It isn't high art and it sure isn't brilliantly unique, but Peter Segal's Tommy Boy stands as a testament to (and compendium of) the late, great Chris Farley's distinctly adorable sense of humor. The rotund funnyman died of a drug overdose in late 1997, and were it not for the sunny, silly Tommy Boy, all we'd have to remember Farley by is a bunch of Saturday Night Live sketches and a series of abysmal flicks like Beverly Hills Ninja, Black Sheep, and Almost Heroes.
So while Tommy Boy is not much more than your (very) basic "odd couple road movie" concept, it also packs a lot of laughs while immortalizing the chubby clown in one entirely enjoyable farce.
The plot is almost nominal: Tommy Callahan III is a blustering goofball. Fresh out of a 7-year stint at Marquette University, Tommy returns home to Sandusky, Ohio, to work on the loading docks of his Dad's auto supply factory. Turns out that not only is Tommy Sr. (Brian Dennehy) about to marry an amazing looker (Bo Derek), but Tommy Jr. is about to acquire a snooty new step-brother (Rob Lowe).
But tragedy strikes during the wedding, and Tommy Sr. drops dead of a heart attack. With his father's company in deep and dire financial straits, Tommy decides to hit the road and save the family business. Along for the ride is the astonishingly snooty and sarcastic Richard Hayden (David Spade), and together this duo will ramble across the midwest, stopping frequently to do some seriously silly things.
Going solely by the teamwork displayed in Tommy Boy, it's pretty clear that Spade and Farley had something special when they were working together. Farley, the eternally lovable and chubby goofball, and Spade, the acid-tongued, fast-talkin' wise-ass, go together like chinese chicken; sweet and sour is a killer combination wherever you go.
Although Tommy Boy was not a massive hit during its 1995 theatrical run (it grossed just over $32 million domestically), the comedy has enjoyed a second life on video that most comedies would kill to acquire. Tommy Boy's become one of the frat house movies, the HBO staples, and (easily) one of the most quotable comedies of the past ten years. Even the friends of mine who don't really like the flick all that much cannot help but chuckle at material like:
"Fat guy in littttle cooooat!"
"Let me sleep for the love of God!"
(...and my personal favorite:)
"You know, a lot of people go to college for seven years."
So while Tommy Boy has a paper-thin and almost painfully familiar narrative structure, the flick was tailor-made to showcase Farley's larger-than-life lunacy, Spade's smarmy sarcasm, and the frankly hilarious chemistry the comedians had together. Watch it for just those three reasons (OK, and the great extended cameo by Dan Aykroyd), and you'll undoubtedly find something to smile at.
Tommy Boy was Farley's break-out movie, the one that turned him into a comedic demi-god to untold numbers of chuckling young men -- and as we grow older, we keep the memory of Farley alive by knocking on motel doors and yelling "Housekeeping?" in a ladylike voice. The guy was an absolute prince, by all estimable accounts, and a truly kind soul. To this day I feel sad when I think about how Chris Farley left us so early, but thankfully we have material like Tommy Boy to remind us what a great goofball the guy really was. Like I said, it's not high art -- but it is pretty damn funny, and sometimes that's more than good enough.
Video: The flick is presented in a rather handsome Widescreen Anamorphic format. This isn't the type of movie that'll blow your doors off, visually speaking, but the picture quality is pretty darn solid. Fans will be pleased.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 (English), or DD 2.0 French. Optional subtitles are available in English. Volume levels are just dandy, all things considered, but it's a dialogue-heavy yukfest, so we don't really need a Star Wars-level aural feast.
If there's one thing that the Paramountaineers know, it's which of their catalog titles are due for a double-dip -- and Tommy Boy has a fanbase that'll undoubtedly flip over the extra goodies included in this "Holy Schnike" Edition.
On disc 1 you'll find a feature-length audio commentary with director Peter Segal, in which the director offers all sorts of anecdotes, recollections, and on-set stories. The track gets a little bit dry here and there, and there's a bit of repetition, but the filmmaker seems quite proud of his work on Tommy Boy, and considering that his subsequent films were My Fellow Americans, Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps, Anger Management, 50 First Dates, and The Longest Yard, that pride seems somewhat well-founded. Hardcore Tommy Boy fans might enjoy the yak-track, but an additional commentator might have made it a lot smoother.
Also on disc 1 is a trailer gallery that hawks titles like Airplane! The "Don't Call Me Shirley" Edition, MacGyver: The Complete First Season, The John Wayne Collection, George Lopez: Why You Crying?, The Warriors: Ultimate Director's Cut, and The Longest Yard: Lockdown Edition.
Pop disc 2 into your player and you're offered a rather extensive array of Tommy Boy toys:
Tommy Boy: Behind the Laughter is a 29-minute featurette that offers interview segments with director Peter Segal, associate producer Michael Ewing, producer Lorne Michaels, executive producer Robert K. Weiss, editor William Kerr, screenwriter Fred Wolf, and actors David Spade, Brian Dennehy, Bo Derek, Julie Warner, and Rob Lowe. This is the "overall" featurette that deals with all sorts of pre-production angst, behind-the-scenes info, and warm recollections by all involved.
Stories from the Side of the Road runs about 13 minutes and focuses on some of the specific (and most memorable) set pieces from the film. Segal, Kerr, Wolf, Weiss, Spade, and Lowe pop in to share some more stories, and cinematographer Victor J. Kemper chimes in with his two cents as well. Material covered here includes "Fat Guy in Little Coat," "Deer in the Car," "Airplane Bathroom," "Cow-Tipping," "Mud Flashdance," and the "Carpenters Sing-Along."
Just the Two of Us focuses on the relationship between Farley and Spade, with thoughts and comments by Segal, Spade, Derek, Warner, Lowe, Dan Aykroyd, and Chris Farley's brothers, Kevin and John. This one runs about 10 minutes.
Growing Up Farley is a 7-minute look back at Chris Farley, from rambunctious child to Second City star to SNL icon. Kevin and John Farley share several stories from their Wisconsin childhood; Lorne Michaels, David Spade, Peter Segal, and Fred Wolf also share their favorite Farley stories.
And you think it ends there, right? An audio commentary and a handful of solid featurettes, right? Nah.
You'll also get seven storyboard comparisons that run approximately 14 minutes when viewed via the "play all" option; 6 deleted scenes that run about 7 minutes combined (and come with a director's intro for each clip); 15 extended scenes that run about 22 minutes; 6 alternate takes that equal about 4 minutes combined; a 4-minute gag reel that delivers some solid chuckles; an extensive photo gallery, the original theatrical trailer, and 19(!) individual TV spots. All in all, it's a fantastic array of supplemental material. So if you already own a well-worn copy of the original (bare-bones) DVD, feel free to list that thing on eBay and upgrade to the "Schnike" as soon as possible.
I remember seeing Tommy Boy during its theatrical run and thinking "Sure, it's got some funny bits, but there's not much of a movie there, really."
But after seeing the movie a few more times, I've grown to dig it quite a bit. Sure, you've seen this story a hundred times before, but never with the crackerjack comedic pairing of Chris Farley and David Spade; their outstanding teamwork is what elevates Tommy Boy into something a little bit special, and I've no problem understanding why the movie has become such a hardcore favorite over the past decade. It's silly, it's sweet, it's consistently funny ... and it features a brilliantly goofy performance from a top-notch comedian.
Rest in peace, Chris. We miss ya down here.