts (Hollar House, tons more) that truly made the city fun and famous, and it doesn't matter if you're not from the area -- we brought friends with that weren't who still thought it was the funniest film they'd seen in years. To top it off, Steve spoke at the premiere and said the film is "roughly 98% true." I'm buying several copies of the DVD for gifts. Steve Burrows is a rare fresh force in comedy, his style unlike anything else in the tired stand-up/sitcom-star field. To paraphrase Tim Matheson, "I just love you, love your film...what was it called again?" What an incredible debut, expect great things from this guy.





IMDb user comments for Chump Change (2004)


duke1907
hercules, ca
Date: 27 April 2004
Summary: Traci Lords is sweet

I am old enough to remember when Traci Lords was arrested for being under aged and starring in adult films. She is the first adult film actress to successfully cross over to the mainstream even though her movies have not always been Oscar caliber. In most of her roles she has played the femme fatale or bad girl. In this film she gets to play the nice girl next door and does a great job. There are times in this film when she smiles or dances and I felt myself falling for her. She was believeable in this movie. It was the first time that I didn't see the porno star, but a real actress. Overall this film is good, probably a B+. The story is funny and Tim Matheson is great (does that guy ever age). The director and star Stephen Burrows is very likable. Hopefully he will do more and use more of Traci Lords. I really liked this movie and I think you will too.



michaeljohnmaki
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Date: 24 March 2004
Summary: Very entertaining

Being from Milwaukee I suppose I am a little slanted, but I found this to be an excellent film. Notice I say "film" and not movie. It was lower budget, which Milwaukee makes the perfect backdrop for. It gave the movie a sense of home and simplicity. It did not show off tourist sites to promote the city, Burrows just used Milwaukee as a tool. A little bit of the Dells, Hayward and La Crosse were thrown in as artistic license and the up north accent was overdone in places, but that's ok, it's a fictitious film! It then compares and contrasts that with the empty craziness of the movie industry. Along with some really humorous situations, this movie is truly a must see.



nwmariner
Plano, Texas
Date: 17 March 2004
Summary: Direct to DVD - Should have been a hit

Chump Change is a delightfully funny, engaging and touching movie. Poking fun at the movie industry, Hollywood and Wisconsin, all in the same movie, the core of this comedy is the friendship and developing romance between "Milwaukee" and "Sam." Watching their relationship develop, even as they are unaware of it, is a bit of modern movie magic. They talk, we see "Milwaukee" go through a hilarious series of ups and downs as an aspiring actor and writer in Hollywood as he relates the story to "Sam," and have the delight of seeing the insanity of the movie business from the perspective of two people very grounded in reality in Wisconsin. A bit manic at times, ranging from broad comedy to subtle satire, it somehow works and offers the viewer 90 minutes of joy.



charlessuits
Thailand
Date: 29 February 2004
Summary: Really fun movie.

I recently saw this movie in Bangkok, Thailand. I really enjoyed the show. The movie made me laugh out loud three times, and I found many of the situations very amusing. Tim Matheson was absolutely funny in his role -- especially his drawn out commentary on what is funny in a movie. It is difficult for a first time filmmaker to select a pace that keeps the audience in the movie. The movie moves through a series of funny characters and situations that seem very personal to the writer, but the audience still feels empathy towards his plight. This movie was very well written and directed and I am waiting to see what this writer/director will do next.



swblackwood
Milwaukee
Date: 29 February 2004
Summary: Milwaukee strikes back

Milwaukeean Steve Burrows (actually from the southern suburb Greendale) tries to make it in Hollywood and "fails" but Milwaukee gets its revenge in this scathing satire of the movie-making biz. It's too funny! As in, "my god, Steve, you're just too funny!" Those who saw "Chump Change" or have heard Steve comment on it will know what I mean. Also, don't forget: in order to succeed, you have to make the producer's penis twitch. "Don't ask me why!" Lots of great cameos from minor stars old and younger. Ann Meara probably has the single funniest line in the movie. I won't spoil it for you but it's her first line. Well, at least it was funny to this raised-and-still-living-in-Milwaukee reviewer. Too bad, it never saw the light of day on the big screen except at the Milwaukee Film Festival in Nov 2003. It was made in 2000, I believe. Judging from all the Milwaukee-shot scenes, it must have been during the record-setting month of December. At any rate, the movie is available from Miramax video. Buy it, already!



jgibbons-2
Hollywood, CA
Date: 12 February 2004
Summary: Great Surprise! Great flick!

