Chump Change

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Chump Change DVD Review
By Michael Edwards

What do you do when you hear about a movie with a title like "Chump Change?" Most of you would probably keep scanning the posters at the movie theatre for a title that sounds a little more like a blockbuster, or has those comforting roman numerals that usually promise something you've seen before. My first reaction to seeing the DVD cover art of "Chump Change" was similar. It looked like one of those forgettable mid to low budget comedies that are generally used for filler space on the DVD rack. Turns out the only terms I got right were 'low budget' and 'comedies'. Forgettable it is not.

"Chump Change" was written and directed by Stephen D. Burrows, an up and coming comic and screenwriter from Milwaukee who wants to make it big in show business. The film also stars Burrows as an up and coming comic and screenwriter from Milwaukee who wants to make it big in show business. As you might guess, it is semi-autobiographical in nature. Set up as a flashback film, Burrows tells the story of his trek to L.A. and his attempts to 'make it' to a woman (Traci Lords) who has rented out his room in his parent's house during his absence. Telling the story in this way, Burrows is able to compare the wild insanity of L.A. to the quiet eccentricity of life in Milwaukee.

I'm not sure how much of the film's story is based in fact, but Burrows does use quite a bit of real footage from his childhood to set the story in motion. For instance we learn of his family's one big claim to fame which was his father's appearance on "The Gong Show."

"Chump Change" was quite a surprising film. I always love movies about the ridiculous nature of 'the biz', and this one is no different. I thought it was exceptionally funny, though a lot of the humor may be lost on those not familiar with the ridiculous nature of 'the biz.' A lot of the situations in the film might seem unbelievable or simply a satirical version of real events, but unfortunately for many writers, most of these are right on the mark.

It also features a slew of cameos, as well as an exceptional cast. I've never been much of a fan of Traci Lords, but that started to change after seeing her in the 2nd season of "Profiler." She's actually pretty good here. Tim Matheson also stars as a producer with a few too many personalities, while Clancy Brown shows up as a most interesting acting coach.

I will say that Burrows does exhibit humor that is very self-deprecating, but he doesn't shy away from mocking others. He makes fun of people in the business as well as the every day Joe. This is most evident in the extra features on the DVD. One of the highlights is a look at comment cards that were written by focus groups that saw the film. Burrows reads them aloud, making sure to point out the misspellings made by these 'would-be' critics. It's quite funny, but goes on a little too long.

There is also a commentary on the DVD that is somewhat worth a listen. It's not the best commentary you'll ever hear, as he has a tendency to ramble, but some of his comments are amusing. Then, his self-deprecating style returns with his 'commentary on the commentary.' Burrows returns with yet another commentary, in which he comments on his commentary. It only runs for the first few minutes, but you really should listen to it.

There are several outtakes and deleted scenes available, and Burrows offers up a little more commentary (though no commentary on the commentary) on why some scenes were cut. Finally, Burrows takes out about ten minutes to interview Traci Lords about working on the film.

I wouldn't recommend "Chump Change" to just anybody, but if you have any kind of working knowledge of the entertainment industry, you have to take the time to check out this film. You're the ones that'll 'get' it.

Directed by: Stephen D. Burrows
Starring: Stephen D. Burrows, Jerry Stiller, Tim Matheson, Fred Willard, Traci Lords
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Focus Group Lo-Lights, Feature Commentary by Director Stephen D. Burrows, Commentary on the Commentary by Director Stephen D. Burrows, A Conversation with Traci Lords
Specifications: Widescreen (1.85:1) Enhanced for 16X9 Televisions, Dolby Digital Surround Sound
Studio: Miramax
Release Date: 1/20/2004
Region 1
MPAA Rating: R (For Language and Some Sexual Humor)

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