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Case Number 02032: Small Claims Court

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Black Sheep

Paramount // 1996 // 86 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 17th, 2002

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our review of Black Sheep (Blu-Ray), published May 13th, 2009, is also available.

The Charge

There's one in every family.

The Case

Poor Mike Donnelly (Chris Farley, Coneheads) just can't seem to do anything right. His brother Al (Tim Matheson, National Lampoon's Animal House) is running for Washington State governor against the tough as nails incumbent governor Tracy (Christine Ebersole, Dead Again). Unfortunately for Al, Mike is an accident prone boob who often winds up screwing up even the most menial of tasks (i.e., while stapling posters to trees, Mike inadvertently stabs his own hand). Al decides to keep Mike on a short leash by having his campaign aide Steve Dodds (David Spade, Just Shoot Me) watch over his brother and keep him out of trouble while the election progresses. Mike and Steve get into all sorts of wacky mishaps (hey, this is a Spade and Farley vehicle), including meeting a spaced out military commando (Gary Busey, Point Break) and getting high on nitrous oxide in a squad car! But when our heroes learn of governor Tracy's crooked plans to fix the election in he favor, they head out to save Al's race for office!

Black Sheep is a faded Xerox copy of Spade and Farley's far funnier hit Tommy Boy. It's obvious that the studio was trying to cash in on the success of their first film by producing a second flick that looked, acted, and felt exactly like Tommy Boy (all the way down to their almost identical movie posters). Director Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World) and famed Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels aren't able to capture the magic and humor so prevalent in Tommy Boy. Instead, Black Sheep comes off as a slapped together grouping of scenes that don't add up and antics that feel like leftovers from some other '90s comedy. It's almost a frustrating experience watching Black Sheep—what went wrong when the filmmakers used the same recipe the second time around? Maybe it was the fact that Spade's acidic humor was toned down. Or maybe Farley's physical antics just weren't enough to carry a movie. Or it's just possible that lightning doesn't strike twice. It sure doesn't help that the supporting cast (including a very wasted Tim Matheson) isn't given much to do while the paper thin script by Fred Wolf (who'd go onto write the equally cruddy Dirty Work and Joe Dirt) is just a recycling of a dozen other comedies before it. The saddest part about Black Sheep is that it would end up being Spade and Farley's final film together—one short year later, Farley would be dead from a drug overdose. This means that movie audiences would never be able to find out if Black Sheep was just a stumbling block to a great cinematic team up, or just the end of what should have been a one-movie endeavor for the comedic duo. A few humorous moments abound (who doesn't like to see Farley fall down and go "boom" once in a while?), though otherwise the film's title aptly describes Black Sheep's place in Hollywood history.

Black Sheep is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks better than this film deserves. While I did spot a small amount of edge enhancement in the image, overall the colors and black levels all appear solid and well defined. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround and works well for what is needed. This is a typical comedy that doesn't require a heavy amount of directional effects. What surround sounds there are come in loud and clear with a minimal of distortion or hiss. Also included on this disc are English subtitles, as well as a Dolby 2.0 surround soundtrack and a French stereo track. On par with many other Paramount catalog titles, Black Sheep doesn't include a single solitary extra feature. Minimal features is understandable. The exclusion of even a theatrical trailer is inexcusable.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• English
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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