This movie blew me away. I had no idea it was going to be this funny. My roomate recently bought it because he knew someone who was in it. I knew nothing about the movie. One night I was bored- by myself and thought I would check it out. I laughed...and laughed...and laughed. Seriously, it was almost too funny. You go back and forth from Wisconsin and L.A. The Wisconsin parts give you a few breaks from the funny but the L.A. stuff makes me pee my pants. T. Mathheson is the bomb. He's incredible. If half the stuff stephen burrows wrote is true then that guy had one hell of an expereince in L.A. Did I mention it is based on a true story. Traci Lords is in it. I've seen other movies with her, but none where she kept her clothes on. She actually rocks as an actress. I wish her the best. Folks, this is a must see.



jamie_likeskylie
UK
Date: 16 December 2003
Summary: Very good

I can't believe this has such a low rating. It's really a great movie. It was actually made my Dimension Films in 2000 but will not receive a release, be it on DVD, until 2004. Dimension did not feel it had enough appeal to be a hit. Maybe not, but the performances are really good all round. The film follows a guy who stars in a hit commercial and his bid for Hollywood stardom. It's fresh and very funny. And Traci Lords looks just as beautiful with no makeup.



painfreedoc
Milwaukee
Date: 9 November 2003
Summary: Cheeseheads have to love it!

This quaint period piece by Steven Burrows is peppered with captivating moments. I suppose it doesn't help in writing this, that the screening I experienced took place at the first Milwaukee International Film Festival to a sold out house of Steven Burrows fans. The spirit of the screening was captivating. Comic self-deprecation flows through the script, however, welcome to Wisconsin! We were rolling in the aisles. Enjoy!



Wonkavator
Los Angeles
Date: 7 September 2003
Summary: Steve - it's twitching

I can't stop watching this movie. I was lucky enough to stumble onto a copy of Chump Change, and now I'm hooked. Steve Burrows (writer/director/all around funny guy) is a great everyman and foil to the Hollywood whackos he's forced to interact with. Highlights of said whackos include Tim Matheson (Animal House/The West Wing) in an outstanding performance as a Jeckel & Hyde Hollywood producer. Clancy Brown (Kurgan from Highlander; yes, *that* Clancy Brown) has me laughing in tears every time I watch him in his role as a brutally honest/slightly sadistic acting teacher. Too many great quotes from this movie to list them all here. This movie only gets funnier every time I watch it. The only films I can compare it to in this respect are The Big Lebowski and Office Space. If you need a good laugh, check this one out.



xxltaco
NYC, NY
Date: 1 May 2003
Summary: An education on funny...

See this movie. Steve Burrows is more committed to the art of funny than anyone I've ever met. His timing is impeccable, his performance is charming, his writing is off-beat, and he's not a pretty boy (at all). I've had the pleasure of working with Steve recently, and this movie is one of the reasons why I even wanted to. See it as soon as it's released (last I heard was later this year). Whoever gave this film a BAD review has no sense of humor. You can't deny funny when it's there. And funny is all over this flick. Okay, nuff said. See the film. Even if it's just because Steve's a nice guy. Which he really is.



RJ-15
Madison, WI
Date: 6 January 2003
Summary: One of the best comedy feature to come out of Wisconsin

Steve Burrows is a great story teller, comedian, author, writer, producer, director. I got to meet and know Steve while he was deciding to film about 1/3 of this movie in Wisconsin (the rest takes place in Los Angeles). A hilarious rags to riches to rags story, it stars Steve actor in a semi-autobiographical film. Steve's been out in L.A. for over 10 years, and he's been able to get at least 15 named/known Talent to take part in this film, including: Abe Vigoda, Jerry and Mira Stiller,Clancy Brown, and Traci Lords (yes THE Traci Lords). Traci co-stars as a frumpy Wisconsinite in the Milwaukee area in the middle of winter, who wears big sweaters, mucklucks, and a tuke on her noggin. Although she portrays a bitter single woman, Steve charms her with his sad sack stories, discovers she has a heart of gold, and wins her over in the end of the film. Traci Lords has got great acting ability, and I'm glad to see her make the transition to feature films. This film is filled with classic one liners (Arbys: Where the meats so shiny you can see yourself!), hilarious riffs on the LA film scene (Clancy Brown as the acting coach), and is a true testament that an indie actor/film maker from Wisconsin (Burrows)can make it out in Hollywood. Way to Go Steve! Let's see this soon at the Multiplexes, DVD, or on cable!



