The big guy's best.
Chris Farley (Tommy Boy, Beverly Hills Ninja, Almost Heroes) was a great comic. He had a grasp of physical comedy that he didn't get full credit for. He came to Saturday Night Live during the same time as Adam Sandler, Phil Hartman, and David Spade, and left about the same time to pursue a film career. Adam Sandler is now a guaranteed money maker for studios, and David Spade has made good on television, as did Phil Hartman before his tragic death. So many great comedic actors have died before their time, and Saturday Night Live has had more than their fair share of them, that it's tempting to put Chris Farley as another person on the list and leave it at that. But I think he deserves some special mention. In the skits on this disc The Best of Chris Farley he often worked alongside these other actors and stole the scenes; and many times you could tell the others couldn't help but laugh at his antics even when they were supposed to be serious. His film career had just begun to take off with his box office success Beverly Hills Ninja and we had more pictures to look forward to when he died on December 17th, 1998 at the age of only 33. I think it likely that had he lived he would have become another mainstream comic actor that commanded big bucks.
There is something about fat comics. Many great comedians have been overweight, and too many of them have died early. Sam Kinison, John Belushi, and John Candy are all such comics who died too young. Chris Farley was not only a big man, who thought that much of his comic appeal came from his size, but he was incredibly athletic and showed the grace and agility of a much thinner professional dancer. Besides being one of the best at pratfalls and other slapstick humor he often showed that agility in sketches where he would dance, figure skate, or do martial arts. That he had so many gifts makes it all the more sad that he died so young. We can only wonder what might have been.
Saturday Night Live: The Best of Chris Farley is another in the "Best of" line from Trimark but in this case is also a tribute to one of my favorites from the cast who is no longer with us. In that respect alone I would recommend this disc, but it has its own merits as well.
The disc begins with a touching introduction from cast member Tim Meadows who talks about Chris and dedicates the show to his work. From there we head straight into one sketch after another of that work. Some of his best stuff is there; from his character Matt Foley, the motivational speaker who is wound far too tight, to his commercial parodies and my favorite where Farley is up against Patrick Swayze for a spot as a Chippendale dancer. Many of the sketches were ensemble pieces where he was meant to be a supporting role for another comic but kept the main character in stitches. Adam Sandler often had to delay a line so he could stop laughing and move on with the sketch. Often his comedy was obvious and over-the-top, but I felt that he was able to do a more subdued style where he depended on buildup for the laugh as well; such as his interview shows where he never knew what to ask his famous guests such as Paul McCartney, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Scorcese.
Quite a few of Farley's best sketches had the big guy in drag and he was very funny there as well. His "lunch lady" and the work with David Spade and Adam Sandler is all there too, along with a montage of his work in drag.
I'm pleased with virtually everything that is on the disc, though I think some of it should have been given more time of its own. Trimark has done another good job with the disc, providing a very good picture and sound. Again the picture is full frame as it is a disc of a television show; but again the picture is better than what you've seen during broadcast. Colors are well represented and the look is very clear and detailed. Since none of the sketches date before '90 the picture rates among the better seen in the other review disc I received, The Best of Steve Martin. Thankfully also the sound is in stereo. This gave a more expansive soundstage than older mono tracks could have provided. There are no defects with the sound and dialogue is always clear.
Again we have extras that are only arguably "extras." Two bonus sketches on a disc that is itself sketches makes it hard to consider them as extras. But again a list of dates of all the performances is provided which is very nice. One thing I'll mention during this part of the review which focuses on the positive is that 5% of the net proceeds of this disc's sales are to be donated to the Chris Farley Foundation, which works to educate on drug abuse issues.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
My biggest complaint with the disc is there isn't enough of it. For those who thought Best of Steve Martin was a bit short at 80 minutes will think so here; this one only runs 62 minutes. Part of this was avoidable because several of the chapters are montages; one of physical comedy, one in drag, one of impressions, and a behind the scenes montage of dress rehearsal work. Any of these could have been filled out more, and in some cases I was interested only to see the scene cut to another piece. That alone would have made the running time longer and given a bit more for the money. There are still 17 chapters of sketches (plus the two bonus ones and the introduction from Tim Meadows) but they still don't run as long as the other disc.
There are several extras I wished would have been on the disc that weren't; especially since there was ample space for them. Since Farley is no longer alive, a biography would have been especially welcome. There are also no subtitles; I think closed captioning should be standard so that the deaf and hard-of-hearing could also enjoy the discs.
Chris Farley fans should and probably will buy this disc. What is there is great; I just wish there was more of it. I'd certainly recommend a rental at the least for anyone. Another fine entry into the SNL archives; though I hope in future releases Trimark takes my mention about extras and captioning to heart.
I hope there is an afterlife, because if there is one Chris Farley is surely cracking them up wherever he is. Maybe he and John Belushi are working out skits together and I'd look forward to seeing that. All are acquitted.
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