Chicken or chicken? Judge Clark Douglas wants to know.
Our review of Tommy Boy: Holy Schnike Edition, published October 17th, 2005, is also available.
If at first you don't succeed, lower your standards.
"He could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves."
Facts of the Case
He never thought it would happen, but Tommy (Chris Farley, Black Sheep) has just graduated from college. It took him seven years, but by golly, Tommy is a college graduate. Hoo-ah! Now he just has to figure out what he wants to do with his life. He returns to his hometown of Sandusky, Ohio, where he reunites with his best friend/worst enemy Richard (David Spade, Just Shoot Me). Tommy's father (Brian Dennehy, As You Like It) is a very successful business owner, and is about to get married to a new gal pal (Bo Derek, 10). Unfortunately, tragedy strikes on the day of the wedding. Tommy's father suffers a fatal heart attack.
All of the board members feel that the company should probably be sold. They simply don't know how to keep the company going without its founder at the helm. Tommy isn't going to let that happen. He's going to go on a road trip, make some sales, and get the company running at full speed again. He determines to drag Richard along with him, and Richard begrudgingly agrees. The pair is in for one wild and crazy journey. Not only do they have to figure out how to successfully how to sell brakes, but are forced to battle the subversive measures of Tommy's widow and her nasty son (Rob Lowe, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me). Can good old Tommy Boy save the day?
I really liked Chris Farley. A lot of people did. Sure, he was funny enough, but that's not why people liked him. People liked Chris Farley because he seemed like a great guy. His "lovable loser" persona successfully carried a lot of very thin sketches on Saturday Night Live, and he was great when he was working with strong material. Unfortunately, Farley was one of those SNL veterans who never quite managed to find much critical success in the world of cinema. Like John Belushi and John Candy before him, Farley went from misfire to misfire before his tragic early death. However, Farley was the only one who never really managed to latch on to a genuinely good film. Belushi had Animal House and The Blues Brothers, and Candy had Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Farley never had a film like that. Fans of the actor quickly point to Tommy Boy, which quickly became the definitive Farley vehicle. It may very well be the best showcase of Farley's screen presence, but sadly, it's a somewhat mediocre comedy.
Tommy Boy is a microwaved grab back of plot leftovers from any number of situational comedies. The story doesn't provide a single unpredictable beat, and the film suffers from a severe shortage of original ideas. Every once in a while, a comedy can get away with a plot structure like this. Just a few days before watching Tommy Boy, I re-watched Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, a very funny film which has a plot every bit as cliched as this one. It worked because it had funny people playing well-defined characters. Tommy Boy stars some funny people, but the characters are limited to each actor's pre-determined personality. Farley is playing the lovable idiot. David Spade is playing the snarky sidekick. Bo Derek is playing an attractive woman who enjoys swimming. Most of the gags here aren't particularly funny, and the actors seem to be suffering from a severe lack of guidance. Suspect character motivations abound. Spade in particular seems poorly-written. The film seems to be trying to set up a Planes, Trains and Automobiles dynamic, with Spade as Steve Martin and Farley as John Candy. In that film, Martin hated Candy at first, and slowly came to admire him. In this film, Spade simply flips a switch on and off. In one scene he's a spiteful jerk, and in another scene he's a loyal best friend. Only Spade's dreary snark remains consistent.
The hi-def transfer is pretty disappointing, frankly. For a film less than fifteen years old, Tommy Boy sure suffers from a lot of flecks, scratches and bits of dirt and grime. However, these flaws do not appear consistently. Fleeting scenes look fairly pristine, which makes the flaws all the more distracting. Faint grain can be seen here and there, but its pretty light overall. The visuals tend to suffer when the camera pulls back, as background detail isn't very strong. Check out the "loneliness scene" just after the funeral about 27 minutes into the film for evidence of this. Audio is also just a bit disappointing. Dialogue suffers from light distortion from time to time. David Newman's wacky score is also cranked just a bit loud on occasion. Despite the film's abundance of noisy scenes and physical comedy, subwoofer action is at an absolute minimum.
Extras from the previous "Holy Schnike Edition" DVD release are all here, but you won't find any Blu-ray exclusives. You get a commentary from Peter Segal, four brief making-of featurettes, lots of deleted/alternate/extended scenes, some storyboard comparisons, 19 (!) television spots, a gag reel, a photo gallery, and a theatrical trailer. Only the trailer is presented in HD, everything else is standard-def. The featurettes are worth a look, as they spotlight some nice remembrances of Farley. Also, the deleted scenes contain some genuinely funny stuff. You can skip the rest.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There is a reason that this film hasn't been forgotten: Chris Farley. For all the many flaws of Tommy Boy, it still manages to successfully offer viewers a snapshot of just who Chris Farley was. Though the character of Tommy is technically quite inconsistent, the role allowed Farley to employ his whole bag of tricks. He does the wacky physical comedy, the yelling monologues, the sweet-natured heartbreak, all of it. One never feels like they're watching a film about Tommy Callahan, because Tommy is quite obviously Chris Farley (early scenes hinting at a serious drug addiction add even more resonance to this impression). If you want to remember the actor, Tommy Boy is probably the best way outside of Saturday Night Live sketches to do so.
If you own the "Holy Schnike Edition" on DVD, there's no reason to upgrade. Pass on this Blu-ray release.
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