candykids
Texas
Date: 23 October 2002
Summary: Funny beyond belief

This is the movie that says it all. Stephen Burrows is a comical genius with the comical humor. Its the story about the real life of the movie making business. A must see movie. The absolute best story of one mans life and his goal to become famous.



daveb-1
Date: 30 August 2002
Summary: A Hilarious real life adventure of a man on a comedic journey

Stephen Burrows does a magnificent job in this title role while also directing the film. You can see the authenticity of his character. It is great to see Burrows put such heart and soul in to a comedy. The thumb is definitely up for this one. How about Traci Lords? She has come a long way and you see it in this movie. She does a fantastic job. Let's not forget all of the Cameo's! Star after star appear in this one. Let's get this one to the Theater's Miramax! It's time to put a new talent in the public's eye, Stephen Burrows!



info-622
Hollywood
Date: 27 August 2002
Summary: Movie in tradition of true comedy

Burrows and his leading lady take you through a comedy adventure so real to life that you almost think that you had been through it yourself. It punches all the human buttons in the spectrum of emotions from failure to success and in the end the ability to laugh at ones self.



info-623
Dallas
Date: 27 August 2002
Summary: Funny takeoff about selling a story

What a way to get into the business. Funny takeoff about trying to sell a story to the suits. Acting is fresh and funny. Thought music fit the story perfectly. Movie shows what its like to be on the other side, trying to get someone to listen to an idea and still having a sense of humor after being flushed. The moral of this movie for me was to keep your sense of humor and stay on the sunny side of the street.



datsys
Texas
Date: 27 August 2002
Summary: Truly fresh and original comedy

The original approach by this young film maker and comic writer, Stephen Burrows, is truly fresh and original. Music is set exactly for the right mood and the continuing drama and dilemma facing the hero holds the audience interest to the very end.



RJ-15
Date: 5 March 2002
Summary: So funny because it's so true!

I know a bit more about this film than most (I've met and spoken with the director). I've read the script, know the back story (some of the movie is loosely based on the director/screenwriter/actor Steve Burrows' real life acting experiences), and I find it one hysterically funny movie. The director/actor is hilarious. With the addition of Traci Lords as a winter coat, tuke-headed, clothes wearing, hard working Wisconsinite, trudging back and forth through the snow, I believe this PG-13 comedy feature should go quite far in video rentals and cable distribution, if not a theatrical release. My only complaint was some of the sound faded in and out during one or two outdoor scenes filmed in Los Angeles. However, I understand the project has undergone a year of post-production to fix any sound and other minor glitches before it makes a national release date.



batmason
Los Angeles
Date: 29 October 2001
Summary: The must see beer and cheese movie of the decade...

This movie is one of the funniest films about the trials and tribulations of Hollywood that I have ever seen. Steve Burrows has crafted a very funny film that not only has that "inside Hollywood" feel but touches your heart as well... It features an all-star supporting cast, Steve Burrows not only stars as the film's hero but also wrote and directed the film. If you are a fan of films about making it in Hollywood then this one is for you! Good work STEVE!
CM



snake-eyes357
USA
Date: 31 August 2001
Summary: Highly original comedy, absolute must see!!!!

Chump Change, subtitled, Fame, Fortune, Cheese and Beer, hits the audience from all angles with original dialogue, superb acting, and countless cameos. I had the pleasure of seeing this film in Madison, Wisconsin at a Film Festival. It was clearly the leader of the pack. Steve D. Burrows (writer, director) of Chump plays the leading man Milwaukee Steve. Basically, folks, this movie is incredible. It is one of those movies that rekindle your hope for highly original comedy, and film making in general. I can only hope that it is released on a much grander scale, for it has potential, undoubtably.

steven_towe
chicago, IL
Date: 16 February 2001
Summary: a laugh out loud, action, sex, comedy, 10+++++

I saw the film at the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison. I had to see it again at the next showing as I missed so much of it while laughing my butt off through the first sceening. I loved the the comedy skits, the script rewriting hell and the Wisconsin scenes. This is one not to be missed. The whole cast is first rate, hillarious!!!



mikey1969
Phoenix, Az
Date: 11 February 2001
Summary: A Film Festival MUST!!!

