Chump Change

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DVD: 'Chump' changes Hollywood focus

The Daily News
February 13, 2004

What: "Chump Change"
  • Starring: Stephen D. Burrows and Traci Elizabeth Lords
  • Buena Vista Home Entertainment, $29.99
  • *** out of 5
  • Extras: *

Milwaukee Steve gains fame through being a commercial pitchman for a male hygiene product. The next step obviously is to break into the big time. Somehow he not only gets his foot in Hollywood's door, but he gets the rest of himself in, too, a break he often regrets in "Chump Change."

The frequently funny jab at the bozos who not only green-light projects but also at those who support decision-makers who prove to be colorblind, "Chump" finds Steve proving you can go home again, especially if a Midwestern guy needs a place to hide from the L.A. wackos.

Problem is, once he gets home, he finds someone's been sleeping in his bed. But when it's Traci Lords, that may not be such a bad thing.

Lest you think "Chump" is something for late-night cable viewing, it's actually a rather charming tale of an average Joe (or Steve) who finds doing the right thing sometimes puts you in the wrong, which may end up being the right place to be.

"Chump" - told in flashback as Steve and Traci wander through depressed, wintry, bar-populated Milwaukee - follows our hero as he catches the attention of amazingly shallow yet powerful studio exec Tim Matheson (who is featured on the DVD box, though he's only a major supporting player; his fate falls into the realm of urban legend). Matheson in turn answers to a surprisingly youthful green-lighter.

Both of Ben Stiller's parents appear (how come he didn't manage to inherit their genes?), as does Clancy Brown as a full-of-himself acting teacher, plus A.J. Benza and Fred Willard (if you need a reason to watch, Willard always is it) as Steve's fair-weather management team.

Despite that bunch from Neverland, Steve manages to learn a few ropes and hook on to a couple good friends.

"Chump Change" (which won the best feature award at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, where Lords - who could play Renee Zellweger's twin - won best actress honors) laughs at Steve (if you're one of the insiders) and with him (at those same insiders).

He's an everyman who finds himself surrounded by Mad Hatters who are responsible for many of those films you always wondered how they got made.

It's pleasant, low-key, and reportedly based on Burrow's own efforts to break into the biz. Its extras aren't much to speak of: reading focus group responses gets boring rather quickly, but you do get to see a few deleted scenes and outtakes.

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