I Am Chris Farley
Other // Unrated // $19.99 // August 11, 2015
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted August 15, 2015
E - M A I L
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Graphical Version
In 10 Words or Less
Looking back at a fat guy in a little coat

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Documentaries, SNL, sketch comedy, Bob Odenkirk
Likes: Honesty
Dislikes: Aggressive physical comedy
Hates: Drugs

The Movies
It's undeniably sad that Chris Farley, the heavyweight manchild comic actor who rose to fame dancing topless next to Patrick Swayze and interviewing Paul McCartney with debilitating awe on SNL, died at the young age of 33, thanks to an overdose of cocaine and morphine. But watching I am Chris Farley, it becomes clear that the sadness is far deeper than most may have known, rooted in decades of self-abuse and internal strife, which put him on a seemingly unavoidable path to destruction, no matter who tried to help him.

The film takes two paths, one exploring Farley the person, and the other looking at Farley the performer, intertwining the two to get a fuller picture of the man. Thus you get stories of a rambunctious youth not above talking his penis out in class if it would earn him a laugh, to full-blown autopsies of some of his most memorable (and not so memorable) SNL sketches, like his famous "Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker", which opens up a few avenues for remembering Farley, with David Spade and Christina Applegate sharing their experiences opposite the comedic dynamo. Stylish and well-paced, the documentary packs a good deal into a tight 94 minutes, though for casual fans, the focus on his younger days and family might get more play than hoped for.

In addition to interviews with his pre-fame friends and family, directors Brent Hodges (A Brony Tale) and Derik Murray (I am Evel Knievel) make good use of archival clips of Farley from his early days of improv comedy (including some clips of sketches from The Second City), home movies and personal photos, and one particularly handy and poignant early interview with David Letterman (which serves as a framing device for much of the film), in order to tell Farley's story, from his childhood through to his film career. The pair paint the picture of a loving man who just wanted to belong to a team or group, while at the same time clearly illustrating the demons that haunted him and that led him to become a self-destructive party machine. However, no matter the highs and lows, his ability and desire to get a laugh come through clearly from the testimonials of those who knew or worked with him.

The key to the film however are the people everyone knows, which is where the true power of this documentary comes from. Interviews with big names like Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Bob Odenkirk, Dan Ackroyd, Spade and a host of others who worked with Farley on SNL and in films, as well as, most interestingly ,SNL head Lorne Michaels, present honest and heartbreaking testimonials to what he was capable of as a person and a performer, but they don't hesitate to explore the dark side. Their frank discussion of what seems like an inevitable, unavoidable crash and an accounting of personal sadness about what they saw and tried to do to help, especially from Myers, Sandler and Odenkirk, raises the film far above what could have been just a fluffy tribute to a well-liked funnyman.

The Disc
The film arrives on one Blu-ray, which is in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. The disc offers an animated menu with options to watch the film, select scenes, adjust the set-up and check out the extras.There are no audio options, while subtitles are available in English SDH.

The Quality
The 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer on this disc looks tremendous when it comes to the new interviews and footage shot for the film, with rich colors and a high level of fine detail, along with sufficiently deep black levels. There's a lot of archival footage included, which is of varying quality, especially when zoomed in on, but it all looks like it's as good as it could get. Digital distractions are not a concern, as the image is clean across the board.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack naturally puts all the voices front and center, where they sound crisp and strong. There's repetition of the voices and score in the side speakers, while the rear speakers offer a very faint echo of the voices. The presentation is simple, but it is is clear, with no obvious downside.

The Extras
If the parts of the film about Farley's family were your bag (or perhaps you are a Farley), "The Farley Brothers…(and Sister)" might be your cup of tea. This 20:36 featurette offers more details about Farley's young life with his four siblings, a chaotic whirlwind that makes it seem like they were that family your parents warned you about. This one's for hardcore Farley fans mainly, though the tales of young debauchery are amusing as a slice of midwest Americana.

Also included is a manual gallery of 54 family photos, all but one of which are from Farley's younger days.

The Bottom Line
I am Chris Farley is eyeopening, mainly for the way the comedic stars explore the darker times of Farley's brief life, but it does a fine job of tell his overall story as well, a fitting tribute to a complicated soul. The polished doc is presented with solid quality and a few extras that expand a touch on the themes in the film. Big-time Farley or SNL fans will definitely want to give this one a look.

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