I just saw this movie today at the Phoenix Film Festival, and it was one of the best films featured. This was a hilarious movie, well written and well-acted. This film featured Jerry Stiller, Abe Vigoda, Tim Matheson, Anne Meara, and the writer director himself, Steven Burrows. He got up after the movie, and did a nice Q&A session, and explained that the movie was semi-autobiographical in nature. This movie was a great jab at the machine known as Hollywood, where movies deals are made without even a story or script!! Look for Traci Lords as well, in a great performance as a character nothing like some of her previous films(Cry-Baby comes to mind.). I also heard that this movie may just be making it to a theatre near you someday soon!!!



lincoln-19
Madison, Wisconsin
Date: 3 October 2000
Summary: Very, very funny

I saw 'Chump Change' when it debuted at the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison last May. It's hilarious. A great independent comedy. The crowd loved it, too. It draws lots of laughs from both Los Angeles' entertainment scene and Midwestern homespun ways. I keep expecting it to get wide release.





User Comments From ePinions

Fame, Fortune, Cheese, and Beer
Nov 08 '03 (Updated Nov 22 '03)
Author's Product Rating
4 stars

Pros
Unbridled energy and smart, charming wit.

Cons
The movie occasionally gets caught up in tangents.


The Bottom Line The madness of the Hollywood process has been covered before, but Milwaukee native Steve Burrows puts the spin of Midwestern charm in the genre with Chump Change

Full Review
Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

Fifteen years ago, my eighth grade English teacher let us watch Wheel of Fortune during class. That particular day, his son, whom he was always telling us stories about, was set to be a contestant on the show. We were disappointed that his son finished the show with zero dollars in his bank, but fate and determination were on his side, and he ended up being invited back to the show the next day. (Seems that the Wheel has some obscure rule that when there is a tie for first place between two of the contestants, all three of them return the next day.) You could tell by his self-deprecating, but grateful demeanor that Steve Burrows, my English teacher's son, was determined to be successful despite setbacks of even the most absurd nature.

There's a lot more to Steve than the life of a game show contestant, though. His directorial and writing debut, Chump Change, is going through the festival circuit, and it showcases that sense of determination in the face absurd obstacles that we saw in him back in eighth grade.

In the film, Burrows plays Milwaukee Steve, a struggling actor/comedian in LA whose one claim to fame is his rather embarrassing appearance in a commercial for Crotch Fresh brand jock itch powder. After we see this commercial at the beginning of the film, we see Steve at the tail end of a road trip back to his childhood home in the suburbs of Milwaukee, complaining about the woes of life in Hollywood. He arrives home in about two feet of snow (which we seem to have for about eight months out of the year here in Wisconsin) and lets himself into his mother's house, only to find some strange woman living in his childhood bedroom. Sam (Traci Lords in full frumpy Midwesterner garb, complete with layers of sweaters, snow boots, and wool cap with earflaps) has rented out Steve's bedroom while Steve's mom is on her annual sex tour of Iceland (best not to ask). Sam's not too excited about a stranger invading the space she's rented but grudgingly allows Steve to sleep on the davenport downstairs. (For those who've never been to the Midwest, a davenport is what some of us call a couch.)

From this point, the stage is set for the two parallel stories that run through Chump Change. In one, Sam and Steve wander from one Milwaukee landmark to another, getting to know one another. If you've lived in Milwaukee for any length of time, you'll recognize the many locations, ranging from the Domes, to the 41 Twin outdoor theater, to the many cheese shops with giant fiberglass mice mounted on the roof. Wisconsinites will enjoy seeing such familiar sites on the big screen. Those who have never been here might not understand the charm that such sites offer, but their eccentricity adds an offbeat charm to the movie.

