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
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
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
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,
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
(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
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!
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!!!
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
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
Unbridled energy and smart, charming wit.
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
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.
User Comments From MSN
A review of Chump Change
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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