Chump Change DVD Review
January 21, 2004
By Alyssa Eckman
Maybe it's due to my Wisconsin roots, but I enjoyed the comic wit of Chump Change, which stars writer/director Stephen Burrows as "Milwaukee Steve." Steve is a commercial actor whose biggest claim to fame is having starred in a commercial for a crotch-itch product. He just can't catch any other real breaks in Hollywood.
When it seems all is lost, Steve moves back to his hometown of Milwaukee. Through flashbacks, he shares his bizarre Hollywood experiences, (which include getting sued by Merv Griffin for cussing Wheel of Fortune) with a girl named Sam (Traci Lords), who is subletting the family home while Steve's mother is away on her annual "sex tour" of Iceland.
If you've ever spent time in Wisconsin you will giggle your way through shots of Wisconsin landmarks such as Chatty Bell, the talking cow; the world's biggest six pack (of Old Style beer at a brewery in LaCrosse); and, of course, the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum (you, too, can tour the inside of a 4-story-tall fiberglass muskie). With Chump Change, I think Burrows has done for Wisconsin what the film Fargo did for Minnesota and North Dakota (and, yes, I have lived in all three of those marvelous states).
The main point of Chump Change is to poke fun at the Hollywood studio system as
Milwaukee Steve lands a deal to write an action/sex/comedy with the working title "The Whore, Her Mom, The Frog and The Bomb." Chump Change is one of those films that one has to see to appreciate because half the fun is in the sight gags, and I really don't want to give away too many of those here. But, trust me, it's worth the 89 minutes of screen time, even if only to see cameos by folks such as Anne Meara, Jerry Stiller, A. J. Benza, Clancy Brown, and Abe Vigoda.
For what was obviously a fairly low-budget production, Chump Change comes across quite cleanly on DVD. This version is presented in widescreen (1.85:1) and looks good weather against the white-gray backdrop of the Wisconsin winter landscape or the bright, sunny beaches of California.
The movie is presented in Dolby Digital Surround Sound. And, wow, the polka music comes across great. You'll find yourself wanting to join in as Steven Burrows and Traci Lords take on the world-famous "chicken dance" polka. How could you have a movie based in Milwaukee without polka? That would be sacrilege.
Surprisingly, you get quite a few special features on this single disc:
- Outtakes and deleted scenes with optional director's commentary
- Focus group lo-lights
- Feature commentary with the director
- Director's commentary on the director's commentary (no kidding)
- A conversation with Traci Lords (yes, it's THAT Traci Lords, but without skin shots)
Chump Change comes in standard black plastic keepsake box with a plain, gray
Miramax Disc that cries out "boring." I like the DVDs released by Buena
Vista/Miramax, but I'm going to keep complaining until I see one whose packaging shows just a minor effort at creative flair.
Milwaukee Steve is a completely likeable guy. He has a dream, and Steve takes his best shot despite the insanity of Hollywood he faces along the way. When a lead character's claim to fame is a starring role in a commercial for Crotch Fresh anti-itch powder, you know you're in for a silly ride. Jump aboard because there's enough Wisconsin cheese in this film for everyone.
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