Plenty of the conversation between Steve and Sam are made up of those kinds of philosophical discussions about life's minutiae that made Seinfeld so popular. When they aren't discussion nothing, though, Steve's telling the harrowing story of his Hollywood experience, setting us up for the second of the movie's storylines. Periodic (and sometimes lengthy) flashbacks detail Steve's journey through talent scouts, acting classes, agents, and managers. These scenes are filled to the brim with frenetic energy, and can sometimes come across as unfocused (at one point we see a series of about twenty jump cuts among the various skits in an improv act that Steve and his friends have put together, ranging from "Dueling Banjos performed by tap-dancing dictators" to "Kevorkian the musical'), but they never feel like they drag. One could accuse Burrows of simply throwing every idea he had against the wall just to see what sticks, but we can forgive him since most of what he offers sticks to the wall rather than sliding down to the floor.

As these periodic flashbacks to Hollywood continue, Milwaukee Steve finds his way into a contract to write a movie. After all of his own ideas have been shot down, he's assigned the task of writing the only idea that "makes the studio exec's penis twitch with excitement": an action/sex/comedy entitled The Whore, Her Mom, The Frog and The Bomb. The woes that Steve goes through are somewhat predictable, what with agents and studio execs sending in re-write notes, only to fly off the handle when Steve turns in a new draft, or industry folk who change their opinions on a daily basis to match that of the biggest fish in the pond. Yet, there are so many witty, memorable lines delivered here, that everything still feels fresh and exciting. Case and point: At one point, the producer that Milwaukee Steve has been working with (played by Tim Matheson) calls up in one of his many abusive Jekyll and Hyde moments, yelling that "The script has too much punctuation. Why all the punctuation? No more punctuation! Period!"

In the end, things fall into place, and Milwaukee Steve manages to find a sense of closure in both storylines, but going into detail about how would spoil some of the charm that the movie offers. You'll simply have to find a way to see the movie for yourself.

Chump Change isn't the first comedy about the moviemaking process, and it certainly wont be the last. It clearly doesn't have the same kind of budget of muscle behind it as other movies in the same genre like Bowfinger or The Player. Nevertheless, Chump Change succeeds not only on the strength of its energy and wit, but also on the charm of the many talented people that have come together to make the film. Burrows comes across as a perfect everyman type, wishing the best for everyone and trying not to get himself hurt or hurt anyone else in the process. Quite a few well known characters actors round out the cast in small, but memorable roles. Anne Meara, Fred Willard, and Jerry Stiller play various movie industry types, each performing their familiar but beloved shtick. The incomparable Abe Vigoda even shows up for a brief moment. My favorite of these small roles has to go to Clancy Brown, though, in his appearance as a self-important, sadistic acting teacher.

Right now, Chump Change might be rather difficult to see. It's still limited to the festival circuit, so you can only see it at special screenings. Fortunately, I got to see it at the Milwaukee International Film Festival last night, and Burrows himself made an appearance and answered audience question following the screening. As he told us, Miramax will probably be bringing the movie to limited release in the upcoming months, the movie is slated for a DVD release sometime next year. Before too long, you'll get your chance to see the movie. It's not absolutely perfect, but its far more enjoyable than most of the major movies released these days.

If nothing else, Chump Change stands as the first movie I've ever seen to feature the infamous "chicken dance," which everyone in Wisconsin is required to know. The movie won't explain why we do it, or why we love it (even if we won't admit it), but at least it lets the rest of the world in on one of our many bizarre little secrets.

Recommended
Yes





User Comments From MSN

Belly-Splitting Funny
A review of Chump Change
posted 12/12/2003
by Andrea

After watching Chump Change, my sides were sore from all the laughter. Stephen Burrows has a huge hit on his hands with this clever, witty and downright funny movie. From the onset, I was swept into the life of Milwaukee Steve as he looked back on the trials and tribulations of "making it in Hollywood." Oh, the things he went through, my favorite being the comedy he directed, performing truly stupid, inane acts, such a "Dictator Tap Dance" to "Dueling Banjos." "Transvestite Leave It To Beaver," was brilliant. Stiller and Meara bring there amazing talents to this film, making huge splashes with their somewhat minor roles. Traci Lords certainly broke the stero-type that has been impressed upon her over the years, by being covered head to foot in winter gear. Her little hat was adorable. Take a chance on this film, it will bring lots of joy and laughter into your life. Oh yeah, there's even a great shot of the World's Largest Cheese!



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